Three Tips for Overcoming Differences With Your Partner

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Do you know a happy couple who seem to have nothing in common, making you think, “how are they making it work?” What about the couple who were perfectly matched and eventually split up? Despite what online dating apps have led us to believe, the formula for a successful pairing doesn’t just come down to sharing a specific number of interests and beliefs. It goes without saying that communication is the key to a lasting relationship; this is especially true when it comes to managing a couple’s differences. Even the most seemingly well-matched pair are going to disagree on something (e.g., you love to cuddle at night, but your partner doesn’t want to be touched; or you like sci-fi movies, but your partner has never even heard of “2001: A Space Odyssey”). What matters is not how many differences you have, or even what they are — of course, there are those things that are truly deal breakers that cannot be overcome. What matters is how you as a couple regard and manage your differences. Here are three basic tips for working together to move beyond differences with your partner.

1. Not Every Difference Needs to Be Resolved

A successful couple will view opposite traits as positive attributes. If your partner is good with money, but the idea of balancing your checkbook scares you, let your partner take the lead on financial issues and appreciate the relief it brings to your life. Similarly, if you are more organized, then you handle scheduling car maintenance and routine doctor’s appointments for both of you. Instead of insisting that each partner make the same contributions to the relationship (e.g., equally sharing the responsibilities of cooking and dishes), consider whether both of you can make contributions that play to your strengths and pick up the slack for each other (e.g., you do the dishes because I hate to do them, but I shop because you have no time to go to the grocery store).

2. Talk About Your Expectations

Nothing will heighten a disagreement more than uncommunicated expectations. You may want the dishes to be done before you go to bed and, every time that it doesn’t happen, you feel resentment toward your partner, especially because they said they would take care of the dishes. Your partner may feel that time spent together at night is more important than doing the dishes right away. If these expectations aren’t revealed, then there is no way to come together to find a compromise that works for both of you, such as doing the dishes together, giving you time together and a clean kitchen before bed. Also, remember that a perfect compromise isn’t always possible and that, while you may be the one giving something up this time, it will be your partner making the sacrifice next time.

3. Find Ways to Communicate That Work for Both of You

Navigating disagreements can be challenging and it’s important that you find a mutual method of communication. Are you both tech savvy? Use your smartphones to do things like keep a shared calendar, create a relationship bucket list or set reminders for each other. When you’re apart and having a disagreement, use your phones to video call. You will be amazed how much further a clear face-to-face conversation will go toward settling differences — of course, it helps to have a high-quality, front facing camera on your phone, like the camera on the LG G5). Are you both outdoorsy? Some couples find it easier to discuss hard topics when they are doing an activity like hiking or jogging together. The means are not important, it is keeping an open line of communication with your partner that will be the key to your success.