This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a beautiful wedding on Maryland’s Eastern shore. It was a second wedding for both bride and groom, and the rabbi did a lovely job of pointing out the strengths that they each brings to this new union. Their styles are indeed very different– the groom is more of a strong, quiet type, while the bride is much more outgoing, assertive and independant. The message we were all left with was that some of the best couples learn to play off their different strengths and balance each other out.

Indeed from my what I have gleaned from the successful couples I know, as well as my own experience, is that there’s always one that is more of an extrovert while the other is more of an introvert.  One is generally more assertive, while the other is more laid back.  Together, they find a way to beautifully balance each other out.

Unfortunately, when I’m with someone that is at least on par with my competitive, aggressive and opinionated nature, if an argument arises, it quickly can become a battle of wits and wills. Even after all my training as a mediator and Collaborative Professional, I have my moments, and so I recognize that I am far better suited with someone that can remain calm and even-keeled. Realizing however that conflict is inevitable, I continue to look for resources we can all use to reminder us how to resolve conflict in constructive ways.

Luckily there are a lot of resources out there, and it’s no secret that Dr. Gottman is among my favorite, but this week I’ve been reading “Focus on Forever,” which is an AAML (American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers) publication. It is a quick read and provies tips for good listening and avoiding the “Lover’s Panic,” which is when you start to blow things out of proportion and believe you’ve made the wrong life choice in a partner. There are also recommendations for promoting loving negotiations and good workbook exercises you can do with your spouse/partner to gain a greater understanding of one another. Finally, there is a section on how you should discuss money, which is the topic I get to cover in tomorrow’s lecture at the University Club in DC.

The best lesson I have learned, however, through observation and all the literature out there, is that money issues are never really the issue– it is more about control, security, self-esteem and love. In the end, if we are ever going to make an attempt at a life “happily ever after” we have to accept that conflict is bound to come up along the way. Only by communicating effectively will you truly understand one another and strike that difficult balance between my time, your time and our time.

The art of compromise, saying I’m sorry, realizing that your partner cannot meet 100% of your needs, and that you need to pick your battles are all lessons you glean over time. It takes great insight to accept that happiness is not contingent on anyone else, but rather that you are responsbile for finding your own joy. The right mate is someone that accepts all these realities and is committed to building a solid foundation, working through whatever issues may come up, and yet despite all of life’s challenges remains an eternal optimist that still believes in happily ever after.