Love and Two-Choice Dilemmas

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By Ruth K. Morehouse, Ph.D. Associate Director, MFHC
Do you or your partner seem to want everything your way? Is making decisions a big thing in your relationship? Are you fighting about control issues? If these scenarios sound familiar, you may be experiencing the fallout of unresolved two-choice dilemmas in your relationship.
The term "two-choice dilemma" was coined over a decade ago by Dr. David Schnarch. A two-choice dilemma occurs when you want two choices at the same time, but you only get one choice at a time. For instance, we all want to grow, and we want to avoid the anxiety involved in growing. One major two-choice dilemma couples face is the desire for more intimacy and avoiding the anxiety inherent in more intimate connection. This two-choice dilemma of increasing intimacy versus tolerating anxiety manifests differently in specific relationships.

For example, you may want your partner to be more emotionally open and share feelings, but maybe you interrupt him or her when she/he says things you find unpleasant or that disagree with your views. (In your view, you may just want to keep the conversation "accurate.") The two-choice dilemma here involves wanting a more expressive partner, and on the other hand, wanting to control what she/he expresses.

Another example involves asking your partner to take more responsibility for initiating sex, but you want to dictate when, where, how, and why sexual initiations should be made. Many of us want partners who can think for themselves-and we want to tell them when they should do it!

This is not just human ambivalence. Two-choice dilemmas are inherent in intimate relationships. Confronting two-choice dilemmas is part of the natural process of differentiation in your relationship. Differentiation, the basis of the Passionate Marriage® and Sexual Crucible® Approaches, makes you capable of making room in your relationship for your partner. Confronting your two-choice dilemmas creates space for your partner to have a choice too. This is as much a part of loving as anything you might do in bed.

So what two choice dilemmas are you facing or avoiding? You can deal with two-choice dilemmas through our Couples Enrichment Weekends, Couples Retreat, and Intensive Therapy Program. Read more about two-choice dilemmas in our book, Passionate Marriage, and don't miss our fantastic new Passionate Marriage audiotape package.

Copyright ®2001 by Dr. Ruth Morehouse, Ph.D.