Verner: Squabbling boards could try these steps

  • Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013 12:58 a.m.
    UPDATED: Monday, February 11, 2013 11:30 a.m.

It was encouraging to see county commissioners and school board members sit down last Thursday to talk about ways to improve their relationship — and there was no broken china on the floor afterward. Not only that, but the meeting lasted longer than five minutes. I call that a major breakthrough.

Relationship counselors tell us that honest communication is the key to resolving difficulties. It’s certainly cheaper than divorce, which isn’t possible in this case anyhow, although residents suffering from central-office fatigue may be considering relocation to Gaston County. (Has anyone considered turning the school central office saga into a TV series? It could be Rowan County’s version of “Downton Abbey.”)

While I’m no expert in these matters, here are some oft-cited suggestions for couples trying to work through issues involving money, power and remodeling projects:

Go on a romantic getaway: Sometimes people experiencing a rough patch in their relationship find that a change of scenery can help shift perspective and open up new lines of communication. However, the parties involved first have to agree on how much money they’re going to spend and where they’ll go. Mountains or beach? Mall or downtown? Ritzy resort or low-budget motel? Given their history of financial and geographical disputes, the commissioners and school board members might have trouble finding common ground here, so let’s just move on to another strategy.

Try counseling: A skillful therapist can often help resolve relationship difficulties. The important thing is to make sure the counselor has expertise in the areas where you’re having the most difficulty. Fortunately, we can easily identify the problem here: The school system needs a central office, yet for years we’ve been unable to get this building off the ground. It’s a textbook case of BED (building erection dysfunction) — a common affliction, although it more typically occurs in historic districts. I’d recommend a psychiatrist who has experience dealing with long-term commitment fears and power struggles. Anger management also may be a problem. It wouldn’t hurt if the therapist also can operate a backhoe and read blueprints.

Hold a Cheerwine summit: I was going to suggest a “beer summit” like the one President Obama orchestrated between Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley a few years back (after Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct while trying to enter his own home) — but then I seemed to recall that there’s at least one teetotaler on these boards. Plus, even though a beer summit might sound like jolly good fun, who knows what might happen if the boards overindulged. They might decide to double everyones’ salaries and buy back the Kannapolis stadium for a central office. Think of the savings to taxpayers when there’s no roof to maintain.

Plan a regular “date” night: Everybody is so stressed and frazzled these days, it’s hard for partners in a relationship to carve out time to really focus on each other. Yet when foundational cracks appear, it’s important to put aside personal agendas, tune out extraneous noise and concentrate on your partner’s needs. And if your partner announces that what they really need is more “space,” don’t get defensive. There’s no need to feel threatened. Sometimes more space can benefit both sides. Just make sure you’re not overpaying on the square footage.

Let go of the past: This is the most difficult part of being in a relationship, but it’s also the most important. Too many times, we’re tempted to imagine how much better things would be if only we had met (or elected) Mr. or Mrs. Right. We idealize previous relationships, forgetting that they too had their share of troublesome issues, their buried toxicities and hidden contaminants. No relationship is ever perfect — and especially not one where politics and lottery revenues are involved.

Finally, remember that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. When all else fails, try flowers and expensive chocolate. Don’t be afraid to splurge. And look on the bright side: No matter how frustrating things may be, at least you aren’t having to deal with in-laws.

Chris Verner is editorial page editor of the Salisbury Post.

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