What to do When Your Partner doesn’t Listen to Reason.

reasoning - unreasonable person - strategies

 

Partners who are both reasonable are likely to get along well. They are not likely to need couples counseling, or if they do, it may be their mutual reasoning that guides them to seek counseling. They collaborate and feel good about each other as a result.

However, there are many couples in which one partner is reasonable and the other is not. I see them in my practice. The reasonable one continues to reason even though reasoning does not work. The unreasonable one continues to do (or not do) what they want. The relationship deteriorates. Intimacy suffers.

But it does not mean that the couple should not be together. It means they need to work differently.

Scenario 1) Barbara noticed the railing was loose on the balcony of their home. She brought it to the attention of her husband, Drew. He was busy with work and said it was OK. Barbara knew he was busy and gave him some time. She was concerned though that someone could get hurt if the railing gave way. She kept bringing it to his attention, reasoning with him that someone could get hurt and they could be liable. Barbara had to be vigilant that the children and visitors stayed away from the railing. Drew said she was overreacting.

Scenario 2) Brian kept track of the finances. He noticed that his wife’s spending was exceeding their budget and he complained to her about it. He reasoned with her that if overspending continued, they would get into serious financial difficulties. Cindy heard his words yet continued to overspend, justifying her purchases or hiding them from Brian. He felt out of control about their debt and pulled away from Cindy, spending more time with his family.

Couples tend to do the same thing over and over with each other even though it does not work. If they did the same thing at work they would get seriously reprimanded or even fired. But many couples frustrate each other by playing out the same dynamic repeatedly.

What is the function of unreasonableness? Why would a spouse be unreasonable?

To be reasonable is to be open to change. Unreasonable people do not want to change. By not being open to reason they can continue to do what they want and not do what they do not want to do. Also, to be reasonable increases intimacy, which some people have difficulty handling even though they want it.

When reasoning does not work, shift to strategies.

Reasoning is a good way to start out addressing an issue with your partner. If they respond positively, great, you can work through the problem. If they respond in the same old way, then shift to strategies.

Consequences effect change. How to achieve change is to figure out a strategy that has consequences built into it.

Scenario 1) Without anger and in a matter-of-fact tone Barbara told Brian that she was going to give him until the end of the month to fix the railing. If it was not done by then she was going to hire someone to repair it. When the end of the month came and the railing was still not fixed, Barbara got a couple of estimates to have the railing repaired. She showed the estimates to Drew. She told him she was going to choose one of them and get the railing fixed. When Drew realized that she was serious about getting the railing repaired, he found time to fix it himself. He wanted to do it himself to be sure it was done right. Barbara offered her help and did what she could to make it happen. They had fun doing it together and each was please once it was done. They felt warm toward each other.

Scenario 2) Brian realized that reasoning with Cindy was having no effect. He consulted with someone at the bank about possible changes he could make. Without anger and in a matter-of-fact manner he told her that he was concerned about their financial situation and because he cared about their relationship, he was going to take steps to bring the finances under control. He gave her a time frame of two months and said if she continued to over spend he would put all of their credit cards in the bank safety deposit box and they would operate with cash only. After two months it was clear that Cindy still was overspending so Brian followed through and put the cards away. This forced Cindy to deal with the reality of the situation. When talking it through, an underlying problem came to light – Cindy was resentful of all the time Brian spent with his family. They then addressed directly the issue of spending time together.

HOW you handle the shift from reasoning to planning and carrying out strategies is critical to making the change successful and relationship enhancing. If you want to show your spouse who is in control or you want teach your spouse a lesson, then expect a negative response to even the best strategy you could offer. Resentful spouses tend to sabotage even when they know they will hurt themselves.

If you proceed with good will and with the intent to make life for all better, strategies have a very good chance of working. Because your partner knows your doing it out of caring for him or her (and the family), they tend to cooperate and collaborate. Intimacy grows.

With Care and Concern,

Dr. Bea

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One Response to “What to do When Your Partner doesn’t Listen to Reason.”

  1. LCastro says:

    This is so true. and I needed my thoughts sorted out. and as basic as it is; it was very hard to put my feelings into words. – and your last few paragraphs – worded it perfectly. Now, to think about it for a few days. and then pass along to my husband. – thank you.