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On Opposite Sides: What to Do When it Feels Like You’re Sleeping With the Enemy – Part Four

by | Oct 31, 2017 | Articles, Relationships | 29 comments

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been exploring what otherwise harmonious couples do when they find themselves on opposites sides of intense, potentially hostility-provoking issues.  In part one, we emphasized the importance of disagreeing respectfully – focusing on the content of the argument, not the person making it.  Part two prioritized listening for understanding over seeking evidence for your argument.  Part three suggested you respect each other’s right to remain individual, independent thinkers, while also being effective romantic partners.  In this, the fourth and final installment, I advocate prioritizing action over belief, then making agreements where necessary.

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For all the reasons we’ve already discussed – how distasteful we may find it, how alienating it can feel, what we think it says about us, and how it may threaten our concept of ourselves – it can be challenging when our one-and-only has views that differ from ours on issues of personal import.

The underlying assumption of the recommendations made so far, is that despite your love for each other, you’re unlikely to change each other’s beliefs.  Disagreeing respectfully, listening for understanding, and respecting each other’s right to your own views can prevent these limited but significant areas from tearing at the fabric of your otherwise successful union.

I’ve enjoyed reading the discussion on the first three installments.  We’ve heard from many who can’t imagine successfully navigating this particular challenge.  They feel lucky that their partner’s views are in line with their own.  However, we’ve also heard from many in long-term committed relationships with partners with opposing views.  It’s been inspiring to hear how they’ve learned to accept and respect their differences.  That’s an admirable first step.

The potentially troubling thing about values and beliefs for us principled, opinionated humans, is that our actions stem directly from those values and beliefs.  When you feel strongly about a political, spiritual, or social value, you may invest your time, money, or influence to advance those positions.  You’ve heard that actions speak louder than words.  Well, those actions have consequences.  In a romantic partnership, those consequences impact you both.

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When your fortunes are tied, so to speak, even when you’ve learned to accept each other as you are, negotiating your varying commitments can be complicated.  You may be raising children together.  You may be sharing finances.  In these situations, acceptance is an important first step, but it may not be sufficient.

As an example, maybe when you married, neither of you were particularly religious.  But when you started having children, one or both of you started to recognize the importance of your religious traditions.  Or you weren’t particularly political until your partner wanted to invest your finances in causes opposite your beliefs.  The potential landmines are many.

Some keys to your success navigating these challenges will involve awareness, respect, communication, and negotiation:

  • Awareness – recognize where you and your partner differ;
  • Respect – value each other’s perspectives equally;
  • Communication – where your actions impact each other, don’t make assumptions. Err on the side of over-communicating;
  • Negotiation – make agreements where you both feel like you’re getting the better end of the deal (see How to Compromise Without Sacrificing Your Needs in a Relationship).

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If you’re willing to be open and get creative, even these seemingly impossible obstacles can be overcome.  Here are some interesting examples:

  • In my manager’s childhood home, her parents encouraged their children to participate in multiple religious disciplines, and they talked about their experiences at the dinner table. Her parents didn’t have opposing religious perspectives, but they were open to exposing their children to different views and supporting exploration;
  • When considering financial investment in political priorities where you’re sharing finances, you may decide to invest equally in each other’s causes, or not to invest in either, or to alternate financial support each year, or to invest time instead of money.

I’m sure you’ve come up with a lot more interesting and creative ways to approach these situations over the years.  I’d love to hear about them in the discussion below.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration of what to do when you find yourselves on opposite sides of the issues as much as I have.  When you commit to someone long-term, you can never anticipate all the curve balls life will throw your way.  So the trick to long-term success isn’t avoiding all the bumps.  It’s having enough tools in your toolkit to navigate the bumps you encounter.  When you stumble-upon those issues that make you feel like you’re sleeping with the enemy, hopefully these tools will help bridge the divide: disagree respectfully, seek understanding, respect your individuality, and make good deals to mitigate differences.

