What Is Negotiable And What Isn’t 

When you and your partner talk about making changes, it is important to make it clear what is negotiable and what isn’t. Tell your partner what you are willing to work on and what you aren’t planning to change. This can help reduce a lot of conflict, if you make it clear.

Dan and Melissa had been married for one year. Dan had found his job shortly before the couple got married and it was his first big job after he graduated from grad school. Dan worked long hours and this bothered Melissa. They often argued about this topic. Melissa told Dan he needed to be home more often. Dan felt she was being unreasonable and didn’t understand the demands of his job.

They sat down one day to discuss how to deal with this issue. Dan told Melissa that coming home from work early was non-negotiable. He was not willing to make any changes to this as it was early in his career and he wanted to make a good impression. He did, however, agree that once he was home, he would not check his work email and would be more available to her in the evenings. Melissa agreed that she would stop arguing with him about this topic. This led to them being able to spend more quality time together as Dan was more available to Melissa. She accepted that he was going to work late and they didn’t waste their time together arguing about his schedule.

Just because you agree to make changes, doesn’t mean you have to agree to change everything. Instead, determine what you can and will change. Talk to your partner about what you are willing to do. Also, determine what changes you are not willing to make. Discuss your reasoning and make it clear that it is non-negotiable. Talk to your partner about how to handle the distress that he or she is likely to experience as a result of this. Make it clear that arguing, nagging, and complaining won’t change your mind.

Try to compromise with your partner after you’ve made it clear what is negotiable and what isn’t. Discuss how you can both get your needs met. Consider seeking marriage counseling if necessary.

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