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On Opposite Sides – What to Do When It Feels Like You’re Sleeping with the Enemy – Part 2

by | Oct 10, 2017 | Articles | 57 comments

In part one of this series, we established that even in harmonious relationships, you might find that you and your partner are on opposite sides of the types of issues that divide countries (apparently).  You might have come together on passion over commonality.  Or you may have evolved differently over time.

However you got here, here you are.  So how do you navigate the issues without letting them erode the bond between you?  Part one covers the importance of disagreeing respectfully.  Let’s continue with part two of our exploration.

Sleeping with the Enemy - Seek Understanding




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Seek understanding, not evidence

As discussed in part one, when you stumble upon these hot-bed topics that touch deeply-held values and beliefs, your civilized methods of disagreeing may ultimately escape you.  Your ability to communicate effectively, especially to listen empathetically, might be the first skill impacted.  Rather than listening to understand where your partner is coming from, either you don’t listen and you talk over one another – one of you may get half a sentence out before the other jumps in to counter the incomplete thought.  Or you’re half listening and preparing your own argument, looking for little bits of their thoughts that affirm your point of view.

These types of tactics can be frustrating for both of you.  They typically only escalate disagreement rather than resolving it, and they don’t create any mutual understanding.  They don’t create any foundation or platform for moving forward.  Instead, they keep arguments in place rather than diffusing them.

Staying Connected: Eight Epic Tips for Connecting Physically, Even If You’re Angry

So how do we seek understanding during deeply alienating disagreement?  While disagreements can be uncomfortable, they create a powerful opportunity for greater acceptance and intimacy – which are an important part of a strong relationship – if we’re able to prioritize understanding over asserting our own principles.  Understanding requires curiosity.  It involves asking questions that elicit what is important to your partner about the issue or what is informing your partner’s perspective.

Sleeping with the Enemy - Seek Understanding

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Understanding might be a noble goal, but the question remains, how does one achieve it?  What types of questions reveal the quality information that leads to understanding, and maybe even compassion?

Sleeping with the Enemy - Seek Understanding

It’s not those questions that often first come to mind in those moments, questions like “Why on earth do you feel that way?!?!”  Or “What could you possibly be thinking?”  I exaggerate, but in those moments even if we’re not as condescending as that in our word usage or tone, our partner may still hear the sentiment, which only leads to obstinance and defensiveness.

My recommendation is to avoid “why” questions altogether.  Instead, I encourage you to ask “what” and “how” questions that encourage self-examination and evaluation which can lead to greater clarity for both of you.  For example, what is important to you about that?  How did you get to this place?  How do you think about this in relation to that?  What are the exceptions to the rule?  How do you feel about how you think about that?  How does this perspective impact you?

If you and your partner are in a repeated pattern of contentious disagreement, it may be necessary to help your partner understand where you’re coming from or your curiosity may be interpreted as interrogation.  You might acknowledge “I know I’ve been argumentative in the past, but I really want to understand where you’re coming from.”  That could put your partner at ease and open them up to real discourse on the issue.

Sleeping with the Enemy - Seek Understanding

So far in our “sleeping with the enemy” series, we’ve covered disagreeing respectfully and seeking understanding of your partner’s perspective rather focusing on convincing them and seeking evidence to affirm your own perspectives.  I hope this is opening up new ways to navigate these potentially divisive issues.  Be sure to check back next week as we continue the series with respecting your partner’s right to their own perspective.

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57 Comments

  1. Lorena Murcia

    Really helpful tips, it can be difficult some times, I need to put on practice I have never think about some points, thanks a lot for this post seriously

    Reply
  2. Jack Jaleby

    How you communicate is matter every where not only in the family in you friend circle too , Nice post !! thanks

    Reply
  3. Shibani

    Still single but I know the importance of understanding and communication in a relationship. These are like key to a happy relationship and I hope to have one when I met the one!!

