Thursday, April 19, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Don't simply defer to fiance for decisionmaking

Don't automatically defer to fiance when making decisions

Q: Every once in a while, I notice a situation in which my fiance's preferences or perspectives might be different from mine. I like to communicate with him about those preferences and how strong they are respectively, to figure out the optimal course of action.

For example, we had planned an evening together, but a close friend with a busy schedule wanted to have a short phone call to catch up that night. So I asked my fiance if it would be okay to talk with her, or if I should try to reschedule that for the future.

He said that was fine, but later expressed that he didn't understand why I didn't just assume he'd rather I spend the time with him, and that in general he'd prefer I sometimes try to anticipate his desires rather than always asking about them. I'm not really inclined to do less communicating and more guessing. What do you think?

Communicating

A: Your fiance is right that there's merit in treating some things as obvious. But there's more to it than that. By running your conflict by him as you did, you basically assigned the Thursday night decision to him without taking any position of your own. That can seem respectful on its face — a la, "I want your perspective" — but notice that you're not actually saying, and owning, what you would prefer. You're just asking him to do that, thereby making his preference the deciding vote: messing up his own plans with a yes or being the bad guy with a no.

If you instead had come clean — "I know we have plans, but, unless you feel strongly, I'd really like to catch up with this friend, since it might be weeks till our next opportunity" — then you'd have given your fiance a chance to weigh in without crossing the boundary into making your decision for you.

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