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Couple needs a way to negotiate a solution

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

How to negotiate when 'no' appears to be your only option

Southeast: My mother-in-law is a widow in need of a place to live. She can take only limited care of herself. My wife, oldest of three siblings, wants to take her in. I am happy to contribute financially but DO NOT want her in my home. I need our space with my wife and my children. My wife and I are coming apart over this like it's a game of real-life chicken, and the endgame scares me. I might add my wife has other siblings who have not offered to help in any way. Not asking for a solution, but can you help us with a framework on arriving at a solution?

Carolyn: These are always hard for me to call, because my bedrock on these close, emotional, marital issues is that the veto always wins. You can't move someone into the house that your spouse doesn't want there, you can't have a baby your spouse doesn't want, you can't relocate someplace your spouse refuses to go. Obviously, you can do these things, but the veto means you have to decide whether you're going to do this spousally vetoed thing, or leave the marriage.

And this is the problem that stems from it: As a philosophy, I think it stands up, but as a negotiation strategy, the veto is right up there with the ultimatum in its ability to alienate and divide.

So since you are vetoing the move-in, and since you have standing (just my opinion, of course) to say no, then I think the focus of your diplomacy should be on what you are willing to do. Add an in-law suite with a separate entrance? Move to a duplex? Pay for (and research) assisted living? Hire a home-care aide so your mother-in-law can remain where she is? The framework for arriving at a solution being, you may have a limit past which you won't go, but you have unlimited flexibility (and creativity) up to that point.

And also, of course, in private, before you reopen this discussion: Examine your own position one last time to make sure your original logic still holds up, or if you're now just digging in for the sake of digging in. That's a risk in any standoff, no matter how valid each opening position may be.

Nowhere: So I'm pregnant and my spouse doesn't want the baby. Are you saying I shouldn't have it?!! My feeling is that it's a done deal now. I am willing to go it alone if I have to.

Carolyn: I am sorry for your horrible situation. Please, though, don't extrapolate so much from my advice.

It is a done deal now, indeed, but there's no new twist here: Your spouse vetoed something you want. You can still have what you want, but it might cost you your husband.

So, you make your decision about what's right for the baby and for you, and you let your husband make his own decision.

Certainly if he's willing to change his stance, remain married and be a willing and engaged father to the child, then that would be the ideal outcome. But while you can decide to have the baby, you can't make your husband stay married to you.

Couple needs a way to negotiate a solution 11/16/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 9:51am]
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