Often Relationships Succeed Because of Our Differences, Not In Spite of Them
It is a very common misconception that relationships succeed only when you have a lot in common. All online dating sites are based on this idea. In fact it is often the differences between us that cements a relationship. How many couples do you know who are very different and delight in that difference? Often it creates a polarity of “opposites attract”. Those opposite personalities, when they attempt to cross the divide, are able to complete each other. The very act of looking at something from the viewpoint of someone you love and trust but who sees the same situation very differently, helps us grow as people and as a couple.
When There Are Differences, Focus On Solving it Together.
If you have a disagreement with someone you love it is easy to feel personally attacked, and to succumb to the temptation to defend yourself and to retaliate. If you go down that route your partner may rescue the situation by trying to be constructive, or even by pretending to agree with you even when they don’t. Or else they might also go on the attack.
It is easy to see how a downward spiral can set in, especially if this becomes a pattern of behaviour.
However, if instead of retaliating or leaping to your own defense you step back and focus on the issue you are disagreeing about as a problem you can resolve together you can grow and strengthen your relationship.
Here’s the magic about relationships; even if you win the argument instead of by solving it together, you lose. You both lose.
Be Specific and Acknowledge you May Have Misinterpreted
It is so easy in the heat of an argument to start describing what is wrong with your partner. Focus on the situation and how it makes you feel.
If you find yourself saying “You always…” or “You never….” these are red flag terms – stop.
Be specific about this particular argument; don’t frame it in terms of past, un-named behaviours. Also let your partner know you how it makes you feel, and what you need. Acknowledge that you may have misinterpreted what they mean.
“I may be wrong about this but I feel when you say things like “x” …” and then let them know what you need eg “I need you to tell me that sort of thing in private, not in front of our friends”.
Have you ever been misinterpreted? Or misunderstood? Well, that may also be true of your partner.
Listen Twice As Much As You Speak
The old saying “You’ve got two ears and only one mouth” is very true when it comes to relationships. If you are having a disagreement, let your partner finish what they are saying. Even if you know (or think you know) what they are about to say. Let them feel like you are really trying to listen and understand. Interrupting someone who is upset is not going to bring the temperature of the conversation down.
Change Your View About Conflict
Instead of seeing an argument as something you must win, look at it as an opportunity to make your relationship stronger. It is a chance to deepen your understanding of each other as you are both honest and open about your feelings.
Conflict can actually strengthen trust between you, especially if both of you start to really believe deep down that you are being really listened to and heard (even if not always understood) by your other half. In fact, conflict is a lot like exercising together. Resistance training develops strength for the body. Conflict training develops strength for the relationship.