Relationship Minute: Disagreements

Sometimes it can be challenging to “agree to disagree,” especially if the disagreement is with your partner or feels fundamental.

Maybe you have held onto the belief that you and your partner need to agree on everything to have a good relationship. Then a disagreement arises and threatens to completely deflate you, leaving you to wonder if you have any shared values at all.

But this is your partner, not your clone, and you’re bound to see the world differently from time to time. What’s important is separating your self from your views.

Even if you don’t agree with your partner’s views, can you still see, value, understand, and accept them as a human being? What do you know about your partner that might inform these views?

Let’s use this disagreement as an example: You think Fozzie Bear is the best Muppet; your partner strongly favors Kermit.

What do you know about your partner that could help you understand why they hold this belief? Maybe they have always felt drawn to frogs, or have a special childhood memory attached to “The Rainbow Connection.”

Just because you understand does not mean you have to agree.

You could say, “I can see why you think Kermit is the best Muppet. He has many admirable leadership qualities and he did some good reporting for Sesame Street, so I really understand why he appeals to you. And I still think Fozzie is the best—Wocka Wocka for life. Even though we don’t agree on this, we can agree that we love each other.”

Change the goal from agreement to understanding.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.