• dave

Dealing with difference in relationships.

This is something that comes up a lot for people.

To make it simple, there seem to be two sides to a relationship, the bit where we flow and get on, and the bit where we feel different, disagree and where irritation builds to conflict.

Disagreements are normal in any relationship, but its how we manage them and communicate through them that can make the difference between a relationship feel healthy or struggling.

When the conflict seems to outbalance the flowing part, we can start to feel unhappy, disatisfied, withdrawn etc, which then often leads to more tension. A downward spiral can start which feels difficult to stop. How do we change this ?

I see these differences as opportunities, because if we can work through them, it can create more understand, trust and intimacy, with that feeling of 'yeah, of course stuff comes up, but we get through it and it makes us stronger.'


First of all we have to understand the difference. this is usually best done from outside the conflict, ie when things have calmed down. it is good to start explaining how something feels for ourselves, and it is often very different for two people. For instance a common theme is that when someone has a problem there seem to be two ways of going with it, either 'I need to express and talk,' or ' I need space and quiet.' And it can be very confusing (and irritating) for the 'expressor' if the 'internalizer' doesnt want to talk. ' Why are you ignoring Me !!' And vice versa.

So it can be helpful for both sides to explore these dynamics, realise that it is just different approaches and needs, and once we take the threat out of it, we can start talking about the ways where we can start putting the two sides together. We make a lot of assumptions about what to do based on our on style, and we both need to understand how the other side works from their own perspective.

That is part of my role. Two people often go round in circles with each other, and tension rises.

I create a triangle of communication, that is, i ask each person to explain their dynamic and needs to me. You get a chance to be heard, calmly, not just by me, but by the other person, and then we can start to explore actual possibilities of practical ways of adressing it.

Ie-'When there is an issue I need to talk'

'sometimes when there is an issue i need a bit of space'

' how can you communicate that ? Do you ever try that.? What happens for you ? Perhaps you could say...'

'how would that feel for you (other person)

'that would help, because then i would understand a bit more that im not being ignored or rejected, which really presses my buttons.'

'ok, so we seem to saying that rather than just talking and assuming that it is the right time to talk, first of all we need to get in the habit of putting both sides together and establishing when the best time to talk is. That might lead to more constructive communication.'

Then of course we have to talk about the communication, styles, useful phrases, non-attack, etc, to keep the communication flowing.

Of course this is all a very simplified scenario, but I hope it gives an idea. Its amazing how this one aspect of relationship can make so much difference to maintaining the healthy balance between enjoying and working with each other, over being in endless tension.

Lightning over a volcano in Chile

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Thanks.