Coping With Differences in a Relationship

Some people say opposites attract. That may be true, but often times a couple’s differences can also be a source of trouble and difficulty in a relationship. Two people may not see eye to eye on a number of topics, they may have differences of opinion about important issues, or may feel they have different approaches to life. When differences arise in a relationship they can be taken in two ways, positively and negatively. If you are finding your relationship in trouble because of differences of opinion or personality, try turning the negative into a positive. Differences can be a valuable part of learning from a relationship, and can be viewed as a positive.

Communication is essential for understanding and accepting the differences in a relationship, and for turning those differences into positive aspects of a relationship. Communication means an open exchange of ideas, and this is really only possible when both parties are willing to listen and talk in turn. By taking the time to listen, without passing judgment, and then making the effort to understand the other person’s perspective, couples are able to turn their differences into strengths, bringing them closer together in the process.

For people who have difficulty opening those lines of communication, there are specific things that can be done. Even something as simple as reminding oneself not to interrupt while the other person is talking can do wonders, or if there is a lack of discussion, making an initial attempt can be a way to show that willingness to work things out. Here are some other simple steps which can help set your relationship back on the path to understanding and communication.

Talk: Don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind, even if you aren’t sure how the other person will handle it. It is far better to get things out into the open than to let them fester on the inside. Often, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how you feel without expressing it, and once you have talked about an issue, you may find that your opinion wasn’t exactly what you thought it was. So give yourself the chance to express what’s on your mind and discuss things, and give your partner the space to do so themselves.

Listen: In order for both parties in a relationship to feel comfortable talking, they must feel like they’re being listened to. Take the time to really hear what your partner has to say, without interruptions or judgment. This step is harder than it appears, but is perhaps the most important part of a functioning relationship. If you find yourself interrupting or being interrupted, make sure that each person has the chance to say what they feel, without time constraints or pressure to move quickly.

Respect: Sure, you may think that you have the right answer, but understand that there are different ways of doing things and thinking about things. Often, there isn’t just one right way of living or thinking. It’s ok to disagree, but when either person assumes that they have all the answers, the other person may feel like their opinion doesn’t count for anything. So when discussing something, don’t feel like you have to win an argument, or prove your point. Simply state how you feel and let the other person express their own feelings as well. You may find that they are not as incompatible as they initially seemed.

Communication is the backbone of a healthy relationship, not only because it helps both people clarify their thoughts to themselves, but because in the end it can bring two people even closer together. Differences arise in any relationship, whether they are based on perspective, politics, or any number of things. But those differences do not have to be fatal to a relationship. Couples can and should put in the effort to get past those superficial differences and learn from each other. People do not have to think or act exactly alike to be together, but they do have to learn to respect the other person’s way of doing things. In the process, they can learn a lot about their own perspective, and can learn to be more open in general.

So don’t let mere differences spell the end of your relationship. It is possible to work through such problems and difficulties, and there are concrete steps you can take to improving the communication and understanding in your current relationship. Take the time to listen, make the effort to talk, and be more open about accepting those differences of opinion. Differences can be a problem, but they can also be a way to deepen and strengthen a relationship, and in the process you and your partner can learn a lot from each other.



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