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Find a Third Alternative - Step Two

If you read yesterday's post, you know that step one in finding a Third Alternative is to jump the net.

Step Two: Write New Specs

Those first two ideas, the ones you disagree about, can keep your thinking stuck. To find something else you both like as much begins with a list of specifications for making you happy. Your first two options won't work as solutions, but they give you a starting point for thinking about what you're looking for.

If you got the option you want, what would be better? How would you feel? What could you do? What would be possible that is not possible now?

And what would not happen to you? What do you dislike or fear about your mate's suggestion?

This is not the time to list every little nice-to-have about your alternative nor everything anyone might ever dislike about your spouse's. It is time to figure out why one appeals to you and the other does not, so you can describe what the Third Alternative must include and avoid.

Draw a large square on a piece of paper. Put a line down the middle, with your info on one side and your spouse's on the other. Draw a line across and put what the Third Alternative must do on the top and what it must avoid on the bottom.

For example, in the great laundry room battle, the window was nice-to-have. If I could not have a window in a basement laundry room, I would still want it there. Water in the family room was nice-to-avoid, not a requirement. I did not expect laundry room flooding to occur often enough to plan for it. These would not go our on list.

What I wanted was a well-lit laundry room that would not let laundry detergent odors into any living space. I have a lot of allergies and I have not found a soap that won't aggravate them. This was the first delightful surprise. My husband had no disagreement with protecting me from allergy problems, as long as he got the benefits he sought from the family room location.

When he revealed the big one, I because a Third Alternative cheerleader. I would never, ever have guessed this was the difference between basement and family room for him, just as he never guessed soap odor keeping me from enjoying the family room was the difference for me.

I grew up on the east coast, where just about everyone has a basement. My husband grew up on the west coast, when almost no one does. The house we were building was a bi-level. Half of the lower level would be unfinished. The other half would be the finished family room. Both would sit high enough to have windows and to be reached from the garage but low enough to be thought of as basement.

Here is what my husband said right before we had our joint aha! moment. He said, "I don't want to have to walk through icky, unfinished basement to get to the laundry room, like at your parents' house.

We had our specs. Laundry room, well lit, with open storage shelves, no soap odors in a living area, no unfinished basement between the laundry room and the rest of the house. That was our Step Two. If we could have this, neither of us would get stuck with half a pie. We could have it all.

Tomorrow I will tell you we did it, and how some other folks have found their Third Alternatives.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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