Is there an issue that you and your spouse seem to perpetually disagree on?
If it’s a minor, superficial thing – how to correctly load the dishwasher or whether the toilet paper should go over or under – it’s probably no big deal. You might have a good-natured debate about it or tease each other about doing it wrong. At the end of the day, no one is losing sleep over it.
But what happens when you simply can’t reach agreement on a bigger issue, one that has a significant impact on your marriage and family? While you might try avoiding the topic, more than likely you’ll need to face it. And if you’ve never been able to see eye to eye on it, that can feel daunting, frustrating, and disheartening. You might find yourself wondering, “Where do we go from here? Will we always fight about this? Is it going to damage our relationship?”
Luckily, there are ways to break this stalemate and begin working toward a resolution together. The key is working toward alignment – not total agreement. Unsure how to start moving in that direction? Here are some tips.
1. Understand that it’s okay to disagree.
It doesn’t mean you’re failing at marriage or doomed in some way, even if this issue has made you feel that way in the past. All couples have sticky points of contention in their relationship. While they can be a source of discontent, they can also be great opportunities to gain a new understanding of each other and reaffirm your commitment as you work together to resolve tough conflicts.
2. Pinpoint the broader goal underlying the issue.
Behind the argument, there is something you’re working toward, an end game or greater purpose that’s driving your pursuit, albeit in different ways. Often, you’ll be able to find common ground here. When you realize that you actually share the same broader vision, you’ve set the foundation for alignment. If you find that your goal is different, this can actually give you a much better understanding of where your spouse is coming from and sets the stage for compromise. This leads to #3…
3. Remember that you’re on the same team.
When you seem to be in stark disagreement on an issue, it can feel like it’s you against your spouse, and only one of you can come out victorious. Remember that you’re actually working toward a solution together, not against each other. If you’re already aligned on the broader goal, then you can move forward with the understanding that you ultimately want the same thing. You simply have different ideas for how you might get there. Give each other grace and space to approach the problem from different angles and be willing to meet in the middle or compromise. If you found that you’re not aligned on bigger purpose, then it’s time to sit down for a discussion. Here are a few questions you might ask yourselves (remember to think as teammates!)
Are your respective goals related? Are there adjustments you can make to accommodate and be supportive of both?
Do your goals conflict with or contradict each other? If so, it’s time to work toward a compromise. Check out our tips here.
4. Commit to respect and trust.
Whether you quickly aligned on the broader purpose or had to come to a compromise, being respectful of your spouse’s perspective is always of the utmost importance. Without it, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re right and they’re wrong, a mindset that is detrimental to getting aligned – and to your marriage in the longterm. A great reflection of the respect you have for your partner is trust. You’ll need to trust each other to do things in their own way, even it it’s different from your own. Conversely, you’ll want to do things that build trust with each other, like following through on what you say and sticking to any compromises you’ve worked out.
Agreeing with your spouse on everything is simply not realistic. But when a disagreement is persistent and significant enough to affect your marriage, it’s time to start thinking about it differently. Working toward alignment – not total agreement – can often be just what you need to out of the rut and begin moving forward in a productive way.