Some people may think that for a relationship to be okay, you have to always be on the same page about things. This mentality can make people uncomfortable taking sides on issues, for fear that they will be misaligned with their partner. But the goal in a relationship should not be to always agree on everything. In fact, agreement isn’t really what makes couples happy. What helps us stay connected with our partners is being fully seen and heard, being accepted despite differences in opinions.
Disagreements are normal in every relationship. They may not be the most comfortable thing to deal with, but these three tips can help when you and your partner are trying to handle a disagreement:
1- Create an Environment for Open Communication
When you and your partner disagree, it’s important to have a conversation about it. It’s a lot healthier to talk about it than to ignore it or dismiss each other. Instead, give your partner the space to express themselves and actively listen to their point of view. Even when we don’t agree, we can still try to remain calm and respectful to hear them out. In turn, they should also give you the space to talk about your feelings.
2- Use “And” Phrases
Try to be mindful of your language when you and your partner are in a disagreement. Instead of saying things like, “I see what you mean but…” try to use the word “and” instead, like “I see what you mean and I feel this way…” Using the word “but” doesn’t validate the other person, but using the word “and” can allow you to see their view while still expressing your own. You don’t always have to agree, but it’s kind to still allow the other person to be seen.
3- Pick Your Battles
Consider if the issue you disagree on is small enough that you can let it go, or if it is bigger and warrants a conversation. If the disagreement is rooted in something larger, like your values, it will be important to talk it out with your partner. When dealing with disagreements, try to also stick to one issue at a time and avoid what Gottman calls “kitchen sinking,” or dragging multiple topics into the conversation. Surely not everything needs to be addressed all at once. It will help to pick your battles and work through them individually, rather than all at once.
Disagreements are not always pleasant or fun to deal with, but the way that you work through them can say a lot about the resilience of your relationship. Remember that it’s okay to not agree on everything; the most important thing is that you can see their feelings and perspective and also be seen for yours. If you are still struggling in your relationship and would like additional help working through disagreements with your partner, you can also request an appointment with us for couples counseling.