Negotiation is figuring out the how, when, where, and with whom each of your and your spouse’s wants, desires or preferences can be achieved. Collaboration is how you jointly weigh together the things that are important to you as individuals in your relationship. True collaborators are always equals and each partner accepts full responsibility for his/her part in the process of negotiation (see post on collaboration). Negotiating collaboratively, then, is the ultimate form of jointly and equally weighing how things are to work out between the two of you.
You can think of your marital relationship as being organized around the collaborative negotiation of both your “vetted” *wants, desires, preferences. Your individual wants can include wanting the best for your spouse. It is the ongoing process of negotiating individual wants that enhances the felt quality of the relationship and allows for changes in what you want over time while maintaining the quality of the relationship. I believe that the process of negotiating collaboratively is what makes a marriage both sustainable and satisfying.
To negotiate collaboratively in a relationship is to be able to identify what is important to you, to know why it is important to you, and to be able to “put it on the table”, even if it means you don’t always get what you want. You also have to be able to listen to what you partner wants and why it is important to him/her. Imagine a couple with a free evening and a wish to spend it together. They begin with a number of different ideas, each explaining to the other his/her preferences. Through this “collaborative negotiation” process, each partner may learn something new about his/her partner and may even learn something new about the various options offered. Neither person wants to do anything that the other finds too unattractive, so they end up with a plan that reflects both their preferences. Or, if you choose one partner’s preference over the other’s, it is because you have decided it together thereby enhancing the relationship even if one partner does not get what he/she wants.
BE A RISK TAKER…..there is individual risk in negotiating collaboratively. You may not get what you want at a given time. Not getting what you want is manageable if the relationship is enhanced and someone you love gets what he/she wants.
*To vet our wants and preferences is to check it carefully to make sure it is free of hidden personal agendas
Click on these thumbnails for links to more info, fun, and provocative ideas about contemporary marriage.