COUNSELOR'S CORNER: Co-promise

By Fred Cavaiani

I was inspired to see that a Co-promise between the Republicans and Democrats was reached last Friday night. A government shutdown was averted because the two parties made a co-promise to each other for the good of the country. In spite of their differences, President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made some respectful co-promises and modeled for the world how to respectfully disagree and agree with integrity and courage.

A compromise is really two people or groups making a promise to each other to agree on doing something together. Marriage is also a co-promise. We make co-promises with other people often.

What happened last Friday night in Washington made me realize even more how we absolutely need differences of opinion and different parties in order to keep our country healthy and moving forward. Democrats really need Republicans. Republicans really need Democrats. The American people, you and I, need both parties.

Differences of opinion when expressed with honesty and clarity help each person to re-examine their own views and values. If no one challenges me I could become myopic and narcissistic in my attitudes. It is important to have relationships where different viewpoints can be expressed. It is how we learn and mature.

I think what happened in Washington last Friday night was an example for the whole world of how democracy and freedom work. Engaging in dialogue, discussion and co-promising with integrity and respect are the foundations of a successful life and a successful government. When we stop this we become lonely islands, thinking that we have all the answers to everyone else's life. When we discuss, challenge, dialogue and have respectful disagreements we learn from each other. We have the chance to challenge our own ideas and viewpoints and see what needs to be done to move ahead. When there is only one political party there is a dictatorship or a fascist society. When there are two different parties we have a democracy.

All relationships in life need to have co-promises. I promise to respect you and be open and honest with you in my relationship with you. We promise each other that we will do some things together and we agree that there are some things we might not do together. We put aside our differences to get on with the purpose of living. We treat each other with dignity and respect. If we add love to it, this sounds very much like marriage. It also sounds like good friendship.

To have a co-promise with another person or another group, I must listen with empathy and a desire to understand how and why the other person is thinking as they are. I need to understand the basis for their viewpoints and conclusions. If my statements or their statements are made in a condemning or judgmental manner it becomes easy to stop listening because I will simply be reacting in a personal offended manner. I need to see the reason, the thinking and feelings underneath the other's viewpoint or conclusions.

I was deeply impressed by the calmness of John Boehner and President Obama in a very stressful situation. They have set a model for the future.

There will always be situations in which we will agree and many when we will disagree with the viewpoints and principles being expressed. It is in the process of how we dialogue and respectfully treat each other that will allow a marriage to go forward, a relationship to go forward and a government to go forward. No marriage is perfect, no relationship is perfect. No government is perfect. If it was then it would be called Heaven. We all "strive for progress, not perfection." God save me from those who have all the answers. God help me to be surrounded by those who keep striving humbly for progress and the ability to make honest co-promises with each other. It becomes a humble and wonderful way to live with the hope that it can always be improved as the days and years go on.

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Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@yahoo.com and his website is fredthecounselor.com.

Published: Tue, Apr 12, 2011