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It’s nothing new to disagree with the ones you love, whether it’s about COVID-19, quarantine, religion, guns, racism, politics, football or something else. In fact, chances are pretty good that you completely disagree on certain topics with someone you care deeply about. The disagreements may be so intense you wonder how you can actually co-exist. 

The level of intensity might feel more so at this moment in time in our culture. In fact, many people can hardly believe that the people they love have such different perspectives from their own. The ongoing stress from trying to navigate these issues can take a massive toll on our relationships. FOR REAL.

What do you do when you strongly disagree with the ones you love?

Although you might be tempted to confront them and tell them they are just plain wrong, you might want to reconsider. That plan probably won’t go very well for you because it’s likely your loved one will feel attacked. Nobody wants to feel attacked, right?

Instead, start by asking yourself a few questions.

What is the goal of my conversation with this person?

Do I just want to share information?

Am I trying to understand their perspective?

Do I feel the need to convince them they are wrong?

Am I trying to prove that I have a valid point?

Do I have to WIN?

Taking the time to think about your ultimate goal can help you prepare to constructively engage with them.

It may help to remember that no matter how hard you try, you cannot change someone else or make them see something the very same way that you do. Yelling at them, belittling them, coming across as condescending, stomping out of the room or being sarcastic will only fuel the fire. And it will take you further away from your intended goal.

Plenty of married couples, extended family,, siblings and roommates have vehemently disagreed about things, yet their love and respect for each other was never in question. How you have the discussion matters.

Here are some tips you can use to make your conversations productive:

  1. Look for things you do agree on. It is likely that you agree on far more than you disagree about. 
  2. Kindness and respect goes a long way when trying to discuss difficult topics. Be aware of your tone of voice and body language.
  3. Avoid imagining how you think the conversation will go or how it has gone in the past. Playing negative scenarios in your head will actually increase your stress. It could also steer the conversation downhill straight out of the gates.
  4. Be prepared to genuinely listen to their perspective—even if you already believe you don’t agree with them and can’t fathom how they could believe what they believe. When people feel heard, you are more likely to keep the conversation going and avoid damaging your relationship. **PRO-TIP: Paraphrase what you hear and avoid using the word, “but.” Using “but” negates everything that the other person just said. Try using “and” instead.**
  5. If it feels like the conversation is becoming heated, remember that getting louder will escalate the situation for sure. Plus, it actually makes it harder to hear what is being said. If you are struggling to think clearly or keep your cool, take a break. Say you need to go to the bathroom or you need to get a drink of water—anything to take a break in the action and allow yourselves time to breathe. Pausing is powerful.
  6. Avoid using “You always, you never,” and “You should.” Instead, focus on yourself and share your perspective while using “I” statements (I feel, I believe, I want, I need, etc.).

These are particularly stressful times, and when you disagree with the ones you love, IT’S HARD.

This means that many of us are experiencing extended periods of heightened anxiety and are constantly in a fight or flight mode—which is totally not normal. Fuses are shorter and we are probably more easily irritated. And, we may react more quickly, especially if we’ve been thinking or dwelling on the topic at hand. Acknowledge this and think through the fact that how we handle difficult conversations can impact the quality of our relationships. 

It’s vital to remember that this is a process. If over time the conversation seems to go nowhere, you may need to set boundaries around this topic in an effort to keep from destroying the relationship. Keep in mind that if you choose to walk away from the relationship, you will no longer have the opportunity to present a different perspective.

One-bedroom apartment.

Two newlyweds working from home now.

Multiple video conference calls (sometimes simultaneously).

Only two options for “getting space”: Bathroom or the balcony.

Lots of uncertainty and anxiety in the air amidst a pandemic.

Time to work on those healthy communication skills.

I’m sitting on the couch with my husband when the phone rings. We pause our movie, he answers and all I hear is “Mhmm, yeah…okay, yeah.”

His family friend has a nice car and is offering it to us before anyone else and for a good price. Hmm…

Mind you, we have been saving for about 10 months now to replace my husband’s car. It’s been on our to-do list before all of these COVID-19 precautions. We both were antsy to check it off.

Now normally, I love a good deal, but I had to ask myself (and him), “Is this good timing?”

To be honest, a lot feels unknown. We don’t know the ramifications COVID-19 will have on the economy and making a big purchase scares me a little bit…a detour from our original plan feels necessary. To him, we’ve had a goal in mind, we’ve worked hard and this is a great opportunity. 

This could be a hard conversation. During this pandemic, I’m sure you can relate to having your fair share of challenging conversations, too. There are lots of new, important things to talk about. Money is a touchy subject as it is, and during a time when no one wants to handle money and is quarantined, the irony felt all too coincidental. For us, this was a potential relationship landmine. 

The last thing we need to take up space in our little apartment is tension. There’s not enough room for the distance created by the lack of good communication.

If you create distance because one of you or both of you are pushing away your feelings, rather than pushing through them, then you create an opportunity to have that gap filled by things that only make matters worse. Disappointment, resentment or misunderstandings start filling the gap and then you two have enough tension to fill a guest room that you don’t have. 

