The wife of a couple that I used to see would say at times that she wished that her husband and she could be more generous toward each other. I always thought that this was a very tangible and evocative way to describe an emotionally powerful need in any relationship. I bring it up now because recently I have been writing about ways to reach mutually constructive decisions in a relationship. I have discussed how being able to form a consensus, reaching a compromise, and accommodating to one another at different times, are approaches that can work in different situations. I think that using all three of these decision making processes gives a couple a range of options which can help to resolve impasses that arise.
The ability to be generous toward your partner is a kind of x factor in working out decisions in a positive way. Generosity includes several qualities. The first is being able to feel empathy toward your partner, not just in theory or about a situation that does not involve you, but when you have your own feelings that conflict, or at least are competing for attention, with your partner’s needs. To be able to put your own needs aside for a moment and to focus on trying to appreciate or understand what makes something important to your spouse is a way of demonstrating with your behavior that your partner’s happiness and well being is important to you. Generosity also shows the ability to be patient and self-reflective. When you can realize that what is at stake with your partner when you have a disagreement is usually not that earth shattering or important, it is easier to be patient with your partner and yourself. Usually your standing in the relationship is not threatened by any one decision. The respect you are given, the amount of control or impact you have, the amount of love you get, all of these do not depend on how any one argument turns out. This perspective helps you take a step back, which helps you then be more patient and willing to give to your partner.
When you are emotionally generous toward your partner this makes a significant impact on him or her. You and your partner will both feel less defensive and tense with each other. You will also find that when you are generous toward your husband or wife you feel more grounded and flexible which actually helps you feel in control. It’s a feeling of being in control of yourself instead of the situation or the other person.