Are you frightened by the difference of opinion?

For some people dating goes really well, until they hit upon their first real difference of opinion. The reality of an actual conflict feels overwhelming and terrifying, calling into question whether a life-long partnership is possible with this person. At face value, this is neither surprising nor problematic. Think about it, if a couple is already disagreeing before they have fully entered into the relationship, what is to be expected when life brings up all kinds of difficulties?

It is possible that there is a major flaw in this logic, and you should be careful that such an occurrence does not throw you off course. Sometimes you realize that you are dating someone who is genuinely argumentative, even disagreeable. He or she seems to like to “push your buttons,” always testing to see how you will respond. While not everyone reacts terribly to this style, many people rightfully are put off by the continual jousting. If you are behaving in this way, you may want to tone things down a bit. You can be fun and dynamic without being unnecessarily confrontational.

Every marriage has its healthy exchange of views and different perspectives

However, often the problem is quite the reverse: we do not know how to handle normal disagreement. To some people, if you disagree with them you are rejecting them. This is clearly not true. In a marriage, you want a healthy exchange of views and even differences of opinion. The unanimity of everything is no great sign of a perfect relationship. There is no need to go searching for things to disagree on, but the chances are that they will arise. When they do, this is par for the course and should not automatically be cause for alarm.

On the contrary, as some degree of disagreement and even conflict is normal in a marriage, seeing that you can handle this during dating is both normal and reassuring. Dating is in a sense mini-marriage, so getting a sense of how you can resolve differences is an important step in the transition towards true couplehood.

It is important to discuss your different perspectives

Things may seem obvious to you and any diversion from that could be judged harshly. Better that these matters are discussed openly, so they may become an opportunity to learn how you can gain understanding of each other. For example, on one occasion, well into the dating process a young lady brought along a friend who had come to visit her. He was quite surprised and hurt, thinking that surely this is something that should have been discussed. From her perspective, this was a one-off situation where she couldn’t abandon her friend and thought that she was in a good enough place with him that this would pass okay. Of course, we can question whether the young lady did the right thing, but this was best handled by an open discussion about why she felt this was acceptable. He learned that she is much more sociable and this kind of spontaneous gesture did not carry the kind of import that it did for him. This open communication ended up helping the relationship, as he gained new insight and appreciation into her character.

Discuss differences with respect

John Gottman has written extensively on marital relationships and his work is well-respected work on marital relationships is well respected. Based on extensive research, he shows that conflict itself is not harmful to the relationship. On the contrary, no conflict at all suggests a docile and feeble bond, where the parties do not trust the strength of the union to allow for a little “creative tension.” However, Gottman’s research strongly suggests that it is critical that conflict is handled appropriately. Gottman (1995 p. 28) writes: “If there is one lesson I have learned from my years of research is that a lasting marriage results from a couple’s ability to resolve the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship.” The appearance of disagreement should not frighten you; an inability to handle it well should.

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