Contestants on TV quiz shows are always told that only their first answers can be taken. There are no second chances, no ability to change their mind once they have given the question a bit more thought. But real life is different, or at least it should be different.
Our relationships would really benefit from ignoring our partners’ first answers. Hey, let’s go to the movies tonight? – No, I can’t be bothered. Want to go for a walk? – No, I’m happy here on the couch. It’s amazing how often our first answers are negative. We usually decline an invitation to do something when we’re put on the spot. Why? Because we weren’t prepared. If we are happily watching TV, the idea of going for a walk doesn’t appeal … at first. If we had planned a night in, jumping up and going to the movies doesn’t appeal … at first. But if we think about it for a little while, we can start to see the appeal. Unfortunately by then it might be too late. Our partner may have left for a walk on their own or given up on the idea of a movie.
It’s far better to plant seeds and watch them grow. I’m thinking of going for a walk in a little while, let me know if you want to come. I’m wondering whether it might be fun to go to the movies, have a think and see if there’s anything you’d like to see. And then ignore their first reaction while the idea takes seed.
Walking and seeing a movie are pretty insignificant in the scheme of things. But learning to ignore your partner’s first reaction can be life changing. If you’ve been contemplating something for ages and you ambush your partner with: Let’s save up and go to Europe; or I think we should spice up our sex life; or I was really angry at the way you treated me tonight, the chances are you’ll be met with a pretty negative and defensive response.
Try very hard to ignore this first reaction, which can be difficult. Instead, give your partner some time to think about what you’ve said. And most importantly, try to forgive your partner for their first negative or defensive reaction and be willing to discuss it again.