Handling differences in a couples relationship

In a relationship, there are many, many differences between the two partners. This is perhaps most obvious when each partner comes from a different cultural background, the differences may be marked. It is however, equally true of a relationship where both partners come from the same ethic group, social class, educational background etc. We each come from the culture of our own family, and no two families are alike.

There are many topics in which differences may show up. For example our values, attitudes to food and drink, the way we think about and want to experience sex, our views about male-female roles, our attitude to time, our politics, our friendships and how we manage them, our relationships with wider family and 'in-laws', financial management, faith and religion, our senses of humour, our thoughts about raising children, how we expect illnesses to be treated, attitudes to death, to divorce, to change... there are so many ways in which we have the potential to differ.

Differences can be handled in a variety of ways. We may reach a concensus on a difficult topic, or find a compromise. We may camoflage differences, pretending they are not there. Alternatively, one partner may immerse themself into the other's way of being and doing, submitting their own way of being in the process. At its extreme, the immersed partner may feel as if they have been obliterated.  

It is useful to reflect on how you manage the various differences in your relationship. If the same subject is coming up again and again, it may well need some attention, or to be handled in a different way. Similarly, if you are giving away your power and submitting in a way that feels uncomfortable, not allowing an important value expression, this may be something to notice and reflect on.

For support in finding a way through the tensions in your relationship, you may want to consider couples counselling. A counsellor can help each of you feel heard, and reflect back the patterns and dynamics of what is happening in the room. You can then come to your own conclusions about how you want to move forwards, finding the solutions or reaching the decisions that are most congruent in the situation.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Darlington, County Durham, DL2

Written by Fe Robinson

Darlington, County Durham, DL2

Fe Robinson is a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor working in Durham on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Her mission is to help clients thrive, whatever their life circumstances. Fe is UKCP accredited and BACP registered and offers psychotherapy, EMDR therapy, Couples Counselling and Clinical Supervision.

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