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On Opposite Sides: What to Do When It Feels Like You’re Sleeping With the Enemy

by | Oct 3, 2017 | Articles, Relationships | 39 comments

Recent events in the United States have given us plenty of opportunities to passionately disagree with each other.  In September 2017, those opportunities extended to professional football when the NFL felt compelled to respond to comments by President Trump.  The previous season, one player, Colin Kaepernick, demonstrated his frustration with the prevalence of police shootings of unarmed black men by kneeling during the national anthem.  At the start of the 2017-18 season, President Trump expressed characteristically belligerent opinions about NFL players and what should happen to them if they chose not to stand.  This prompted coordinated responses by multiple teams ranging from not taking the field, to standing arms-locked during the national anthem.  The reaction to these events on social media mimicked the passion and vitriol typical of these social and political issues in the U.S. While our opportunities to passionately disagree with each other seem to have increased of late, we don’t necessarily seem to be learning anything about how to disagree productively.  But what happens when the person with whom you intensely disagree sleeps in your bed every night?  The passion can be intensified when it’s your partner who holds opposite views from your own.  I’m talking about the types of issues that divide countries.  How do you engage in discussion about those issues without letting it divide your household?  Read on to discover five tips for what to do when it feels like you’re sleeping with the enemy.

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How does it happen?

How do you end up in a marriage or long-term committed relationship with someone whose views on certain issues are so opposite yours?  How does that even happen?  I think it happens several ways. In some cases, couples may not have taken the necessary time to ensure they were making a values-based connection.  Between getting caught up in chemistry, or being swept up in the good feelings (happens to the best of us!), they might think they are connected in ways they really aren’t. It’s not surprising, in those cases, to find that three, five, or seven years down the road, you are having deep-seated disagreements about how you view the world, your social values, or your political values – all those areas that can be extremely divisive.  It can become particularly impactful when you start having children and the differences in your values are highlighted in your parenting choices. Even if you’ve vetted your values appropriately, human beings are complex.  Our values don’t come in a nice tidy package where all our values are neatly aligned with each other.  That’s just not the way we’re built.  Our values are established in myriad, nuanced ways and we can’t necessarily expect each other to be consistent in that way. The longer you’re together you might learn that your values aren’t totally consistent, and you feel passionately about one area that doesn’t seem to line up with how you feel about other related areas, which is completely fair.  You find yourself in a situation where you and your partner intensely disagree in an area that is meaningful to both of you. Save

On Opposite Sides: What to Do When It Feels Like You're Sleeping With the Enemy

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Finally, we evolve over time.  No matter the stage of life in which you connected, as you continue to live life, as you continue to learn and grow, events impact you in meaningful ways that shift how you think about certain issues. It can be tricky to navigate.  You might say things like “we grew apart”.  When we don’t allow for our partner’s evolution, relations can get strained.  Maybe you felt similarly about an issue when you joined, but over time your views have grown in opposite directions, which is completely fair and reasonable.  The question becomes how to navigate those issues that are important and meaningful to each of you where you disagree.

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Disagree Respectfully

You might have well-developed conflict resolution skills when it comes to negotiating who drops off the kids and who picks them up, who gets a social night out with their friends which day of the week, which side of the family you’ll visit during the holidays, how to keep in-laws from interfering in your family decisions, etc.  You may have learned, in your years together, how to navigate conflict and make it all work. However, something can happen when deep-seated values don’t align.  It’s different from the frustration stemming from difficulty balancing the division of labor, so to speak.  In addition to disagreeing with your partner’s views, you may start to wonder how your partner can see things the way they do.  How can your partner not value and agree with this perspective that is so fundamental to who you are as a human being?  What does it mean about them that they see this world this way? On Opposite Sides: What to Do When It Feels Like You're Sleeping With the Enemy If you encountered someone outside of your household that felt that way, you refer to them as “those people.”  It’s the sort of thing that inspires otherwise civilized human beings act like three-year-olds who can’t share a toy on the playground.  In addition to the disagreement, there’s a judgment. Aside from having a judgment about your partner based on these differing views, you may feel disrespected or undervalued.  You may find yourself behaving in uncharacteristic ways: yelling, name calling, shaming, condescension, withdrawing or withholding, etc. It’s important to remember, however, that we all have different priorities.  As a strengths coach, one of the things that I help people recognize is that their natural talents and the motivations and drives and frustrations associated with those natural talents create a particular perspective, view or lens for the world.

