No relationship is perfect, there are differences in all relationships. Sometimes, it’s the differences we have with our partners that make us stronger. The old saying about opposites attracting has some measure of truth to it. But what happens when your differences push you further apart, and may even start to have negative effects on your relationship? Conflict happens in every relationship. It’s important to understand that it doesn’t mean your partnership is doomed. Whether you have different religions, ethnic backgrounds, or different ideas about life, there are ways to cope with your differences.
Let’s look at some helpful tips to deal with your differences, and make the relationship stronger.
1. Understand Differences Are Normal
It doesn’t matter what your differences are—how small or large they might seem—every couple is different. If you feel as though you’re into different things or have conflicting belief systems, that’s okay! What matters is how you handle those differences.
So, don’t try to mold your relationship into something that puts you both on the same page with every subject. Instead, accept your differences and learn how to work through them with your partner.
2. Fight the Behavior, Not Your Partner
If your partner does something you really can’t stand or something that actually hurts you, don’t be afraid to tell them. But, be sure to focus on that specific behavior. Don’t use sweeping generalizations about your partner, because it can easily become insulting.
For example, instead of calling your partner a slob, say something like, “It’s hard for me to clean the kitchen after working all day. Could you have it done before I get home?”
If one of you values cleanliness and the other one doesn’t care as much, letting them know how you feel about it will make a difference. Remember that it’s about a particular behavior, not about your partner’s personality.
3. Don’t Use Extremes
Two of the keywords in many relational arguments are “always” and “never.” Unfortunately, they are two words that should probably be avoided.
We tend to exaggerate things when we’re upset. So, you might resort to telling your spouse they never take out the trash. Or, you might criticize them for always coming home late. Using extremes like this can start to feel exhausting for both of you.
You both might have different ideas about how the other person acts in certain situations. But, avoiding “always” and “never” statements will make it easier to focus on the present and get through a disagreement.
4. Offer to Help
One way you can cope with your differences as a couple is to offer to help your partner if they need it. Using the same example from above, if you’re a tidy person and your partner has trouble cleaning, help them.
Show them how easy it is to wash the dishes, wipe the counter, etc. Offer to do it together some nights. Help them to develop better habits and routines, and always be open to letting them help you, too.
5. Accept That Things Might Not Change
Are the differences between you and your partner causing damage to your relationship? In some cases, differences can be too much for someone to handle. Sometimes, differences can cause a relationship to end.
In other cases, it’s about learning to accept those differences for what they are. Sometimes, they won’t change. If you’re able to handle that and stop focusing on it, you can look past your differences and focus on the things that will build up your relationship, instead of tearing it down.