How to Negotiate a Successful Love Relationship Agreement © 2011

When you have a challenge in your love relationship you have only four choices: 

  1. 1.      Change yourself (this requires introspection and self-honesty);
  2. 2.      Negotiate for modifications (this necessitates effective listening and a demonstration of understanding);
  3. 3.      Leave the relationship (if you have tried the first two, including professional guidance to no avail);
  4. 4.      Don’t do anything and be miserable (if you have refused the first three and are not happy, this is a choice).

People often don’t recognize that unhappiness is a choice.  If you reject the fourth choice, being miserable, you will have to take effective action to make yourself more comfortable.  Consider the first two choices instead.  Before you are ready to end a relationship that once was happy, remember that you are 50% responsible for the problems in the relationship.  If you are willing to be accountable to yourself and your partner, you may be able to save the relationship and reignite positive feelings.  It’s wise to make some adjustments in yourself, and negotiate for change with your loved one before you walk out the door.

The first step is to analyze your own “stuff” and change yourself.  Engaging in your own growth will transform your perspective.  Some of the behaviors that don’t serve you and that don’t get you what you want from your partner need to be replaced with alternative approaches.  If you don’t become introspective and alter your own actions before leaving the relationship, no matter where you go, your old patterns will reappear with new partners.  By analyzing your behaviors and creating new positive thoughts you’ll develop better ways to find contentment and you’ll see that, with a different approach, old patterns are interrupted and the nature of the relationship changes.

Once you start to look within to analyze how you may serve yourself better and initiate new ways of being kinder to yourself and your partner, then you will also see the issues more clearly.  You’ll know what part of the problem belongs to you and what part relates to your partner.  It’s important to recognize that each of you has done the best you can to communicate effectively with the tools you have developed in life – but it’s time to acquire new tools to revolutionize your connection to each other.

The second choice, negotiate for change, allows you and your partner to give each other the gift of listening, understanding, and meeting each other’s needs.  Active listening motivates you both to collaborate and grow together.  When you negotiate for change successfully you are not converting the other person.  Instead your partner hears you mirror back what he/she has heard, doesn’t react defensively, and shows understanding.  Then it’s your turn to listen, reflect back what you heard, and demonstrate understanding without judgment.  After you both actively listen successfully, you’ll recognize behaviors in yourself that block your positive connection to one another.  Upon hearing each other’s needs, the next step is to brainstorm possible solutions which are mutually acceptable.  After entertaining suggestions you’ll be prepared to problem-solve agreements, and make commitments to try new approaches to deal with difficult issues.  This process of working together to invent options for agreement creates new appreciation, teamwork and a feeling of cooperation and respect.

When you make a commitment to your partner to listen without reacting or judging, and to hear the concerns of the other person without defensiveness, miraculous solutions are possible.  Don’t focus on the person as the problem, but rather view the behavior itself as causing discord.  By taking responsibility to look at the your own actions which are causing conflict, you will show your partner that you value him/her and respect what he/she has to say about what you are doing that is upsetting him/her.  Thoughtful, truthful communication de-escalates conflict.  Be open to respond honestly and gently without blame or guilt and make your own apprehensions known to your partner.  Offer each other a chance to hear without feeling attacked.

It is normal that each of you sees issues differently – and to be successful in a relationship you don’t have to always agree.  However, since you have different perspectives.  It’s critical to politely offer your perspective and consider options that will meet each other’s needs and concerns.  A “take it or leave it” attitude will not achieve solutions, instead it escalates hostility.  Your willingness to be accepting of your partner’s right to see the world differently creates an atmosphere of respect which will result in a more peaceful and positive relationship. 

Love can be rekindled when expectations are shared in a gentle courteous manner.  A genuine attitude of transparency, willingness to listen to each other’s interests and concerns, and a desire to arrive at solutions that benefit both partners, may just bring you the caring relationship you’ve been hoping for.  

 Mari Frank has been an attorney/mediator for 26 years.  She’s a professor of negotiations/conflict management at the University of California; Radio host of Prescriptions for Healing Conflict;  author of several books; and she’s been on over 300 radio interviews and quoted in various national newspapers. Visit and View her profile on here.


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