On Opposite Sides: What to Do When It Feels Like You're Sleeping With the Enemy

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For example, if you are using empathy as a primary way that you navigate the world, what’s important to you might be very different from someone who primarily uses analytical talents to navigate the world.  People using analytical talents are skilled at bringing dispassionate thinking to emotional issues.  Someone primarily using empathy to navigate the world is going prioritize the emotional aspects and the people associated with those emotions. These are varying skill sets which will have you prioritize different information and elements of a situation.  But it says nothing about the quality of your character.  Disagreeing respectfully is holding to the idea that we can have different opinions and priorities and still be worthy of love and respect.  It’s important to be able to disagree with the content of your partner’s argument without dehumanizing your partner.

Next week, in part two

Disagreeing with your partner on important social issues can take a toll on your relationship.  But with the right tools in your toolkit, you can find ways to make peace and love in your household, rather than war.  Check back next week for tip number two, seek understanding instead of evidence.

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39 Comments

  1. miranda

    wow! thats pretty deep. I guess from time to time relationships do go through this phase. whats important is to realise why you got together and what the underlining feeling may be.

    Reply
  2. brandidcrawfordgmailcom

    I love your tip on respectfully disagreeing. I find this helpful in many different areas of life.

    Reply
  3. Khushboo Motihar (@kbmotihar)

    It is very difficult to live with someone whose views are the polar opposite of yours. In many cases this becomes a major problem leading to conflict. loved the helpful advice you have provided.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks, Khushboo. It’s helpful to have some strategies when we find ourselves in this situation.

      Reply
  4. betzy cuellar

    I agree we have to learn to disagree in a respectful manner.

    Reply
  5. Emily

    I try my best to keep on the same team with my family. It would be so difficult if I wasnt.

    Reply
  6. Gingermommy

    I can’t imagine sleeping with the enemy. It is really hard to live that way I am sure.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Yeah, I bet it is. Not necessarily on a daily basis, but it’s the kind of thing that can build and erode over time. And as other things get difficult, it could be the tipping factor that makes you say “I can’t do this anymore,” unless you develop the tools to deal with it as it happens. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  7. Nancy at Whispered Inspirations

    This is a very interesting read. I think it is important that we focus on the logistics of a relationship and not just the feelings. Both are important.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      So true!

      Reply
  8. Nina

    Your post give me a deep thought about life. Maybe I was so easy when I see the life around me, there so much think to consider about when I have a family.

    However, thank you so much for sharing this post.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks, Nina! If I’ve helped one person be really thoughtful about choosing a life partner, then my job here is done! 😄

      Reply
  9. toastycritic

    I agree with you that Disagreeing respectfully when you and your partner have differences of opinions is important. I think one sad fact has happened in culture that has made that more difficult. Somehow, we have convinced ourselves that when someone disagrees with us, that it’s a literal violent attack on our person. We do not separate differences of opinion with attacks on our person. So that makes it really difficult to be able to disagree respectfully when you feel like the other person is trying to cause you harm. That’s why I fear that it becomes a lost cause trying to fight this battle. But more power to you if you are in one.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      It’s true that words can deeply offend. And when we don’t have the skills to deal with it, to navigate it, it can be extremely damaging. When we learn that words matter, but also that there are things we can do with words other than striking back or walking away, perhaps we find some way to the other side when dealing with deep-seated values, beliefs and emotions.

      Reply
  10. Lynnette Joselly

    Oh that is a tough one. Sometimes I try to avoid the topic with a friend that I know has a different view. But it might be a deal breaker for some relationships.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Yep. It can be a huge challenge, from the mildly uncomfortable to the deeply concerning.

