Chapter 3 - Situations Subchapter: Relationships

Relationships and the Field Model

A split-frame image, on the left an illustrated character is going for a run. On the right two characters are sitting on the floor in front of a couch – one is frowning.

 

In any relationship there are individual decisions and shared decisions.

Individual decisions directly involve only you.

  • I’m going for a run.
  • I’m going to the footy with Alex next Sunday.
  • I’ll take birth control until I’m certain I want to get pregnant and start a family with you.

Your individual decisions might affect your partner, but they don’t involve them. In a healthy and respectful relationship, your partner should support and encourage your fitness goals, your important friendships, and respect your right to make decisions that concern your body. 

Shared decisions involve both people in a relationship.

  • We should swap to low fat milk to keep in the fridge.
  • We’ve both saved for a new couch and had agreed on caramel suede, now you want black leather.
  • I want us to spend this Christmas with my family.

A shared decision is when one person is asking the other person to do something.

 

Stop Ask Listen

Sometimes wants and needs are connected, sometimes not. But how to know?

If we want something from another person we need to make sure we both agree on what that something is.

We have to stop.

Ask them what they want.

Listen to what they say.

 

Two illustrated characters communicate; one is in listening mode. The words ‘Stop Ask Listen’ feature, with ‘Listen’ highlighted.

 

You might be surprised to learn why your partner now wants the leather couch when you know they love the warmth of suede.

You should ask the other person and listen to what they have to say.

Stop Ask Listen puts the focus on communication. Feeling like you can speak honestly and openly with your partner and have your rights and freedoms respected is essential for a healthy relationship.

 

Making shared decisions

The Field Model recognises that we are all individuals with our own rich inner worlds. We can’t just act how we want or take what we want from someone else.

 

The Field Model diagram in full, with a banner named ‘Respect’ pointing at it.

 

We need to respect each other’s rights and freedoms when making both individual and shared decisions.

YNIDK helps us to respectfully navigate shared decisions:

  • Gives people space and time to reach a decision
  • Not taking action until both people agree
  • Letting people change their minds at any time
  • Giving people the safety and power to say no
  • Responding gracefully and respectfully when they do.

 

CAN BUY BLACK LEATHER COUCH WITH JOINT SAVINGS?

The Field Model diagram with two anonymous characters on Yes.

 

At first your partner seems embarrassed about why they’ve changed their mind and now want leather instead of suede for the new couch. But you encourage them to speak freely and listen as they admit it’s because their sister said that leather is easier with small children, and they are thinking of the future.

It’s exciting to think of the future and you agree that leather is the right choice.

 

CAN TRY TO START A FAMILY?

The Field Model diagram with one anonymous character on Yes and one on No.

 

Just because a shared decision is made to buy the child-friendly couch, it doesn’t mean your individual decision to wait before starting a family is now a shared decision.  

You are in charge of your body. What happens to it is your decision.  

 

How disrespectful behaviour creeps in

While the Field Model places mutual respect as the necessary foundation for shared decisions in healthy intimate relationships, other factors can increase the likelihood of disrespectful behaviour creeping in.

Familiarity: when we take our partner for granted, stop paying attention to their interests and needs and assume they will go along with whatever is decided for them.

Even for small shared choices and decisions, both people have a right to be involved. In a relationship based on equality and respect, one person does not make decisions for the other person.

Possessiveness: intense intimate relationships can lead to possessive behaviour from one or both persons. When one person becomes possessive over who the other person sees, how they spend free time, their personal interests, that’s a red flag.

 

A split-frame of Me, You, and Us. Me has one character wearing an orange crown; You has another character wearing a blue crown; Us has a couple sharing a green crown.

 

In an intimate relationship there is a ME, a YOU and an US.

For a relationship to be respectful and nurturing, all three parts need to be considered equal.

ME: I make decisions that affect me as an individual and my partner respects my right to do this.

YOU: Your partner makes decisions that affect them as an individual and you respect your partner’s right to do this.

US: Together we enjoy shared time and make shared decisions about the things that affect both of us together.

Desire: sexual desire can feel so overwhelming that it can distort our thinking and make us more focused on what makes the other person happy, even if that compromises our individual needs and wants.

If one person finds themselves thinking only of what might make the other person happy with them and happy with the relationship, that’s a red flag to spend some time reconnecting with their own inner world and their individual thoughts, dreams, goals and priorities. Maintaining your self-interest will help protect your individual wants and needs and prevent you from losing sight of what’s important to you.