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29 Comments

  1. stephaniesherlock

    What a great topic. Everyone is on their own journey and sometimes at a different stage of understanding or enlightenment in their life, it is great to stay open to different perspectives and try to understand why they see things the way they do. When I first met my husband he didn’t see how prevalent racism is, now that he has a mexican american wife and an african american son, he sees it first hand and has become an advocate for minorities.

    Reply
  2. marinablueeyes

    Your posts are so inspirational. This is not an exception.

    Reply
  3. fashionenzymes

    Thats a great post. Communication can remove so many barrier which we might face in our lives so we must communicate.

    Reply
  4. Sheri

    What a wonderful post! I think as we grow we change, and therefore so do our thoughts and beliefs. I love to stand firm and strong for what I believe in while respecting my partners beliefs also.

    Reply
  5. Mike Leonard

    Great post on a topic that is super relevant! I’m fortunate we have enjoyed our 2 years living together 🙂

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Congratulations, Mike! I hope the bliss continues. 😁

      Reply
  6. Tiina Arminen (@tibstips)

    No relationship stays the same year after year. We change as individuals and so does our partner. a ralationship is a learning process.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      That’s so true, Tina. In the best cases, we give each other space to grow but find a way to stay connected.

      Reply
  7. MELANIE EDJOURIAN

    We all change with time and some more than others. This is an interesting post and useful for those going through differences of opinion with a partner. I’m glad my husband and I rarely argue.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks for stopping by, Melanie!

      Reply
  8. Carol Cassara

    It’s all about working through all the changes that you encounter. People definitely change and the person you fell in love with will be different after so many years, that’s the reality of life. We just have to learn to accept it and if you’re willing, to work through the changes as your partner has worked through yours.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      So true, Carol. In the best case scenario, life is a long journey with many twists and turns.

      Reply
  9. thenafranssen

    Wow, great post. Really made me think. Communication is key for sure. Trust, love and patience as well. Each day is work!

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Trust, love and patience for sure. Patience can get challenging for me when I get caught up in the daily grind. Such an important reminder.

      Reply
  10. Jhilmil Bhansali

    I’m getting hooked to this series of yours. Learning to equate expenses and communicate very clearly are a must pints in the relations. We get to learn so many things as every year passes.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks, Jhilmil. I’m glad you enjoyed it! 💛💛

      Reply
  11. Angela Tolsma

    This is a great series. Remembering to communicate is so important and you have some great suggestions in there. I like the idea of equally investing, that is definitely not something I thought of.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks, Angela! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed it also. 😊

      Reply
  12. Annemarie LeBlanc

    Love this! In our relationship, I am the one who is crabby, especially if I lose sleep. I believe what works well for us is constant communication. We are not mind readers, so if we need something, we say it!

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Oh, so good! We can’t expect each other to be mind-readers, no matter how long we’ve been together. Thanks for stopping by, Annemarie!

      Reply
  13. eliza

    I totally agree, those four things are important – awareness, it is important to know and recognize first, to understand what we are dealing with, respect, communication and negotiation will follow. More love and patience for a successful relationship.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      To love and patience! 😊

      Reply
  14. Ana De-Jesus

    I agree that in some cases it is okay to respect the partners opinions unless they are being offensive or discrimination in which case no way. But I agree with you r.e respect and negotiation as I believe they are important components to have in any relationship. Another beautifully written post x

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks so much, Ana!! I appreciate that. 😊

      Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Yeah, being willing to give a little opens up to so much more!

      Reply
  15. Akamatra

    Respect and negotiation are a must in my opinion. Listen to one another and really hear what they say! Give them time, give them love!

    Reply
  16. Rachael Burow

    You write so beautifully! And all this is so true!

    Reply
  17. Rose

    Such a an inviting title to a great post. I think as we get older we become wiser and more mature. We eventually learn to treat each other better, appreciate the each other better and truly love each other. Those first few years is practice and or getting into the groove. Everyday is a work in progress.

    Reply

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Hi there!  I’m Tanya Finks.  I help people date intentionally, build collaborative romantic partnerships, and foster fulfilling physical intimacy.  I’m happily coupled, I’m a staunch believer in vacation, and I love anything crime drama, all things Shonda Rhimes, and everything superhero.


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