Relationship challenges when your perspectives differ
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Jenny Roberts, B.Sc. (Hons.), MBACP, Registered
5th April, 20160 Comments
Although we may appreciate that there are as many different perspectives as there are people in the world, don’t we all at times believe that our perspective is the right one? How open are we to embracing a world of multiple perspectives, where each is equally valid?
This isn’t a philosophical question, but something born out of the fact that we can only ever process a small fragment of our total experience at any one time, or our sensory capacity would be totally overwhelmed. To help us prevent such a sensory overload we have in-built natural filters, aspects of which are our frames of reference, which help us notice some aspects of our experience more than others. This is why two people can experience and understand the same situation in totally different, though equally valid ways.
So what does this mean for you and your partner when each of you hold different views over something which is starting to affect your relationship? Locking horns over “who’s right” may feel like an inescapable trap which can often leave you feeling misunderstood, unheard or frustrated, to name a few of the wide range of feelings which may be experienced during such moments. Whatever the specific feeling, the impact on the relationship can be hugely damaging. The key to untangling yourself from this place is to resist the urge to convince each other of the “truth” of your perspective. Instead, the focus needs to move towards understanding each other’s position. To do this you need an open and caring dialogue. Easier said than done when you’re in the thick of it, so here a few tips to support you next time you feel the pull towards the kind of conversation where you can easily get stuck:
- Before engaging on a difficult topic, agree to talk about it at a time when you’re both feeling calm and neutral, not during the height of anger or frustration.
- Also, before you engage in this type of conversation, create some space for sharing what you really value and like in each other. Make this your baseline and agree to take a break from the discussion as soon as you sense yourselves veering away from this baseline.
- Hold in you a sense of what’s more important between you: your relationship or being right?
- Remember there are no ultimate truths, only the perspectives we have come to hold through our own individual lens on the world and our personal experiences.
- Listen fully to your partner,without planning your argument or your response as you’re listening to them. Understand the totality of what they’re saying, their experiences. Who they are includes their belief system.
- Be curious about your own belief system. How do you feel when your beliefs are challenged, what comes up for you? Notice your feelings, emotions, any physical sensations.
- Remember beliefs are never facts, just opinions drawn from our interpretation of experience, reinforced by our actions and the responses to our actions.
- See if you can find the middle ground between the polarities of your differing perspectives. Be open to how you can meet each other, rather than holding steadfastly to the positions that distance you.
- Remember to listen, to show you understand your partner you’ve understood them, without adding your interpretations or judgements. Feeling really heard and understood can often be the first step towards identifying the compromise that’s needed in your situation.
Knowing how to communicate lovingly and respectfully is vital in relationships. When our partner holds a different belief, opinion or perspective to us it can sometimes feel threatening and it may become harder to communicate lovingly and healthily. Counselling can provide much needed support during these moments. It can allow you to explore what happens for you in moments of rift, supporting you to understand each other’s perspectives more fully. This can help you to engage in a more constructive dialogue between you so that you can express your truth from a place of love, with respect and understanding for your partner even in the places you differ.
About the author
I specialise in supporting people through self-esteem and self-confidence issues, as well as anxiety, depression, life transitions and relationship difficulties. I feel passionate about assisting others in creating a positive connection with themselves, improving relationships and experiencing more possibility and fulfilment in any life situation.
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