He Said, She Said: Should I Do What I Want, Or What My Partner Wants?

By on February 22, 2016
Young beautiful woman in bed with sad expression . Bored and unhappy couple

When should we do what we want regardless of how our partner feels, and let them just have their feelings; vs. when do we consider not doing something, based on how our partner feels? When are we letting go of our power when we ‘listen’ to our partner and don’t do the thing they aren’t comfortable with? And, when are we in our power, making a mature decision to not do something because we’ve considered our partners feelings?   -Chantel.



Sara Says…



Hmm, I don’t know! I’ve never run into that one with a partner before…


I grapple with this question all the time: when, and how, to honor my partner’s needs in relationship, even when they differ from my own.

As an example that’s particularly vulnerable for me, lately my partner and I – who have been together 4 months – are questioning whether or not to get married. He’s Canadian and I’m American.

We both want to stay in the US. However, we have different values on marriage. I think of it as a lifelong commitment, not to be made lightly, so I would prefer to go to Canada when his visa runs out and wait another year or so before making a decision. For him, marriage is in this case a legality, and he wants to go through with it now so that we don’t have to leave.

  • Am I wrong for holding to my values around marriage?
  • Do my values need to be questioned? Or,
  • is he wrong for pushing the question when my answer is no?


The consideration for me, in these situations, is…

 …whether or not I’ll resent my partner later on. 

If I think I’ll be holding him in my mind with less love after the decision is made, then it’s not the time to make that choice. We need to inquire deeper, as a couple and individually, into what comes up for us around the question. A decision made over one person’s feelings is likely not going to last.

Mark and I have been taking our time. Rather than talking about ‘Should we get married or not,’ we’ve been doing research on what other options for emigration might be, and what getting married would legally entail.

Gathering more information might make the whole question go away. But more importantly, we’re having discussions about what marriage means to each of us, why it means that, how we might feel being married, and using the exploration to bring up fears and desires that haven’t been spoken in our relationship before.

Rather than being angry at the question, we’re trying to use it to get clearer on what’s important to each of us. And…


We’re acting as a ‘we’ even in the exploration of difference.

When the question is ‘When do we hold on to, or let go of, power,’ relationship becomes a struggle for supremacy. I start counting the number of times I’ve let my partner do what he wants, and how often I’ve had my desires met. I come to resent him for his needs.


When the question is- 'When do we hold on to or let go of power' -relationship becomes a struggle for supremacy. Click To Tweet


When the question is, ‘What empowers our relationship,’ or ‘How can we support each other in this relationship,’ my partner and I can work together for a common goal.


We’re both…

  • in service of the relationship.
  • acknowledging that we have reasons to be together.  (What those reasons are for you, you’ll have to define for yourselves- if you’re together, then they exist.)
  • acknowledging that our individual selves are part of a greater ‘we’.


Mark and I are realizing that if our relationship is strong, then putting it to another test – traveling back and forth across borders for a year or so – will probably only help us grow. Since growth is a major relational commitment for both of us, we’re willing to face the strain of uprooting our home.

Before we make a final decision I want to explore more about why he wants to stay in Austin, what “home” means to both of us, and be understood (or understand more in myself) what I’m valuing about marriage.

I want to use conflicts as a means for getting more intimate. And if I decide to disregard Mark’s feelings and make the decision on my own, I want to be fully open to his impact, and ready to explore that difference as well.


(Join Sara for the Authentic Leadership and Facilitation Training- coming up April 8-10 in Austin, Texas.  For more details click the image below, or HERE.)





Rob Sez…



I promise to answer the question but i think it’s important for me to first express one important and maybe unpopular viewpoint. In 99.9% of life’s situations…


Absolutely no one can either ‘give’ or ‘take away’ your power.


Now, let’s talk about the other 0.01% first because there are definitely experiences where people take power away from another. They include wars, slavery, crime, sexual assault, emotional torture, child abuse, prison crimes, and other acts of random violence.

This is what i refer to the 0.01%. I do not wish to diminish that this does happen in our society and throughout the world. This answer does NOT refer to these cases.

However, the question, I believe, refers to the other 99.9%. In these experiences, there is absolutely no way for one person to take your power because we are all always coming from CHOICE.

Most of us, however, tend to get victimized by the situation (not the other person), throw our hands up in the air, and basically point our fingers at the others saying ‘THEY MADE ME DO IT’. This is simply not true. When we do something with/for/against/because of our partner, we do it of our own free will.

I believe we do, or do not do, things based on our perception of pain/pleasure ratio. In other words, is it worth the x unit of pain to have our Y units of pleasure? We all have our internal compass of ‘this just isn’t worth it’. Whether this is based on reality… that’s always a crap shoot.

However, we’re always simply judging if the crime is worth the time.

I’ve decided in my life that my connection to my partner is my top priority. I’ve made this decision based on very selfish reasons. I just love being connected to her.

Am I ‘giving’ up things I enjoy in order to preserve that connection? YES.

Do I regret giving them up? NO.

I don’t regret giving them up because I know it’s my ultimate choice to have or have not. It’s not because ‘She won’t let me’ but because I know if i do, there’s a chance she might drift away from me  and I don’t like that. Drifting away from me is her choice and her right. I just get to choose to create an environment where that doesn’t happen. Much.

The beauty of my relationship is that I can tell her everything I want. And perhaps she doesn’t feel comfortable with them right in the moment. However, the ability to tell her, to show her who I am, to be received by her, is what brings me the greatest joy.

So, to answer the original question:

  • When do we do what we want regardless of how our partner feels and let them have their feelings?  Whenever you want.
  • And when do we consider not doing the thing based on how our partner feels?  Whenever you want.
  • And when are we letting go of our power when we ‘listen’ to our partner and not do the thing they aren’t comfortable with. Never
  • And when are we in our power and making a mature decision to not do something because we have considered our partners feelings? Always


Take responsibility for your choice. It just feels better.


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  1. Coolynn

    February 22, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Rob, I think you may be one who takes other’s power. If you think you have never done it, you probably do it all the time. I took my best friend’s power to select a movie – because she consistently gave it to me. Years later, she got mad at me because she said we always saw what I wanted to see. But, it was agonizingly difficult to conciously allow her to make a decision. (I guess that’s why/how I took the power so often.) Giving/taking power doesn’t have to be as obvious as war, atrocity, assault, torture, etc.

    • Robert

      February 26, 2016 at 12:57 am

      hi Coolynn – i think we have a difference of opinion at the semantic level. You choosing the movie for your friend cause she doesn’t have the strength/desire/impetus to pick is not “taking her power”. Its just you stepping up to make a decision for both of you. As i wrote, this is her “choice” to do so. Its not you doing anything except being the one to risk picking a good or awful flick. You’re not forcing her to do anything. People will whine down the line “You always get to pick the movie” but i suspect if she did, you’d back her every step of the way. So, i disagree with your viewpoint but am thrilled you posted! xo Rob

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