    Reply
  4. cvnxena

    communication and understanding is something that I struggled with initially as it involves letting people in but I have to say, our communication is the one thing we prize above everything else in our marriage, through the good and bad it helps us fix or solve our problems.

    Reply
  5. Blair Villanueva

    Constant communication and understanding is the key. Without it, you cannot start to build something.

    Reply
  6. loveyoumoretoo

    I like the idea of not asking why and asking what/how. Such an interesting concept.

    Reply
  7. brandidcrawfordgmailcom

    Seeking understanding is so crucial. You are able to communicate in a more healthy fashion.

    Reply
  8. agentizerozerosetter

    Great communication is the key point in every relationship for me, so important to deep understand our partner!

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Great communication is so important. And it feels like it’s so rare sometimes. It seems like we don’t even know we’re not listening to each other at times. Takes practice for sure!

      Reply
  9. Ingrid

    Being good listener is key to keeping one’s marriage on an even keel. It s also important to keep at the back of our minds the importance of our mutral love. It must be esteemed to be of greater than that of winning an argument

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      So true, Ingrid.

      Reply
  10. Krysti Jaims

    Such an insightful read for the many in this situation. I feel very lucky to have a husband I get along so well with!

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Congrats, Krysti! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Mayuri Saxena

    My husband and I made a pact before marriage that we will never sleep before solving our issues. And its close to a decade and we still abide by it. Sometimes there are things on which we are not ready to compromise so we let it go and give space to each other.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      That’s so smart on both counts. Good for you!

      Reply
  12. Amber

    It can certainly be hard to take a step back and seek understanding before going off the rails. SO many great tips here on how to do that!

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks, Amber!

      Reply
  13. Angela Milnes

    You may just save a marriage or two with this advice. It takes big people to handle this stuff like adults.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Well said, Angela.

      Reply
  14. dawnwairimu

    very good advice for finding peace in relationships, and not perpetuating any “crazy cycles”.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Ooh, beware the crazy cycles! 🙂

      Reply
  15. Carol Cassara

    It’s really important that you understand your situation and figure out what you want to do with your relationship. Communication is key but it’s always not the answer. Sometimes, it’s better to let go as well.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      You make a good point, Carol. It’s a very personal decision, and hard to know when it’s time to walk away. With my ex-husband, that was very difficult for me. Ultimately, I needed a counselor to help me draw the bottom line. Once I realized I was below it, it was really clear what I needed to do. Before we got there, though, I definitely wished I’d had better tools in my toolkit.

      Reply
  16. Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz (@paulabendfeldt)

    This is a great post. Communication is so important between couple but when you disagree on something that is important to both of you it can be challenging to find a way to move past that. These are great tips!

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks, Paula. I’m excited about Part 3. I hope you’ll check back next Tuesday! 😃

      Reply
  17. thetennisfoodie

    Communication is the key. It should be a give and take relationship. Also, sometimes you have to compromise.

    Reply
  18. Cristina Leau

    Communication is key indeed. I have to admit that if I’m the one who start the fight I don’t quite listen of what he has to say. So I have to work on that.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Awareness is the first step. Good luck! 😉

      Reply
  19. Nancy

    This is such a powerful statement >>”“I know I’ve been argumentative in the past, but I really want to understand where you’re coming from.”

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thank you, Nancy.

      Reply
  20. Sarah Bailey

    Communication really is key in any relationship, thankfully my other half and I communicate well he seems to know easily if I am hiding anything from him anyway.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Mine, too. 😄

      Reply
  21. Lynnette Joselly

    If one is going to agree to disagree it’s best to do it respectfully for the sake of the relationship. No marriage or dating relationship or even friendship is going to be perfect.

