Partnership negotiation happens only after a long series of dating conversations have been fruitful. You, two, have been dating for quite some time and have had many wonderful partial negotiations. Perhaps, during your dating phase, you negotiated over how to handle a particular, very specific situation like travel plans or meeting the relatives for the first time. Now, both parties believe that they might be a good bet as life partners. They do formal negotiations and get to a good level of detail about what being together will mean for their lives. At this stage, there really shouldn’t be any surprises. You have already heard all of the deal breakers. You each liked what you have been experiencing with the other person. You’ve grown very close plus you’ve had many experiences that give you both a reason to believe that you are handling well the business of an intimate relationship. You’ve decided to move forward.
The steps leading to the door of partnership negotiation might look something like: email correspond-dence, telephone conversations, and then lots of in-person experiences, which become increasingly partner-like. Lots of communication is the key.
Partnership negotiation requires that the person in lead position must design a negotiation process. For example, the two might meet over lunch or dinner several times before beginning to write their contract. The leader declares the terms of the negotiation process and clearly communicates those terms for review by the other partner. The prospective implementing partner has every right to ask for modifications and to ask for conditions that will increase their comfort. The two of you would settle on conditions that make both of you as comfortable and at ease as possible.
Partnership negotiations probably include some written correspondence or readings or other aids to clarify what is meant. Prospective partners of mine have happily read my essays plus relationship books that I’ve recommended. It all helped toward gaining a shared perspective. I’ve used a shared document in Google Docs in the past. It was so easy to make corrections, to see changes, and to share notes. I love the written word for clarifying my own thinking as well as being clear about the other person’s thinking.
The leading partner has the responsibility of creating a feel good environment for their discussions. Both persons have the right to conditions that are kind, patient, gentle, and understanding. Both should expect respect at all times.
One prospective leading partner invited his prospective implementing partner to lunch one day. He showed up at her place of work with a picnic basket. He had made sandwiches and salad for them. He’d baked blueberry muffins and made lemonade. He had real plates and cloth napkins. He was ready to negotiate. She had written a list of what was most important to her plus a poem that showed her feelings. She was ready to negotiate. She, later, said that she loved the effort that he had made on their behalf.
The leader should be ready to encourage the implementing partner to respectfully speak their mind throughout negotiations. Both partners should feel that it’s easy to be revealing. The emotional environment should be open and unrestricted.
The leading partner must come to negotiations prepared to explain what structure they are setting for the nature of the relationship. Just as a house has walls and a roof and a foundation, the leading partner takes responsibility for leading them into a pretty well-defined relationship structure. This should have been explained in some part in earlier conversations. Being articulate about relationship structure is an important job that falls mostly on the shoulders of the prospective leading partner. This is not to say that the leading partner should have all the answers or have created a detailed plan. But it is to say that there is a show of leadership to be made in broad strokes at this early stage. Whatever the leading partner has to say about how they think the relationship might proceed should be received like any proposal for action. The prospective implementing partner is expected to respond directly to what they are hearing and with their own ideas, desires, and needs. Here, partnering looks like a wonderful free sharing of how the two of you feel about how to live your life together.###