Ask Dr. Tracy

Secrets For Understanding Your Mate

No two people are ever 100% compatible. If they were, they wouldn't add a thing to each other, and life would be pretty boring. But differences need to be understood in a relationship. If you haven't read "Inner Languages", now would be a good time. Inner Languages are a good introduction to the subtle differences between people which can add richness and variety to your life if understood but can cause friction if not.

While Inner Languages are important, other differences can also affect day-to-day interactions with your mate. Let's say you love instant gratification and your partner prefers to wait and think about something first. If that's the case, it's probably not a great idea to surprise your partner with weekend cruise ship tickets on Friday night, no matter how romantic it sounds to you. Being aware of, and sensitive to, your partner's patterns can help keep a relationship on track.

We're all familiar with instant vs. delayed gratification, but how about "Conformists" vs. "Non-conformists"? "Escapers" vs. "Dreamers"? "Gourmands" vs. "Gourmets"? These are ingrained patterns in most people which often go unnoticed, even by those close to them. Differences in these patterns can can cause tensions in a relationship, with both partners baffled and frustrated, feeling out of "sync" and worrying that they're falling out of love. If you know what to look for, though, the patterns are easy to recognize. Then you'll know how to handle your differences.

Is your partner a Conformist, someone who likes to be considered "in"? If so, and you've got an idea for doing something together, say going on a certain cruise, the smart way to introduce it is to say, "Everyone from Mick Jagger to Lee Iaccocca has done this cruise and loved it." On the other hand, if he or she is a Non-conformist, you'll talk yourself out of that cruise in one sentence by applying group pressure. Instead, get your partner to brainstorm with you about different kinds of trips until he or she finally suggests a cruise, and then say, "Hey, that would be different. Great idea! I'll research it for us."

If your partner is an Escaper, he or she is primarily motivated by getting away from something. A Dreamer, on the other hand, is drawn toward something. If you're different in this way, you may both want to get to the beach on a hot summer weekend, but your thoughts couldn't be further apart. One of you is thinking about getting away from heat, stress, and honking horns, while the other is already smelling suntan lotion and hearing the waves lap. If your partner is reluctant to go for some reason, you're much more likely to talk him or her into leaving if you know how to phrase your appeal.

A Gourmet is someone who prefers a small, exquisitely- prepared dish to a less-artistic but filling meal; a Gourmand is just the opposite. This trait extends beyond food. Planning a vacation, the "Gourmet" will prefer a shorter stay at an expensive, world-class resort; the "Gourmand" will want a longer vacation at an "All- Inclusive." The idea here is to learn your partner's pattern and anticipate it. Then, instead of feeling wounded when your obviously terrific idea for a vacation isn't instantly embraced, you'll expect a little difference of opinion and be prepared to compromise.

Compromise is a surprisingly difficult relationship issue, especially with people who've been single a long time. I can't tell you how many times my counseling clients have been shocked when I mention that, in a good relationship, they can expect to get their way maybe one-quarter of the time. The typical reaction is, "Wait a minute, whose side are you on?"

I have to explain that, in a close, stable relationship, each partner gets his or her way about one-quarter of the time, because about half the time, you wind up compromising and no one "wins." In a good relationship, of course, the love and fulfillment you get far outweighs the autonomy you lose, so compromises come easily and happily.

Related Keywords: Love Strategies, Making Love Grow, Keeping Love Alive, Criticism

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