When you are comfortable in your relationship, you start becoming more visible. More of your personality shows up, and often you and your partner don’t like all of the same things.
And if all goes right that will cause trouble! Trouble means conflict because now two people are showing up with different ideas and interests. Trouble may not feel great, but it can lead to more complete, positive solutions.
These disagreements aren’t the end of the world. They’re growing pains shaping you into your own family. It’s important to move through them, not get stuck.
If you do get stuck, you’ll need certain skills to get out. These are advanced techniques, and should only be used by couples who are serious about wanting to stay connected during conflict – no matter how frustrated you are with your partner.
3 Steps to stay connected during disagreements
The 3 advanced techniques I list here are skills by themselves, and also a set of steps to follow during conflict.
If you don’t follow these in order, you’ll probably end up going to your separate corners, pointing fingers, and losing some connection.
- Find your overarching common thread, purpose, or objective
- Set up listening sessions. Not talking; listening. One for each of you.
- Take the steps toward compromise
Step #1: Find what you have in common
Finding common ground during times of conflict requires 2 things:
- You have to be able to find the common ground
- You have to understand and accept why it’s important to do so – even if it means letting go of being right!
When couples disagree, they often don’t see that they do agree on a common overall objective.
- Maybe you both want your children to experience a family centered traditional holiday but have different ideas how to achieve this.
- Or maybe both of you want to make sure you don’t need to always worry about money, but you come at if from different angles.
We cannot skip the step of finding our common objective. We must see the common objective before beginning the conversation, so we can start the dialogue connected.
No matter what your disagreement, that common thread is there. Find it!
Step #2: Set up listening sessions
Now that you know what your shared purpose is, it’s time to listen. And I mean listen to hear not so you can be heard.
- Make the time. Each time is separate for each person’s perspective to be understood.
- The listener meets their partner with an open heart: caring, curious and with love for the person who is trying so hard to connect with you with their position.
The listener stays present, asking questions to understand more. At the same time, the listener notices their own thoughts (to themselves) making sure those thoughts move them toward their partner and not away.
Step #2A: The most important thing to agree to before your listening sessions
First and foremost: there is no one truth to rule them all. It’s incredibly important to understand that! There is no single, perfect, exact truth.
Your experience of a disagreement is equally as true as your partner’s experience.
Keep that in mind as you work together to sort through your differences.
Step #3: Compromise
Did you notice how compromise is step 3, and not step 1? That’s because you have to do steps 1 and 2 before you can compromise while staying connected.
If you can’t turn your two different ideas into a new solution, it’s time for compromise.
- The listener hears that their partner is unhappy and wonders “how do we solve this?”
- Together, brainstorm some ideas how to solve the problem. Remember in brainstorming all ideas are welcomed, not judged. Even funny ones.
- Pick several and evaluate the benefits and difficulties of each.
- Agree on one solution as an experiment. Check in within a couple of days to see how well the solution is working.
- If it’s not working, tinker with it or experiment with another idea from your brainstorming session.
A spirit of sharing and open-heartedness will keep you on the road to growth and love in your relationship. You will feel more skillful in living and loving alongside your differences.
“Goddard Technologist Vivek Dwivedi” by Flickr user NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY 2.0.