On Opposite Sides: What to Do When It Feels Like You’re Sleeping With the Enemy – Part Three
This week we’re continuing our exploration of what to do when you and your partner find yourselves on opposite sides of the types of issues that can be extremely divisive. We’re not talking about the “you didn’t take out the trash again” scenarios. Or the “can I just get settled before you talk my ear off?” situations.
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Here is the example I shared with a friend in real life:
Let’s say you’re not comfortable with same-sex marriage. You’ve never been comfortable with same-sex marriage. And your partner is in total support of same-sex marriage. You’ve had discussions on the topic previously, so you’re both aware you’re on opposite sides of the issue. But it’s never been a significant problem between you.
Now, with all the national attention on same-sex marriage, and the tone of the public discourse, the intensity of that difference between you has been magnified significantly. You may find yourselves in frequent heated arguments about the topic, and nothing really alters about the discussion. One or both of you ends up repeatedly upset, and debate has devolved into argument which has maybe gotten personal.
This is just one example of the focus of this series. The topic of dispute could be any number of personal, political, or social issues. You may have known before you committed to each other that the two of you feel differently, but the national climate has intensified matters. Or maybe you were unaware that you felt so differently until the national debate amplified. Or maybe one of you has had a recent life-experience that has significantly altered how you feel about the issue. That’s just how life happens.
So here you are. Now, what do you do about it?
In part one, we talked about disagreeing respectfully – disagreeing with the content of the argument, not the character of the person making the argument. In part two, we talked about listening for understanding, rather than focusing on winning the argument. In part three, we’ll explore what happens when two individuals come together in a partnership.
Respect Your Partner’s Right to Their Own Opinion
The other day, a woman posted in a fitness-related Facebook group that her husband didn’t want her to wear leggings to the gym because he feels she’s a representation of him. Have you felt this way? Or been subjected to this thinking?
We don’t always have the requisite self-awareness to recognize it, but we can sometimes feel elevated or validated by our choice of mate.
You’ve likely heard the following advice for singles – it’s offered so frequently it’s become trite. It’s nevertheless true that you must love yourself before you can really be successful in romantic relationship. In this case, two halves do not make a whole. Instead, two wholes make a successful romantic partnership.
It’s impossible to find self-worth in a relationship. And while that might make perfect sense on the surface, we often don’t dig deeper to fully understand the implications of the advice. It can mean that if you’re seeking validation or elevation from your mate, or from having a mate in general, you might be headed for trouble. People grow and change, and they can’t thrive in the confines of the restrictive box your self-worth may require. And then you find yourself in arguments over wearing leggings to the gym.
Unfortunately, this need for validation often hides itself from us, so awareness and recognition require some self-reflection.
So, what does all this have to do with being on opposite sides of the issues?
If we think about our partner as a representation of who we are – as a representation of our judgment, as a representation of our good taste, as an indication of our status in the hierarchy of society – things get tricky (that’s a technical term).
There can be many representations we assign to our partner that we never reveal, that we never make explicit. We have unspoken expectations, then we expect compliance. It’s not overt, or even conscious. It can be subtle and self-deceptive. We might experience it as frustration, or disappointment, or even shame. But if we dig deeper, we might discover that at least part of what we’re experiencing is a threat to our perception of ourselves.
When it is happening, we may not understand why we’re so upset that our partner has such different values from us. But none of us are carbon copies of each other. If we’re together long enough, we’re bound to uncover some area of significant difference.
So, what? Maybe you can’t stand behind all your partner’s beliefs. But we don’t have to stand behind all their beliefs. We only need to stand behind our partner.
My partner and I think very differently about how best to support the African-American community. It’s a topic of deep import to each of us. Many years ago, we had an intense, mostly unproductive discussion about it. But what I learned from that discussion is that my approach is primarily informed by my experience and values. His approach is primarily informed by his passion and his academic background in the topic.
I had to recognize that he knows a lot more about the topic than I do. I don’t invalidate my own perspective, but I’ve developed a deep respect for his expertise. He says things at times that are counter to my own values. But I understand it, in context. And I respect his passion, his compassion, his intelligence, his courage, his sense of purpose and direction. I can’t pull those things apart and only appreciate aspects of them and discard other aspects. Because they’re all interwoven together. It’s all who he is. And I chose him. I love and appreciate him exactly as he is.
In the face of divisive disagreement, remember that your partner is a whole individual who chooses you every day. Disagree with them respectfully, understand where they’re coming from, and respect their right to their own opinions and beliefs.
Check back next week as we explore part four of this in-depth exploration of what to do when it feels like you’re sleeping with the enemy. If you’re enjoying this series, be sure to become an Intimate Explorations VIP so that you never miss a morsel. You’ll receive exclusive content, exclusive discounts, and five percent off at ToyLadyT’s Adult Toy Emporium. And if you’re looking for ways to strengthen the bond and increase intimacy between you, be sure to get immediate access to Gettin’ Physical – increase your confidence and creativity in and out of the bedroom!