Therapy Blog for Orem, Spanish Fork & South Jordan

Relationship Counseling: Collaboration vs. Cooperation

Relationship Counseling: Are You Collaborating with Your Partner, Or Are You Just Cooperating?

A common concern for couples who seek relationship counseling at our office is conflict resolution. You might relate to this. Maybe you and your partner have a big argument you just can’t seem to agree on. Or maybe you are trying to make big decisions and you’ve reached an impasse. 

Relationship therapy can give you the tools you need to overcome these standstills with your partner. Today, you will also learn about a change in perspective that can help you to get things moving when it comes to conflict resolution. (Related Article: How to Accept Your Partner’s Influence)

Cooperation: A First Step

If you are struggling to move past a big discussion with your partner, you might be frustrated by a lack of cooperation. Maybe this lack of cooperation is coming from your partner. Or maybe you are the one who won’t budge. Cooperation is an important part of problem solving in a marriage. However, many people incorrectly believe that cooperation is the end goal. (Related Article: Marriage Counseling- Team Building). 

But cooperation is not the endgame when it comes to truly working through conflicts in your marriage. Cooperation is great. It means you are willing and open minded to working it out. You are open to listening. But cooperation misses an important aspect of truly solving the problem; being open to real change and to accepting your partner’s influence. 

If you embrace cooperation, but don’t move towards true collaboration, you risk one or both of you “giving in” and not finding an answer that truly works for the both of you. Think of cooperation as an important step to problem solving, but not the destination.  (Related Article: How to Communicate Effectively).

Collaboration: Being Willing to Act

Once you and your partner are open to cooperation and have “dropped your guard”, you set the stage for the next part of your problem solving process; collaboration. Collaborating takes cooperation one step further; you are not just willing and open to listening to your partner. You are committed to truly understanding. (Related Article: Promoting Partnership).

Actively listening can be a great way to move towards collaboration with your spouse. You each arrive at your impasse with your own individual perspectives on your situation. These perspectives are informed by your individual experiences, emotions, and beliefs. And, it’s important to keep in mind that each of your perspectives is legitimate. 

Now, embracing that idea doesn’t mean you have to automatically agree with them. Instead, it means you are accepting that your partner’s point of view is valid and real for them. This approach helps your partner feel seen, heard, and validated. It also invites openness and can help your spouse feel safe to share and also collaborate with your perspective, too. 

Cooperation and Collaboration: Reaching Consensus 

Correctly utilizing cooperation and collaboration opens up the opportunity for consensus between you and your partner. Consensus is important. It means you are not just compromising or choosing to “win some and lose some”. You are able to accept each other’s influence and come to an agreement that is satisfying for you both. (Related Article: Manage Conflict: Accepting Eachother’s Influence)

Reaching a resolution is tricky and can be a challenge. The effort pays off in not only the consensus between you and your partner, but the trust you built together as a result. (Related Article: Building Emotional Intimacy).

Relationship Counseling Can Hrelationship counseling relationship counseling relationship counselingelp You Learn to Collaborate 

Are you struggling to move past cooperation and collaborate with your partner? Do you want help learning to reach consensus as a couple? Couples therapy can help. Your therapist has the training and tools to help you and your partner work together as a team and improve your trust in each other. 

Are you ready to get started? Start relationship counseling today in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork. 

Written by Lauren Adkins

Lauren Adkins

Writer for the Center for Couples and Families


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