We interrupt this message to bring you a detour post! (Sorry, no relation to the 1945 film.) As I was writing and plugging away at what I thought would be my last article in this series on marriage, I realized… this next point was going to be a doozy. As the word count spiraled further and further out of control, I was forced to accept that I would have to reroute my last few thoughts on navigating a difficult marriage, before finally bringing it all to a close. Therefore, in this detour I present to you the following point for your reading pleasure.
How to Make a Good Deal
In married life, we should know how to make a good deal. Ok, hold on, you say. Didn't you say in the first post that marriage is not all about oneself or something like that? Why are you bringing commerce into the conversation? Are you trying to advocate manipulating my spouse? Or getting as much out of them as possible? No, and no. I know the phrase in this context sounds odd and contradictory, but hear me out. This point might be the most important point I make in this entire series.
Have you ever shopped in a place that looked like this? This photo, to me, is home sweet home – the land of Israel, and specifically, it's a snapshot of the bustling outdoor market we call the shuk. The country is full of these types of markets, where you have vendors occupying covered stalls with each vendor surrounded by their goods. Now, when you go to shop at the shuk, you can approach the venture in two ways. You can shop like a tourist, or like a local. Doesn't take a genius to figure out which way gets you the better deal. So, how does one shop like a local then? I will give you a quick run-down of the technique of "bargaining" (some also call it "haggling"), as illustrated in the example below…:
[Vendor, selling shoes]: Welcome, my friend, I see that you have stopped to look at my selection of shoes. These are made of 100% genuine camel hide, made right here in Israel, very good for summertime, 400 shekels. Let me show you how soft they are, see the leather is so soft and pliable. 400 shekels. Come, I'll put them in the bag for you.
[Local buyer]: 400 shekels?!! You have to be joking me! You think money grows on trees?? There's no way I can pay 400 shekels for this pair of sandals, come on it's only one pair of sandals! There's barely anything there! No way; I will give you 200 shekels for this pair.
[Vendor]: 200 shekels?! What, you think these sandals grow on trees?? I told you these are made right here in Israel, handmade! Not made in a factory. They're not from China! And they're hand stitched! You see, the stitching right here. It's beautiful. *kisses fingers* This is the best shop you will find for these sandals, no one else has them like I have them. And for the best price! 400 shekels!! Come, I will give them to you for 380.
[Buyer]: What are you talking about… I saw Moshe down the street selling the exact same pair of sandals! And he'll sell them to me for 250 shekels, not 380! What a ripoff! What do you think I am, a freier*??
[Vendor]: 250 shekels, that's impossible! That's like me giving away these sandals for free! What, I have a family to take care of! I can't sell these for 250 shekels! The least I can give them to you for is 350 shekels.
[Buyer]: Well, maybe I should just go over to Moshe's and buy the sandals from him!! I want no more than 300 shekels!
[Vendor]: Ridiculous! I'll sell them to you for 340 shekels. Come, 340. It's a bargain. A steal!
[Buyer]: 320 shekels.
[Vendor]: Aaaaah, 320 shekels! It's a steal! You're robbing me! It's a gift, here. 330 shekels for these sandals and this purse for 100 shekels. The price is 100 shekels, and you can have it for 95. 95 shekels, here I'll put it in the bag for you.
[Buyer]: 325 for the sandals, and I want 40 for the purse. ………
*freier = Hebrew for "sucker"
And so on and so forth. Welcome to the Middle East! So, in this exchange we see three important principles which are directly related to marriage. First, the seller and the buyer both state at the beginning what they want. They are both very clear about the desired price they would like to sell or buy at, respectively. There is no beating around the bush. Second, each person uses their words, tone of voice, and body language to draw the other in. To the outside observer, it sounds like a lot of arguing, defending, and even threatening to buy elsewhere. But there is a certain understanding that is being established by both parties with each exchange. It's like a dance. This is why the dealing continues, even though it appears that both people stubbornly hold on to their own integrity. Third, each party adjusts their desired price with each exchange, but at an incremental rate – not drastically. Each gives in, but only a little at a time. Eventually, believe it or not, they meet in the middle and the transaction is made. The deal is successful.
State What You Want
Let's apply this to married life. First, we need to be clear with our spouse regarding what we want. As the authors of Couple Skills, a therapist-recommended relationships guide, state: "You have a right to ask for the things you need in a relationship. In fact, you have a responsibility to yourself and your partner to be clear about your needs." Remember the boldness of the shoe seller who advertises his sandals at the price of 400 shekels, even though he knows that Moshe down the street is selling them for around 250? He wants to make the deal, and he also wants to sell the sandals at the highest price possible. Likewise, the buyer desires both the hand-made sandals and the dirt-cheap price – and isn't afraid to make it known, as he offers to pay a paltry 200 shekels for the product. Have we ever been this clear with our spouse regarding our desires? Instead of waiting for him to telepathically "get it" without our saying anything? Or couching our wishes in a guessing game? Forget about all that. Just tell him what you want! Name your "price" boldly, because that's your right and your responsibility.
Bargain – Dance – Communicate
The second key principle involves the art of bargaining itself. Outwardly, the seller and the buyer are full of big talk, they're posturing, they're full of bravado, they're gesticulating wildly! But guess what? Both of them actually want the same thing – to make the deal. Each wants to make it on his own terms, but if the deal can be made, they'll certainly choose to take it over not taking it. Therefore, they're willing to engage. They're willing to dance the dance. In married life, this "dance" is a picture of our communication with one another.
