Price: Steps to better understand your partner

Ron Price
Special to The Daily Times
Ron Price

Today’s guest columnist is well known to many in the Four Corners. Mike Hattabaugh is a very popular professor at San Juan College who strives to help people prosper in their relationships. You can learn more from Mike at his website, Once there you can sign up to receive his blog posts by email and get a free copy of his ebook, “Relationship Secrets to Transform Your Life Together. “

Mike will also present two workshops at the Four Corners Conference for Professional Development on Thursday. You can find more information at

Know your relationship ‘climate’

This time of year, I'm too hot during the day, and then cold at night.  I have a hard time getting the temperature just right!

Relationships are a lot like heating and cooling a house; you need to adjust to the climate. So, to help us see how we were built for one climate and our partner was built differently, I want to give you some steps to understand your partner better.

Three steps on how to understand your partner better

Step No. 1: See why they were built differently than you.

Mike Hattabaugh

One of the strange realities of relationships is we are attracted to people who are different than us, then we are disappointed when they don't become like us. My wife and I were raised in different family "climates." Her family dynamics, lifestyle and beliefs were different than mine. Not hugely different, but their priorities were not the same as my family. These differences can create a traumatic effect later in your relationship if you don't understand them.

John Gottman talks about creating "maps" with your partner. The more time and energy you put into knowing the details about your partner and where they came from, the higher the success rate of your relationship. Like the windows, your partner was built they way they were for a reason. Learn all of the things that made them the way they were.

While you should continue to learn all you can about where they came from, your reaction to what you learn is the next step in how to understand your partner better.

Step No. 2: Learn to react to them in a positive way every time.

We've all had someone come to our house and say something like: "I see you painted the walls dark colors, I would never do that." We are stuck at that point. Their negative view of your decorating has revealed itself, even though they may not be ugly revealing it. We do similar damage in our relationships all the time.

When our spouse/partner gives us information that we disagree with or don't understand, our response will either grow the relationship or shut it down. It doesn't take too many times of sharing information with someone who doesn't encourage before we won't share anymore. Once we quit sharing, the relationship literally begins to die.

To develop the habit of reacting in a positive way, give your partner permission to stop you when they feel like you are not understanding them.  Everyone needs someone they can be their true selves with. Use phrases like "I see" or "help me understand what you are saying."

The habit of reaction is a hard one to overcome. You probably learned it from your family, so realize it will take a while to become your natural self.  Another step on how to understand your partner better is to build on what you already know.

Step No. 3: Build on what you learn.

One of the most frustrating things in a relationship can be lessons you learn over and over. When our partner forgets what we have already hashed out, it drives us crazy! But how are you about remembering those things?

If you find that both of you keep arguing about the same things, it may be time to keep a notebook of things you have already dealt with. When you write down things like how and when you will take vacations or pay bills or even what kind of dog you agreed to have, you can enjoy each other's company more and answer questions less.

This may seem like a clunky way to handle your differences, but it works! If you agree on some things, you can spend less emotional energy struggling through them every time they come up. The secret is not that the list is like a Bible of things you must do, but instead if things change, you can both agree to the changes before the rule changes. This keeps one partner from feeling like the other makes all of the decisions.

So the next time you don't understand your partner, try these three steps to see if you can, at least, see why they might feel the way they do. And turn up the heat!  It's freezing in here!

Ron Price is the owner and operator of Productive Outcomes Inc. and the author of "PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work," an e-book available on Amazon. He can be reached at 505-324-6328.