We have nothing in common anymore!
I often hear phrases like that from clients. I hear this from people who have been in short-term relationships as well as long-term ones. The reasons are as varied as the personalities of the individuals in the relationships. However, there is one common thread that runs through them all: One person starts to like something new, and their partner does share that same joy. Additionally, as we get older, our likes and dislikes can, and do, change. Things we used to like years ago, we do not like anymore and vice-versa. As these differences in interests increase, couples may find themselves actually disliking their partner. So what is going on?
First, let me state that I think differences in relationships are beneficial for so many reasons. However, they need to be handled in a very specific way. Often, when differences exist, the tendency is to focus on those differences and how they create friction and conflict within the relationship. The specific approach to handling differences between partners is to embrace them.
Be curious about each other’s points of view or opinions; fully understand each other’s aspects of the topic. Be open to learning something new about the issue and, most importantly, have a desire for what your partner wants. When this is working, it becomes quite enjoyable as you try to outdo one another in bringing your partner joy. Additionally, be willing to offer your concerns about their way of doing something. This is not telling them their way will not work, it is letting them know, respectfully, what issues you have.
As you listen to each other’s issues, do what you can to help resolve their concerns with your view and offer alternatives that may help. The problem with this scenario is that it is something that needs practice. Typically, we are not as nice to our partners when they disagree with us or think that our ideas are not good. This takes practice on how to communicate and understand each other. Over time, this will become second nature and will permeate throughout all of your relationships as you become a better listener and better communicator.
Regarding common interests, the same principle applies. You want to be curious about what your partner likes and all the details surrounding this topic. This will not only help you understand the topic, but it will also help you understand your partner and reveal core values that you may not have known before. It will make your partner feel like they matter because you are showing an interest in them even if you are not interested in their new hobby.
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Charles Bower, LPC Associate
My passion is relationships of all kinds. I have been working with people dealing with relationship issues, both professionally and personally, for several years and still see the potential in every relationship to not only survive, but to thrive. I also have experience with biblical and Christian counseling, which is also a passion of mine. However, I do not impose my beliefs on any client and have successfully navigated working with clients of varying world views and spiritual beliefs.