      Reply
  11. eastcoasterlifestyle

    There are a lot of couples that do take each other for granted and start disrespected each other. I agree disagreeing is okay as long their is no verbal or physical abuse.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Yes. Very important point. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  12. Sarah Camille

    This is interesting. I think it’s ideal to think about what viewpoints are dealbreakers ahead of a serious relationship. I agree about disagreeing respectfully as well – that is so very important! 🙂

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      I love your point about dealbreakers, Sarah. I think that’s really the key. If you managed the dealbreakers up front, then hopefully you can navigate the rest.

      Reply
  13. oliviasnewlife

    It’s a very interesting topic you are dealing with and a very sensitive one. I am not sure how I would react if I realised that my partner and I have fondamentally different opinions on social issues. I may just leave. But at the same time, it’s a great opportunity to grow when you’re facing someone with opposite views… catch 22.
    Can’t wait for the second part.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks, Olivia! I think it can be scary to realize your partner may be different from you in ways that are important to you. It can take courage to face it. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  14. tara pittman

    My husband and I do have disagreements but we work them out. It is ok to not always agree.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Yep, disagreement is healthy, and inevitable considering we’re not clones of each other. 😉

      Reply
  15. Carol Cassara

    This is really an interesting topic especially for married people who would like to work on their marriage. I think it’s really important that we address and issue like this. I can’t wait to read more about it!

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Thanks, Carol! I agree. I’m excited to share the next installment!! 🙂

      Reply
  16. Terri Ramsey Beavers

    This is really helpful. Everyone has an opinion and even though it might not be the same as ours, they’re entitled to it. I was in a situation once where we both seemed to be on the same page, but that quickly transformed into something terrible. Thank heavens we didn’t marry.

    Reply
  17. Cynthia Salgado

    I am glad that my husband and I can find a common ground when we disagree, because it happens! Luckily our values and views on politics and religion are very similar so it’s easy for us to agree to disagree 🙂

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      🙂 Common ground is so important. Congrats on your success. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  18. Adriana Martin (@ABRecipes)

    I slept with the enemy for 5 years not anymore. When people rush into marriage not knowing well the other person is difficult to identify those values and check if both have same ideals and I agree all is about respect but if yoru disagree and the otehr person has values that are so different form yours that relationship is destined to end.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      It’s such a hard case, Adriana. It can completely erode the bond between you without some good boundaries and practices. I’ll share another one next week. I hope you’ll stop by! 🙂

      Reply
  19. Linda Music

    Some interesting ideas here. I’m glad my husband and I have similar viewpoints on the things that count.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Congrats, Linda. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  20. Stephanie | You Are My Son Shine

    I am so glad that my husband and I agree on almost everything, especially big issues such as you have described here. I can’t imagine what it would do to a marriage to have such disagreements.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      I hear you, Stephanie. I think that can feel really scary for someone who has made a lifetime commitment and doesn’t know how to navigate.

      Reply
  21. Sylvie Hanes

    Interesting concept – and after being married to the same person for 31 years (this weekend!) I can say that the basis of success when we have different points of view, is respect for the other’s thinking, and communication. The major subjects we agree on, ie, finance, raising the kids, etc, but we are very distinctly opposite in many areas. We accept those, let the other be free of their thinking, and as long as we recognize we have different background that mold our points of view, we respect the differences. Thanks for making me think about this !

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      Sylvie, congrats on 31 years together! What an accomplishment. And thank you for sharing your experience of having a successful marriage, even when you have different views. You’re an excellent example of how having good skills can make “the enemy” feel like a friendly. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  22. theclutterboxblog

    I could not imagine sleeping with the enemy. It’s hard enough having my entire family think differently from me but having that in my house would be so hard. Being respectful would be difficult and this is a great discussion to talk about. Respect is huge and there is not enough of it out there.

    Reply
    • Ms. Finks

      I hear you. You need an ally in the house when it feels like the rest of your circle doesn’t think the way you do. Totally get that. Thanks for stopping by!

      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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