There is nothing pretty about unspoken bargains. ~Lisa A. Miles
When there is conflict in a relationship, whether between intimate partners or work colleagues, I often find tacit bargains at the root of the problem. The conflict happens when one of the people feels disadvantaged, used, or trapped by the consequences of the operation of the bargain. Since the agreement was never acknowledged, it’s not like one can simply renegotiate the terms.
Relationship bargains, like all other bargains, are agreed upon under the table. We don’t agree on these things out in the open because if we did, the secondary gains we could achieve with these bargains would be diminished. ~Andrea Matthews; The Law of Attraction, pg 77
And it is the “secondary gains” that actually maintain bargains. What is gained under the table may be more important than what is lost in the open. What I believe I’m gaining (or avoiding) by choosing to be complicit in the bargain is actually all about me and nothing about the other.
The solution is, as always, personal responsibility. Here in the Middle East people will often say, “It is not in my hands,” meaning they don’t have the power to change or affect something. I often turn it around and ask, “What is in your hands?” Inevitably, there is comprehension of the part that my client plays in maintaining that unspoken bargain. Then the work begins. What is essentially complicit behaviour created by personal way(s) of relating to others through unspoken bargains can, and does, change when one or the other of the two people in the bargain do something different.
Of course, that “something different” then creates temporary tension in the relationship while a new equilibrium is established. Is this process smooth? Sometimes …but not usually. We all become (more-or-less) committed to the status quo and changing that creates dis-ease.
It’s the willingness to compromise, to be mindful of my own ‘hidden agenda’ (secondary gains) and to own the truth of my impact on others that stretches and grows a relationship of any type into something mutually satisfying and beneficial to both parties.
- Nothing Changes Until Something Changes | Refine Us (freshairofgrace.typepad.com)
- Bargains in Relationship (Sue Johnson, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy)
- Tacitly Agreeing (myhalfof.blogspot.com)