When you're married to someone you love -- or even someone you want to love again -- there is only one way to handle a disagreement over anything important. That is to find a Third Alternative, one you both like enough to happily walk away from your initial great idea that didn't fly well with your husband or wife.
The first step in finding a Third Alternative is the most important step. If you skip it, you may never find your Third Alternative. Or you may find one but lose out on the great feelings of finding it as a team.
What is this critical first step? It's jumping the net. Forgetting the competition to put yourself on the same side as your spouse. It's letting go of your first alternative before you even know what your shared Third Alternative will be. It's having confidence in your ability to give that man or woman at the center of your life the moon and the stars without giving up anything you need or crave.
It's announcing that you do, indeed want what he or she is asking for, and you're willing to work to get it. The only difference between this and caving in is that you also announce you're unwilling to use the particular strategy your spouse proposes (his or her first alternative) to get it. But you want the outcome it's intended to bring.
If you start asking questions about the specs for a Third Alternative before you jump the net, it's a volley. You're hitting a ball over the net to your mate. And your mate is going to hit it back. You won't learn the truth about what really matters to him or her. Instead, you'll get a sales pitch for an alternative you already know you don't like.
If you start proposing Third Alternatives before you jump the net and admit you'll only accept a new option that gives both of you everything you need and nothing you can't tolerate, they'll get shot down. And you won't know why or how to propose a better one.
That's because we humans do a great job of making up stories designed to change your thinking rather than reveal ours. But a successful Third Alternative -- not to mention a satisfying marriage -- requires that you learn what really matters to the person you married.
So before you work on specs or propose alternatives, jump the net. Make sure your beloved knows you're now on his or her side, not just your side. Because a successful Third Alternative satisfies you both and protects you both. And they're out there, waiting to make your life together even more satisfying than a life where all you get is what you ask for.