Third Alternatives almost always exist, even when it looks like there are just two options and each of you can stand only one of them. And to discover them, you let go of the how to find the why.
For example, think of Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages.
One thrives on Quality Time together, especially time spent in meaningful, soul-revealing conversation. When they first met, there was quite a bit of this as they revealed themselves to each other. Now it’s stopped. One craves it. The other has nothing to say.
One says she craves it because she’s home alone with the kids and had few adult conversations, but when asked if spending more time alone with friends would satisfy her, she knows it won’t. Deep down, at a level she cannot reason with, this sort of conversation makes her feel loved and she feels unloved without it.
The other has nothing to say. Why? Because processing his own day-to-day feelings takes a lot of unfamiliar effort with no apparent payoff. And listening to her feelings makes him feel rather helpless. How do you fix a bad feeling? And now she wants to talk about her bad feelings about him not fixing her bad feelings? No thanks. Whether or not she feels loved when he does this, he feels loving only when he’s doing something helpful for her, the Acts of Service Love Language.
What Third Alternatives are available for them? What will give her the satisfaction of connecting with him in deep conversation and let him feel competent, helpful, and valued?
- Start their own private book club and discuss the ideas of the great philosophers or of today’s political and social reformers.
- Find and make time for friends who will work through her thoughts about her personal feelings with her, so they are not so near the surface when the two of them talk.
- Get him into an Active Listening course, so he can learn to be helpful to her by asking good questions.
- Schedule time for Quality Time together, including conversations, so she’s not trying to start conversations when his mind is elsewhere.
- Mix conversations with things that say love to him, like watching her prepare his favorite meal or helping her with the heavy lifting in her garden.
- Have conversations by email or online chat if he finds these more comfortable and she can still appreciate the one-on-one time this way.
What do you think? If you and your mate share this difference, would any of these work for you? Have you found your own Third Alternative that both of you can enjoy?