Having differences in a relationship is normal and unavoidable. Stress and pressure can come from everyday life; health, work, family, children or money can all contribute to difficulties in relationships. But differences of opinion and interests aren’t always negative, they can enrich a relationship.


Differences can be positive

People bring different perspectives, talents and strengths to a relationship. You might appreciate some of the things your partner has to offer – great cooking, their sense of humour, getting on well with your family and friends – but you might not like their taste in music, the time they spend on technology or the fact they get stressed easily. Some conflict in relationships is inevitable, but there are ways to handle it so it is not destructive to you individually or as a couple.

Relationships can become stronger if partners can talk about differences and stress as a normal part of their relationship. Conflict can often be resolved and serious matters dealt with through respectful communication and a bit of giving and take.


Dealing with Disagreements

Frequent conflict and anger may indicate that all is not well, and change is needed to keep the relationship healthy.

The key questions are:

  • how can you manage not to hurt each other or your relationship when you have a row?
  • how can you learn from the conflict?

Avoiding conflict, or agreeing not to talk about the issue that caused the conflict, might provide short-term peace. However, it’s better to sort out important relationships issues. Conflict is a symptom – if you patch things up without finding out what’s at the bottom of your differences, you’ll probably find yourselves in conflict again.


Warning signs of a relationship breakdown

Noticing early warning signs of relationship breakdown can help couples resolve conflicts. Early warning signs include:

  • you don’t do things together as much as before
  • you have recurring arguments about the same issues that are never resolved
  • you feel dissatisfied and unhappy
  • you have sex less often, or it isn’t what it used to be
  • one partner spends increasing time on interests and activities outside the relationship
  • there is a loss of warmth and friendliness in the relationship, one or both of you speak of no longer being in love
  • you feel tired and less able to meet responsibilities at work and home
  • arguments about the children continue
  • one of you has an addiction problem that is affecting the relationship

If you see some of these signs in your relationship you will need to consider what you will do to address the problem if you want the relationship to improve or even survive.

Counsellors work with couples to reduce distress and try to improve key areas such as communication, intimacy or parenting issues. For more information see Relationship Counselling.

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