There are three options for how to handle a disagreement in your relationship:
- Give in and ignore your needs
- Compromise and find a middle ground
- Weigh the options on your own and choose to meet your partner’s needs
Option 1: Suffer in silence
This path leads to disappointment and resentment. With resentment comes distance which feels like you and your partner are pulling in different directions. At this point, your relationship is at risk.
Your partner may have no idea that you are unhappy or how difficult the situation is, which is why I recommend the second and third options.
Option 2: Find a middle ground
I recently counseled a couple where one of them suffered in silence. This couple spent nearly every waking moment together, and that arrangement worked well for one person, but the other needed space to be alone and recharge their batteries.
Unfortunately, the person who needed space always gave in and never vocalized what wasn’t working. A communication breakdown created a tense situation full of resentment.
When the topic came up in one of our sessions, their partner had no idea there was any problem, and honestly, how could they? By giving in time after time, the relationship was self-destructing with no opportunity to course correct.
Fortunately, they were able to chart a new path by opening the lines of communication. By choosing to find a middle ground, the person who needed space was able to be heard. I believe this saved their relationship and made it a healthy and regenerative partnership for both of them.
It’s OK if you and your partner don’t agree on every issue. You are separate people with unique wants and needs. But that doesn’t mean your relationship can’t work. It would be best if you were willing to discuss the situation and come to a solution together that both of you can find acceptable.
Option #3: Make a choice
Let’s say, for example, that you want to take a ski vacation this year, but your partner prefers surfing on the beach. Instead of giving in or making a compromise (options 1 and 2), you weigh your needs against your partner’s. After some reflection, you decide it’s worth it to let the ski trip go and enjoy a beach vacation with your partner.
The difference here is that you empowered yourself to decide.
Rather than seeing the trip as something you must do, you’ve decided to invest in the relationship by doing what your partner prefers. You are genuinely OK with the decision because you made it intentionally.
If you live your life by agreeing to everything your partner needs, there is no doubt that resentment will take hold of your relationship. By taking control of your life, you give yourself a choice, and if you both maintain that mindset, it can be the difference between a breakup or a long-term fulfilling relationship.
The point is that you can’t give in when there is a dispute over something you truly need. The relationship is at risk if you aren’t making your needs heard.