    Reply
  22. Jamie Nicholls

    This article is a reminder that communication is key when having a “disagreement” with your significant other. I try to make it a point to not go to bed at night with anything unsettled because I find that you wake up with it weighing on you the next day.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      That’s a great strategy Jamie! Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  23. Corinne and Kirsty

    I have never thought of such a concept as sleeping with the enemy. I get that is important understanding the other and accepting that there are differences in opinions and lifestyle. I think differences make it exciting but there must also be compatible differences

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      I think it’s often a surprise when people find themselves in this situation. But I can also see where the differences didn’t seem so meaningful until they’re really tested in some way. What can we say? Relationships are complicated. 😊

      Reply
  24. Amber

    Yes, this is so important to keep in mind. I try to always fight fair and figure out my husband’s point of view.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Fair fighting! There should be a certificate for that! 😉

      Reply
  25. Joel

    I love this post, understanding your spouse and learning to communicate disagreement properly can save so much relationships. Thank you for your thoughts and wisdom.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks, Joel. I appreciate you checking it out. 😃

      Reply
  26. Thu Nguyen

    I’m in a complicated relationship now and this article really helps me realize something that I need. Understanding each others is the biggest key in a relationship. Thanks for sharing this helpful article.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks for stopping by! I really hope it helps!! 💛 💛

      Reply
  27. Stephanie | You Are My Son Shine

    Avoiding “why” and asking “what” or “how” is a great way to sum it up. When you ask why people get defensive, but when you truly try to understand it can help. I’m thankful that my husband and I are very similar, so don’t have arguments like this, but this is great information for any who do and if that does happen for me.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks, Stephanie.

      Reply
  28. Jen Walker

    My husband and I certainly have our differences, and respectful communication helps keep us bonded together. That being said, there are certain opinions I have heard expressed by others that are in direct contrast to my core moral values, and it does get to a point where it can be too extreme of a difference and no amount of communication can help.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Jen, I think we have so many examples of that today. Too many, unfortunately. In a committed relationship, you’re motivated to seek common ground because you don’t want to call it quits for all of the reasons that brought you together. Unfortunately, it’s too easy for the rest of us to stay on our opposite sides, because those core moral values are so important to us, and the differences are extremely uncomfortable. I hope that we find a way.

      Reply
  29. Katja

    I’m maybe the complete opposite – my husband and I are like night and day, we couldn’t be more different but we are very open and honest with each other and invest a list into communication which makes us super solid.
    Katja
    http://www.katnapped.com

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Good for you, Katja! You’re a great example of what this article aspires to. Congratulations!

      Reply
  30. Ali

    I really like and agree with your statement “My recommendation is to avoid “why” questions altogether. Instead, I encourage you to ask “what” and “how” questions that encourage self-examination and evaluation which can lead to greater clarity for both of you.” This is the best advice I ever learned on how to communicate with your partner.
    Great post!

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks, Ali. It can make all the difference!

      Reply
  31. theclutterboxblog

    Understanding the how and the what are so important. I don’t know how people can have a relationship not built upon the same beliefs. But it’s different for everyone and being accepting, while hard is worth it.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      I totally agree. Without it, in these situations, it can be really hard.

      Reply
  32. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    I am thrilled I do not feel this way at all. My husband and I are best friends, talk about everything, laugh, bicker, cuddle… With our strong communication skills, our relationship is pretty iron clad.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      That’s really awesome! Congratulations. Hopefully, some day I’ll be interviewing you for my Love Notes series. 😄

      Reply
  33. robin rue

    I am divorced from my kids dad and it was the best thing I ever did. We both have very strong personalities and it just didn’t work.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Yep. I get that. It’s important to know when to walk away. But for those who are trying to figure it out, hopefully it’s helpful to have some additional tools in your toolkit. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

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Welcome to Intimate Explorations!

I'm Tanya Finks - Dating and Relationship Coach | Gallup-certified Strengths Coach | Sex Educator | Passionate advocate for dating intentionally, building collaborative romantic partnerships, and fostering fulfilling physical intimacy.  I also love my partner (madly!), international travel, and anything superhero.

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