How to Negotiate with Your Partner

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How to Negotiate With Your Partner

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD



You want something from your partner that they are not willing to give. Maybe you simply want them to regularly say goodbye before leaving the house, or you want them to be less bossy in everyday interactions. Whatever it is, you may feel frustrated about not being able to get them to agree to your request. While you may never be able to get them to change to the degree that you want, there is a three-step approach that might help.

Begin by being appreciative. It helps to begin conversations on a positive note, sharing positive feelings you have about your partner. You might note how loving they are, how generous they have been, or that you like spending time with them. It is essential that you really mean what you say. Otherwise, the insincerity may come across as you being manipulative.

Example: I love how you often text me through the workday. You really make me feel cared about.

Use “I” statements to make your request. State briefly and clearly what it is that you want and explain how them honoring the request will affect you or your relationship. Also, be sure to directly make your request — to ask for what you want — rather than just making a statement. If you are indirect or make vague references, the other person might not understand the request or might receive a mixed message. As a result, you probably won’t get what you want, and you may end up feeling confused, frustrated, rejected, or have a sense of being disrespected.

Example: I would feel closer to you if we went to bed together each night. Would you work with me on making that happen?

Be curious about their experience, and let them know that you’ve heard them. While making your desires known is important, it is equally important to ask about your partner’s thoughts and feelings. Too often partners don’t think to ask questions because they assume they already know what their partner thinks or feels — but these assumptions are sometimes wrong. Also, by asking questions, your partner has an opportunity to sense that you really want to hear what they think and feel. Even if you already knew their answer, asking may help them feel more strongly that you care. When what they want conflicts with what you want, you might try negotiating a compromise.

Example: What do you think about us going to bed together at night?

If they don’t want to do it because they want to go to bed later than you, a compromise might be: Would you be willing to lie down with me for a while? Then you could get back up to go do what you want.

If going through this process results in your partner agreeing to your request, be sure to let them know you appreciate it. This can increase your positive feelings toward your partner along with helping them feel good.

However, if it doesn’t work, you might ask if there is anything you can do to make them more inclined to agree to your request. Still, the answer might be “no.” Through it all, keep in mind that your relationship is bigger than this one dilemma. As long as you continue to talk with openness, caring, and a true effort to work together constructively, you will both continue to feel good about your relationship, and you will go on to negotiate other disagreements successfully.


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Important:  This article is part of the WebMD Relationships blog. The articles in the WebMD Relationships blog are for general education purposes only. They should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read in this article.