The Third Alternative

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So you Assume Love, and you realize that your beloved life partner objects to what you’re asking for only because it conflicts with what he or she wants. Now what? You look together for what Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, calls The Third Alternative.

  1. Commit to getting what you want and let go of the way you first thought of getting it.
  2. Ask questions and pay careful attention to the answers, until you know for sure what your mate likes about his or her proposed use of the money, space, time, or resources and what your mate dislikes about your proposal.
  3. Share the same information regarding what you like about your proposal and dislike about your mate’s proposal.
  4. Stop the tennis match and jump the net. Agree to work together to get everything on both of your likes lists and avoid everything on both of your dislikes lists.
  5. Brainstorm! How can you get all of the things you each seek and none of the things either of you dislikes?

Here’s an example from my first marriage.


In the new home we were building, my husband wanted the laundry room right off the basement family room. I hated that idea and wanted it in another part of the basement. At first glance, it looked like the room had to be in one place or the other. How could we both have what we sought?
What we wanted:

  • Him: A convenient location for the laundry room.
  • Me: A convenient location for the laundry room.

What we wanted to avoid:

  • Him: A walk through “creepy,” unfinished basement on the way to the laundry. I’d grown up with that and didn’t see the problem.
  • Me: The noise and detergent smells of the washing machine in our family room. They didn’t bother him, so he didn’t see the problem.

We agreed to finish another 36 square feet of the basement, moved a few walls on the plans, and both got what we wanted.
My plan for the room didn’t work for him. His alternative didn’t work for me. Our Third Alternative worked very well for both of us, perhaps even better than what we first thought we wanted.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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