Relationship Lessons from Obamacare

 The challenging roll-out of the ironically named Affordable Care Act has been well documented.Needless to say, things haven’t gone according to plan.  Not only is it hard to sign up for, it appears that the average family isn’t going to save $2,500 a year on health care premiums, some of the best hospitals aren’t covered, and lots of doctors won’t accept those who are covered by it. And, you can’t necessarily keep your health insurance if you like it.The President is paying the price politically.  His approval ratings are now in the 30’s and it appears that “leg tingle” is now an itch.But he really shouldn’t be surprised.  None of us should.

The way Obamacare became law all but guaranteed that, unless it was executed perfectly (and really when does that happen?) it was going to damage his relationship with the American people.

That isn’t a political statement, it’s a recognition of the fact that there are rules that govern relationships-including political ones.

Before we get too self-righteous, many of us guys have taken our own relationships down a similar path.  That’s why the divorce rate is what it is.

We dress the part, use the focus group tested messages, and tell her everything we know she wants to hear because we just can’t stand the thought of being without her. And then we win.  We put a ring on it.  Yes!

And there’s always a honeymoon phase before the complications arise. It turns out that she actually remembers all those promises we made during the campaign, err…while we were dating.  Even worse, she actually expects us to do it!

It’s kind of hip to be hard on the President these days, but let’s face it, many of us aren’t any better at home.   So here are a few lessons from Obamacare that may help keep that leg tingling for that special someone in your life.

1.     Don’t hide the inconvenient facts:  It is perhaps the defining statement of his Presidency.  “If you like your health care you can keep it.  Period.”  But it wasn’t true and there is significant evidence to suggest he knew it wasn’t true.

But how often do we omit relevant information or “spin” the facts in the way that we think will make things easier in the short-term?  The problem with this strategy is that the short-term is going to come to an end, shortly.  And then you’ll have to deal with the fact that people don’t trust you. It’s not worth it.

2.     If you can’t share the credit, you can’t share the blame: There are lots of benefits to making decisions together, but the ability to share responsibility when things go wrong is one that is often over looked.  This is important because things go wrong-a lot.

One of Obama’s challenges with ObamaCare is that he is entirely responsible for it. It has his name on it, literally.  It would be helpful for him at this point to be able to solicit help from all the Republican members of Congress who also voted for it.  But he can’t because there aren’t any.

Yes, it’s fun to be able stand up in front of your wife and say “I did that.”  But it may not be worth the risk of having to stand in front of her, while she looks at you with one eye-brow raised as if to say “You did that?”

3.     You can’t maintain a lasting relationship with someone if you view them as an adversary: It’s fair to say that the rhetoric on both sides of the Obamacare debate sometimes became less than civil.  Those who supported ObamaCare were communists and those who opposed it wanted sick people to die and go bankrupt in the process.

Many arguments with our spouses work in much the same way.  If we men try to resolve a particular conflict by shaming our wives into giving up, the chances of them working cooperatively with us later aren’t awesome.

Conflict is inevitable, but making enemies is not.  It is not only possible to assume the best about your spouse in the midst of conflict, it should be expected.

4.     Understanding is demonstrated by actions, not words: Yes, the President had health care summits that were highly publicized and highly politicized.  But at the end of the day, none of the proposals offered by more conservative voices in Congress were included in the final version of ObamaCare.

I shouldn’t expect my wife to feel understood simply because I sat politely while she expressed herself.  If my behavior or decisions don’t reflect an understanding of what she feels, it won’t matter.

Of course it isn’t always possible to give people what they want and it’s important to be able to act like adults when we don’t get our way.  But when you face the prospect of winning through force rather than consensus, take a moment and consider which is most important: the person or the issue.  If the person is more important, that may not be the way you want to win.

It is possible to lose even when you win.  Just ask the President.

There is a qualifier to all of this. If you don’t care to maintain a healthy relationship with the person you’re dealing with, by all means push as hard as you can until you get your way.

You may accomplish everything you ever set out to do, but you’ll likely leave a trail of broken relationships behind you.  Life will come to an end for all of us eventually. I pity the man for whom, at the end of his life, the best thing that can be said about him was that he was the winner.

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