Good communication is essential to marriage. Research from the Gottman Institute on marriage and relationships shows that poor communication is one of the two leading causes of unhappiness in couples (the other being money issues). But chances are, you and your spouse do not communicate the same way. Have you ever encountered this scenario in your married life: you say something to your spouse, and she immediately goes on the defense, or responds sharply and cuts you off – with you left astonished and confused at what you said that could possibly have provoked this reaction. Here's the diagnosis: your method of communication did not jive with hers.
The treatment for this is tricky, but you and her will have to find a way to "dance together". If you are typically outspoken and blunt, while she is usually quiet and sensitive, try it her way for a moment. Tone your voice down, take a breath before speaking, and turn the kindness meter up to 10. What if it's the other way around: you are the quiet one, and your spouse is more brash? Well, you can stick to your usual method of conversation and hope that your spouse will get you eventually. Or you could try… ramping it up to their level. Raise your voice. Get a little loud. Get in their face! Maybe even throw in a cuss word (?!?). In fact, recent research from the University of Cambridge shows that people who frequently curse are more honest than those who don't. And honesty in marriage is a fantastic policy. So, get out there and engage your spouse, be willing to dance the dance! The more you choose to engage and practice at it, the surer your steps become. Having a successful and thriving relationship is truly getting the ultimate deal.
Know Your Value
The third principle is illustrated by the amount in shekels that the seller and buyer are willing to sell and buy, respectively. 400! No way, 200! No, 380! 250! Ok, 350! Nope, 300! And so on. It looks like a numbers game, but it's all about the giving of value. The seller, in order to progress the bargaining, must accomdate by dropping his price, but he only drops it a little at a time. This is because he is upholding the value of his product. He reminds the buyer that the sandals are far from being cheap and worthless – they are hand-made, hand-stitched, genuine camel hide, etc. The buyer starts off by naming a low price, and he also accomodates by raising the amount, slowly. In a sense, he also upholds his own value, because he is holding onto as much of his money as he can in this deal. He refuses to give away more of his money than what's absolutely necessary for him to get the sandals. Thus, both parties do a very good job at not devaluing themselves.
In married life, this concept is too, too crucial. Did you know that you bring a certain value to your relationship? Do you know what that value is? Obviously it's not good to overinflate yourself, which leads to pride and a selfish attitude. But it's even more critical not to underestimate yourself. Don't be a freier in your own relationship! I'm talking to those of you who react to every argument by apologizing profusely – without knowing what you're apologizing for. I'm talking to those of you who sacrifice your legitimate concerns and well-being just so you can avoid a conflict. I'm talking to those of you who give in too easily. You owe it to yourself and your spouse to engage in every fight worth fighting for.
Why is it so important to stand your ground? Because how accurately you value yourself in your relationship indicates how transparent your relationship is. The more precisely that "price" is labeled (not too high, but also not too low), the more the buyer understands and trusts the intention of the seller. Let's take an example from entrepreneurial genius MJ DeMarco, founder of Viperion Publishing and author of business best-seller The Millionaire Fastlane. In his book, he states: "Price isn't simply a number that tells someone what something costs. It conveys value and worth." He shares the story of a man who decided to give away an old dresser he found in his basement. The man moved the dresser to the street and labeled it with the sign "FREE". But nobody came to take the dresser, though the man waited for several days. This surprised him very much, for the dresser was still in good shape. So the next day, he took down the "FREE" sign and replaced it with a sign that said "$50". Less than an hour later, the dresser was stolen. Why did this happen? Nobody trusted that such a large, decent-looking dresser would just be sitting on the street, free for the taking. There must have been something wrong with the dresser that was not apparent. But when the sign was changed and the dresser was valued at $50, the intention became clear. And who wouldn't want a decent-looking dresser worth $50?
We need to be those who are clear, honest, and transparent in our marriages. This includes not selling ourselves short. How can you expect your spouse to interact with you in a sincere and sensible way if you constantly forsake your own value? I've know a few friends who have been the doormat in their relationships. They believed that this was the proper way to conduct their marriages. As a result, their spouses distrusted them more, resented their behavior as "too good", and ultimately took advantage of them in a destructive way. But you can see where things went wrong. If the shuk seller offers to sell you his shoes at 400 shekels, you don't just accept that as the price and give him 400 shekels. To do that would be misunderstanding the entire institution of shuk shopping! He would of course take your money and follow up on his good fortune by selling you even more items, but you'd be out of money real fast. And I'm willing to bet that the seller would have a good laugh with his buddies about you after closing time. Don't let this happen to you in your marriage. Be wise, know your value, and know how to assert it in your relationship for good.
My readers, I hope that you remember the analogy of bargaining when you go on in your married life. More than a slightly comedial take on the phrase "how to make a good deal", I hope that this analogy leaves a lasting impression on you. For the majority of people in the region where I currently live, bargaining is a way of life. It is a way of communication with and accomodation of others while maintaining one's own integrity. Would it surprise you to know that Israel ranks at 25th out of 39 developed countries in rates of divorce (with the US ranking at 2nd)? Knowing how to make a good deal is an invaluable life lesson here. I welcome you to try it out, both in your marriage, and also literally – come visit us over here and try your hand at bargaining with the best!
Coming Up in Part 3: Trying Again… Again
Featured Photo: Source // All opinions are my own.