Have you ever noticed that you and your partner don’t always want the same things?
Sometimes one partner wants to improve communication, create more closeness, and maybe even fall in love again, and the other partner says, “We’re fine.” So, while sometimes one partner wants to work on the relationship, the other one may think, “You’ve got to be kidding.” These circumstances raise a good question, what do you do when you have a reluctant partner?
One thing to remember is that it’s normal in relationships to have different levels of desire in almost any activity.
Someone may want more emotional intimacy; the partner may want more physical intimacy. One may wish to earn more money; the other may prioritize more playtime together. These varying desires apply to important topics and more mundane things such as hobbies and chores. For example, one person might love bicycle riding as a couple, and the other partner wants to take Tango lessons.
And now you might be wondering, how do couples ever come together?! I think we learn to manage differences because the benefits can be amazing. Yes, relationships are challenging. But the reward is to share your life with someone special.
So back to dealing with a reluctant partner when something is important to you. What are some good ways to invite your partner to join you in your desires? Let’s start with some things to avoid since they usually make things worse.
Have you ever noticed how people are not inspired to change because someone said they were being awful? If you want to invite your reluctant partner to join you in an activity, don’t start by telling them how horrible their reluctance is.
Do it the right way (my way!)
The other tactic I often see is when one partner insists they are doing things right, and the partner’s way is incorrect. Save yourself the trouble on this one. Usually, this approach makes people dig in their heels. (By golly, I will NOT get on that bicycle!)
Don’t decide your partner doesn’t love you if they don’t match your desire for an activity. This is likely not true and will make you feel miserable. And, from a strategic standpoint, the accusation of not loving you is a poor way to create interest in the activity. Instead, it may add a heavy dose of guilt and drama to the situation.
After seeing what not to do, let’s think about ways to respond when you have a reluctant partner. Hopefully, it is firmly in your mind that desire differences are common for every activity. So, here are some positive approaches when your partner’s desires don’t match yours.
Help yourself get into a calm place. Know going into the conversation that you will likely get pushback. It doesn’t sting so much if you expect it, and you can breathe right through it.
Ask for a good time to talk and commit to keeping a good tone. For example, if your partner says, “I can’t believe you want to talk about X again.” Just say, “I do want to talk about it again.” Don’t abandon the topic (and yourself!)
Say what you want and empathize with how they feel
“This is what I would like, and I understand it isn’t your priority.”
There are a lot of reasons why your partner may feel reluctant about an activity. First, they might be anxious about it, especially if you ask them to step outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they might even be lazy. Perfectly legal.
Essentially you are asking your partner to do something that takes effort for them but is important to you. It’s about developing a practice of giving and receiving.
Will your reluctant partner do everything you want because you’ve asked nicely? Probably not. On the upside, you won’t do everything your partner wants either. We have freedom in our relationships which creates some chaos. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Would you?
Meg Luce, M.S., is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Grass Valley specializing in helping couples create satisfying relationships. You can find her contact info at https://NevadaCountyTherapist.com