It’s the age old question in marriage: What do we do when we don’t see eye-to-eye?
What if we disagree on how to handle our three-year-old’s meltdowns?
What if I’m a saver and my spouse is more of a spender?
What if we differ on how often we desire affection or sex?
Or even more relevant lately . . .
What if we have different opinions on how long we should wash our hands?
What if we disagree on if we should wear masks?
What if we differ on whether or not grandma can come for a visit?
What do we do???
I’m happy to save your a trip to therapy and let you in on this relationship secret:
When you and your spouse have a difference of opinion, it is almost impossible to find common ground from a disconnected place. The first problem you want to solve is connection, then you can tackle the difference of opinion with a lot more ease.
Let me illustrate:
During quarantine day #5867, my two daughters woke up to a rainy day. My five-year-old woke up too early and was cranky from the second her feet hit the ground. My eight-year-old was bummed because the neighborhood pool (our only saving grace right now) would be closed. Realizing my fate of trying to fill the next thirteen hours, I let them start the rainy morning with a movie. I watched them argue for the next twenty minutes about which movie to watch. It was a nail-biter argument between Wreck it Ralph and Frozen II. They could NOT see eye-to-eye. The argument ended with them choosing not to watch anything, rather than submitting to the request of the other. They went their separate ways and played in their rooms.
Slowly, they made their ways out of their rooms and spent the next two hours in what I call parenting euphoria. They played happily together, without any need for mediation, and laughed and giggled the whole time. After lunch, I told them they could try again to watch a movie as a reward for their great behavior. It was the moment of truth, I sat back and watched from afar. Here’s what I saw:
After spending two hours playing together and feeling all the sisterly love, they decided in one minute how to resolve their difference of opinions. They decided to watch Wreck it Ralph (the five-year-old’s preference) and after, they would play “nail salon” (the eight-year-old’s preference).
They confirmed in that moment what I know to be true in relationships. If you do not feel securely connected, a difference of opinion holds a lot of meaning. When you and your partner feel close and connected, you can tolerate each other’s differences and more easily find common ground.
In a fragile relationship, a difference in preference for sex can create a huge rupture. In a connected relationship, it’s often nothing more than a frustration. In a fragile relationship, a difference in spending can lead two people to wonder if they are right for each other. In a connected relationship, it’s often nothing more than a periodically annoying conversation.
Disagreements can create ruptures (Are we right for each other? Are we too different? Do we want the same things?) when a relationship is on shaky ground. For the solid secure relationship, disagreements are just that . . . disagreements. In other words, they are just two people who love and value each other, with a different point of view. Nothing more, nothing less.
If you find yourself getting bogged down in all of your marital disagreements, I encourage you to start with connection. Once you have solved that, the rest is a lot easier to figure out. Read more here for past posts about connection if you need some help here. It’s a great way to start resolving your differences!