Karen Potter
Psychotherapy & Mentoring
Lismore, NSW

How to Successfully Navigate Relationship Differences & Disagreements


Differences and disagreements are one of the reasons most couples argue and sometimes, cause major issues in the long term. However, it is crucial to remember that not agreeing with others is a normal part of life and happens in all relationships.  As a couple, and particularly if you live together, you spend most of your time together and as such, there will be a range of things, both large and small, that you may potentially have different opinions on.  So, let’s go through some tips on how to have a successful conversation when there are differences and disagreements:


Schedule an appropriate time to discuss issues that cause disagreements

To have a productive and meaningful conversation about difficult and/or serious issues it is important to choose the right time and place. By scheduling a time that is suitable for both parties there is a much higher chance of a positive outcome.


Be a good listener

Being a good listener, although it may sound simple, is a skill that can take time to learn to do well.   It means not speaking when the person is talking and not thinking about what you are going to say whilst the person is speaking.  But to just be fully present, hearing and acknowledging what the person is saying.  It is helpful to remember that listening is just as important as speaking in a disagreement.


Try to understand each other’s point of view

Following from the listening skill, it is just as important to try to understand where your partner is coming from. There are many factors that construct our opinions on certain topics in life. So, just as you have your opinions constructed from your own values, beliefs, and life experiences, try to remember the same applies to your partner. You don’t have to necessarily agree on their point of view, but it is important to try to understand it with an open mind.


Seek common ground

Trying to find and acknowledge common ground or similarities within the differences you face as a couple, is a great way to begin to meet each other.  By only concentrating on differences and what you disagree on, the space between each other can grow wider and it can become much harder to reach a resolution or understanding.


Remember that it is ok to ‘agree to disagree’

As human beings partnered or not, we are not always going to agree on everything. It is important to keep in mind whilst having a desire to resolve issues, that there is space to ‘agree to disagree’ in a relationship. Of course, there will be some situations where this is more applicable than others.  When it comes to major life decisions such as the desire to get married or have children this is not applicable as both parties are majorly impacted by either option. However, with some other smaller issues, agreeing to disagree can be a very helpful way to ‘resolve’ things.


Reflect on your conflicts

Many couples can tend to follow a ‘pattern’ when it comes to negotiating differences and disagreements.  If you begin to notice that you and your partner seem to be following an unhealthy pattern – engaging in conflict over the same, or similar topics and/or engaging in the same way – it might be time to address things differently and the issue more deeply.   You could do this by working out together an appropriate time to discuss the issues and patterns.  Make sure to listen to each other thoroughly and try to understand each other’s points of view.

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