27 Mar How To Hold Your Ground When You Disagree

If you’re in a relationship you will have noticed that partners don’t always see eye to eye.

Knowing how to hold your ground without damaging your relationship is a really important skill for partners wanting a healthy relationship.

Two male wild goats play-fight on the edge of a rock cliff.

In past disagreements or stand-offs, maybe you’ve tried being nice and keeping the peace.

If you did this enough you possibly ended up discovering that you weren’t true to yourself.

Maybe then you tried pushing back and refusing to budge… regardless of the consequences.

I’m guessing that this strategy won’t have brought you both closer either. It may have felt like it brought some short term gain, but in the long run, stubbornness doesn’t build healthy relationships.

When dealing with relationship conflict, neither a passive nor an aggressive communication style really works. You’re both going to need to do something different next time you’re not seeing eye to eye.

There’s a third option. Couples in healthy and happy relationships use it when they have a relationship issue to resolve.

First you’ve got to understand that it’s totally possible for partners to disagree in a way that doesn’t feed straight into relationship hostility, toxicity, disconnect and pain.

Here are some of the things that partners in healthy relationships do when they disagree. Maybe these ideas will help you when you want to hold your ground about an issue but don’t want to harm your relationship:

1 Be clear about your position:

What is your opinion? When you strip back all the emotion and drama, what is really important to you?

Be very clear about whether this an objective opinion (that is, where the facts are indisputable), or a subjective opinion (that is, where the “facts” aren’t really facts but instead are your own personal interpretations and assumptions)?

How does your opinion reflect your own values, beliefs, and life experiences?

Share as much as you can about yourself that will help your partner understand your opinion.

2 Speak for self:

If you hear yourself saying the word “You” (as in “You are this or that”, “You should be this or that”, or “You did this or that because…”), STOP!

Speak for yourself only.

It’s YOU that needs to be shared here, not your interpretations, opinions, judgements, and conclusions about your partner… however much of an expert on him or her you may be.

3 Acknowledge that your partner may not see things the same way:

You both don’t have to agree on everything in order to have a great relationship.

At times, compromise will be needed. Or perhaps you might need to “agree to disagree”.

And at other times, when you’re locked in opposing positions, it’s emotionality that usually gets partners into strife. Breathe. Slow down. Be curious about your partners point of view, however disagreeable it is to you. More importantly, be curious about the underlying values and beliefs that are informing your partner’s position.

Once you start listening with an open mind, you’ll notice how the emotional charge between you immediately feels calmer. And once you’re calmer, you’ll be able to think clearer about the decisions to make next.

4 Empathise with your partner:

When you can regard your partner as an individual in his or her own right and not simply an extension of yourself, feeling comfortable when you disagree will be so much easier.

And no, this isn’t about emotionally “checking out” – if you do that, you’re not building a healthier relationship, you’re just switching off.

Stay connected, stay loving, and listen carefully to your partner. Get out of your own self and imagine how your partner may be feeling. Then share back what you are hearing with your partner so he or she can help you empathise even more fully. Empathy is a conduit to relationship healing.

5 Hold your ground:

Just because you’re able to empathise doesn’t mean you’re willing to roll over.

Offer enough information as you can about your position on the issue at hand: what you think, feel, want, or perhaps don’t want. What your dream is for the relationship itself. It’s your job to help your partner understand all of this data in as much depth as you can provide.

6 Be accountable for your own emotional boundaries:

If your emotions start taking over, you are responsible for what happens next. Either you can keep your emotions under control, or you can’t.

If you can’t, that’s OK – partners get emotionally flooded all the time. But it’s crucial to understand that if this happens, you are no longer capable of interacting in a positive way, and it’s time to ask for “time out” before returning to your issue at a later time.

7 Find out how you can help your partner:

What does your partner need form you? Not sure? Then ask!

Find out what you do that helps him or her soften their position. Does he or she find it easier to take a more collaborative position when you stop criticising, ranting, or raving? Do they need to believe that you are accountable for something you’re currently not seeing, or doing? Do they feel more willing to compromise when you are able to respond with a compromise of your own?

8 Get perspective:

How does this issue impact on the larger goal that you share as a couple? The one about us growing old happily together?

Ask yourselves: Are we approaching our differences in a way that honours this higher goal? How important is this issue to me, really? How does my ego get in the way? What does my partner’s ego really need from me? How can I say “no” and be more loving, forgiving, gentle.. (or whatever he or she needs more of from me) at the same time?

Remember, when partners butt heads, there’s always a back story.

Partners don’t always see eye to eye. Part of being in a healthy relationship is being willing to concede at times. But for times when giving in just doesn’t feel right, the above suggestions might help you to hold your ground in ways that still head you in the direction of a healthy relationship.

Pamela Pannifex is a psychotherapist, marriage therapist, naturopath and founder of Sunshine Holistic Counselling on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. For over 20 years she has been helping people create personal wellbeing and relationships that thrive. Contact Pamela here.