My husband and I have stumbled on a way of problem-solving that has revolutionized the way we fight… or don’t fight, actually.
In the very early stages of our dating relationship, I was determined to know just what I was getting into. I’d never had a healthy relationship and as someone whose superpower is introspection, I didn’t want to make the same mistakes. My now-husband also wanted to ensure he did not fall into the same relationship traps that ended his first marriage. So together we took the Briggs Myers personality test, The 5 Love Languages test, and anything we could find to help us deeply understand better who we were apart and together. I learned that I am a Campaigner (ENFP-A) defined as enthusiastic, creative and a sociable free spirit, who can always find a reason to smile. My husband the Logistician (ISTJ-T) is part of the crowd of practical and fact-minded individuals, whose reliability cannot be doubted. We are completely opposite in all aspects of our personality. Our love languages thankfully are similar, though, so our cups are full with minimal effort.
The result is that we feel loved, but not always heard.
Early on my husband and I were talking about the lessons we learned in our previous, failed relationships. He explained that in counseling he learned about a tool he called “The 1 to 10 Rule.” The way the rule works is by balancing both of our strengths with quantifying (logical) our feelings (emotional). The rule only works if you both respect the rules and each other enough not to abuse it. When you come to a disagreement, or if you anticipate a disagreement, explain to your partner how important it is by using a 1-10 statement. Whoever’s # is bigger wins. “It’s a 7 out of 10 for me that ____ happens. I would feel seen and respected if you could help me so I don’t have to carry this load alone.” When you want the other person to be happy as much as you are, and if something isn’t that important to you but very important to them, you must let it go without resentment.
It doesn’t feel like losing, it feels like supporting.
When we were looking for a house it was 9/10 that I find one in XYZ neighborhoods and it was 7/10 for him that his drive was under 20min each way. I did my best to accommodate that and he respected that the school zone was paramount. In the end, we found a great house in the neighborhood that I love and his commute is manageable; though he would still tell you he hates Pinhook traffic. The biggest thing is, we didn’t fight and build resentment towards each other because we set clear expectations and communicated.
We’re definitely not perfect though, and we do still argue.
The beauty of the 1 to 10 system is that it works even if you’re already mad and not getting along. More recently I was feeling every bit of my OCD which demands order in our home for me to find peace. I was feeling completely overwhelmed and angry that the closet organization system he bought was not installed after weeks. I walked around for days isolating myself and steaming over the (false) narrative I was telling myself: “He doesn’t care enough to make this a priority. I’m miserable and he’s too busy organizing the pantry to even notice.” Then my introspective superpower kicked in and I remembered that he cannot read my mind, and I shouldn’t expect him to.
So instead of carrying onto that anger like a hot rock I wanted to throw at him – one that was only burning me, anyhow – I spoke up. “Hey, I’m really upset and feeling ignored, if you could get the closet done tomorrow I would appreciate it. It’s a 9/10 importance for me that the chaos is finally contained.” And you know what? He did it. He had no idea that it was so important to me and had been prioritizing other projects he thought were helpful. He was just as confused about my anger as I was about why is he suddenly so intent on reorganizing the pantry. Presto chango balance restored.
Those are just a couple of examples of how the clear communication of the 1 to 10 system can work for you, too. So if you’re struggling to articulate the importance of something or you’re tired of miscommunications give it a try. I’d love to hear how it works for you! And if you have other tools that have been invaluable for clearer communication and problem solving I’d love to know about them.