Some people worry that having different values or ideas to their partner – on, say, things like religion, politics or morality – means it’s likely they’re going to run into problems further down the line.
And while it’s true that having opposing opinions on big subjects can create friction, it’s by no means a sign that you can’t work as a couple.
One thing counselling tries to help people understand is that differences aren’t usually the problem: it’s how you deal with them that matters!
Dealing with differences
If you and your partner are having trouble resolving a difference in opinion, you might like to consider the following.
- Talk things over – properly. It’s an obvious one, but bears saying: if you’re having a disagreement, talk it over. Listen to what each other has to say. And that means really listening – not just waiting for your turn to speak. When it comes to explaining your own position, speak calmly, openly and honestly. Don’t attack your partner’s ideas, simply stick to what it is that you think e.g. using “I think/feel…..”Â. It may be that, after talking things through, you realise you aren’t quite as opposed as you thought – or that one member of the couple relaxes their view a little. At any rate, making sure you understand each other’s opinions properly gives you a much surer footing from which to move forward.
- Try to see where they’re coming from. You may be able to understand your partner’s opinion better if you try to understand the reasons behind it. Perhaps they grew up in a very different environment or received a different kind of education to you. Perhaps they’ve been influenced by family members or friends. And it may be worth doing the same for your own opinion – do you hold your beliefs because they simply make the most sense, or could other factors be at play too?
- Find the common ground. Even if your ideas are different, it’s likely that you agree on certain key things – after all, it’s unlikely you’d have any interest in each other if you were completely opposed on every level! Don’t just focus on the differences at play: recognise that there are plenty of areas for which you have common ground too.
- Don’t force things. It isn’t healthy to try to impose your beliefs on another person. In fact, having different opinions can be healthy and interesting. You may want to think in terms of embracing your differences – seeing them as positives rather than potential sources of friction. After all, the world would be a boring place if we all agreed 100% of the time!
- Are they right? It isn’t always easy to accept that someone might have things closer to the mark than we do, but it’s a sign of true maturity to consider the possibility. If you were weighing up the disagreement objectively, whose side would you be on? Sometimes, coming up against ideas that are different to our own can be an opportunity to learn, as long as we’re not too proud to take it!
- Know your boundaries. That said, it is important to figure out how different is too different. If you feel like the things that you and your partner are disagreeing on are fundamentally important to you – and that you aren’t likely to be able to find a compromise – it might be worth thinking about how this could affect things in future. After all, if they really are dealbreakers, it’s likely they’ll come up again.