3 Tips on Managing Conflicting Values in Relationships

Sure, couples within a relationship have differences. The reality is that on some level, having a partner who has a different opinion, preferences, and perspective is probably what makes you love them.  But there is a big difference in learning how to manage a difference in food preferences and TV preferences to learning how to manage entirely different values.  The big differences can put strain on a relationship, but that doesn’t mean they have to.  It is totally possible to learn how to manage a difference in values with your partner.

  1. Awareness– The first step is being aware of the big differences in values. If you have been in a relationship for a while, these maybe easy to identify.  If you are in a new relationship, this is a good time to have the discussion about values, as sometimes it may actually be easier to walk away from a early relationship.  Don’t just keep the conversation to the differences, be sure to look at the ‘Why’s’. For example, let your partner explain why they don’t want kids, and explain why you do.  Talk about why you chose different religions.  The importance of the ‘Why’ is to provide your partner with background and understanding, not to start an argument.  Really try to understand why their values are different. This is to give you a foundation of empathy, understanding, and ultimately respect for the future .
  2. Pick Your Battles– It is not essential for you to have to agree on every conflicting value.  Figure out what needs to be agreed upon and what differences do not impact you as couple as much.  For example, whether or not having kids may be an important value to find a compromise to progress in the relationship. The value difference of which religious practice you value as a couple, may be able to be managed without a compromise.
  3. Together or Separate– Some individuality is important within a relationship.  As you are deciding what values will need to find compromise to progress the relationship, determine which conflicting values are individual projects and which are projects for the couple as a whole. For example, if one partner would like to prioritise their health, talk about what the expectations are for the partner.  Perhaps it is important that this be a project you tackle as a couple, since junk food in the house will be a temptation, and spending increased time apart while one partner goes to the gym. This may not be the case, as you both may be just fine making this an individual project.

Ultimately a conflict in values can be hard to manage alone. You may be years into a committed relationship and realise things have changed.  Keep in mind the commonalities you share as a partnership and how your differences benefit you as a whole.  If you need additional support working through these value conflicts, an outside and impartial support can be helpful. Try speaking with a psychologist as a couple to work through these differences. To book in a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

After the Affair: The road to recovery
Letting Go of Control in Relationships
Relationship Counselling

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