You can’t fix a problem you don’t know is there and neither can your spouse. Neither of you is a mind reader. Conflict isn’t comfortable – I won’t sell it to you like it is. But I will be honest – it’s often a chance for growth and a better understanding of each other.

You aren’t doing life on your own anymore. Important decisions are made together. I mean, as the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” 

And we had to put our heads together on whether this is a good time to buy a car or not. Who knows how this conversation will go? We often have to work to not get defensive of our own opinions. We agreed that at the end of this conversation, both of us need to feel heard and cared for.

Before we tried to come to a conclusion, we set ourselves up for success. We made each other feel safe to share opposing opinions and we listened with the intention to hear each other and respond – not just make a rebuttal (as tempting as that can be.)

  1. We made sure we had time to start and hopefully, finish the conversation. 
  2. We put our phones aside, made sure our schedules were clear and we made resolving our conflict a priority.
  3. We chose a spot where we felt comfortable talking. 
  4. We reminded each other before we started making our points that this is our decision to make, no one else’s, and that we are on the same team. Win together and lose together. We replaced the “me” in mentality with “we.” What is best for us?
  5. We actively listened. (We “listened” between the lines of each other’s answers and made sure to ask each other clarifying questions. Call us compassionate detectives.) “Are you scared of spending the money we saved for the car because of what’s unknown in the economy or are you really worried about your job?” “Are you not worried about using our savings just because we’ve been saying we would get a car, or because you feel secure in the foundation we laid for ourselves?
  6. We found a solution and made a plan where we both compromised a little while still reaching our goal. We are going to try and sell Tyler’s car before we make the purchase of the new-to-us car. That way we won’t drain our savings during an uncertain time and we are still marking off something we’ve put a lot of time and effort into making happen.

Maybe it’s been a stressful, exhausting week already and you don’t want to add to it. It’s possible you fear what the other person may say or worry they won’t see your point of view.  Maybe it’s as simple as you don’t know where to start. Make good communication a priority, now more than ever.

Remind yourself to push through and have those conversations rather than push away the emotions. Remember that good communication will help both of you grow and find better ways to love each other.

In marriage, you should be able to rest confidently in the fact that your partner chose you, chooses you and will continue to as you do all the same things for them. If you both put the effort into making your marriage a safe place where you two can fully express and be yourselves, then the rest, even difficult conversations, becomes easier.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

A conversation tonight with my youngest son that revealed what he was thinking:

[After not seeing me go to work for days.]

Son: You still have your job, right?

Me: Yeah, dude. I’m working from home. Remember?

Son: So you still get paid, right?

Me: Yeah, I do.

Son: What about Mom?

Me: She found out today that they are going to start making cuts.

Son: Are we going to be able to keep our utilities and stuff on?

Me: I think we have that stuff worked out right now.

Son: What about people that work at a restaurant and the restaurant closes?

Me: They lose their job. There’s gonna be a lot of people with serious needs.

Son: So they don’t make money, but they still have to pay their bills?

Me: Yeah, man…

Son: [Pauses and Thinks] This is like, apocalyptic stuff!

Me: It’s the unknown, but we’ll face it as a family. We go through the good together…

Son: ….and the bad.

A conversation not ten minutes later with my oldest son that revealed his heart:

[Cook at a local restaurant.]

Son: Hey, can I talk to you?

Me: Sure!

Son: So tomorrow will be our last regular day at the restaurant.

Me: Then what? You guys closing too?

Son: Take-out will be open. I’m okay because I cook. Fifty servers will be out of work.

Me: Ugh. Man. What are you thinking?

Son: I want to help them, but I don’t know the best way to do it.

[What followed was a conversation about the best ways to help the people he cared about. We talked about helping a lot of people a little, versus, helping a few people a lot. We talked about how to find out who will be hurt by this the most. We talked over his budget and discussed how much he wanted to spend and about whether he should buy food or buy gift cards. We talked about how he wanted to help anonymously.]

Son: So, I’m just gonna buy gift cards and talk to the front of the house manager.

Me: Find out who will be jammed up the most? Maybe single moms with kids?

Son: Yeah, I’ll have the manager give them the cards. Then they can buy food they like.

Me: Very cool that you are getting outside yourself and thinking about other people.

Son: I just wanna help out… these people are my work family.

Me: If you get a chance, talk to your little brother…

Have age-appropriate conversations with your kids. Be honest. Be real. Be a good listener. Their mind and heart might be “between the lines” (like my youngest son’s underlying fear.) They might want to know what is going on and need help processing it. They may need hope. They may just need to vent. They may want to talk about helping other people during these difficult times.

I was fortunate tonight that my two sons came to me. That won’t always happen. Don’t wait for them to start a conversation.

Emphasize that this will be challenging but this will pass. Reinforce the idea that we are a family and we are in this together, no matter what. Encourage them to think outside of themselves and consider how they can help other people.

We are all connected.

This is an opportunity for your kids to learn valuable life lessons and develop character. This is an opportunity for you to connect with your kids. Be available. Be a good listener. Be their guide.

*For more parenting resources, including COVID-19 specificresources, go toFirstthings.org.