How To Navigate Your Differences in a Relationship

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein, written by Blueheart
– published on December 23, 2022

My partner has different views to me. What should I do?

It’s not unusual to meet someone, fall for them and then begin to learn that there are certain topics of conversation that always end in a disagreement.

After all, we’re all individuals, we can be similar in some ways while being different in others. Compatibility for life and a strong relationship doesn’t mean we need to think about or do everything in the same way. Instead, it means we complement each other, generally work well as a team, enjoy being together and more often than not our two halves are better than the whole.

But more than likely there will be differences too. And with differences there will almost certainly come disagreements from time to time. It’s how we deal with them that matters. Couples can still foster healthy relationships even when they have different religions, political leanings or family backgrounds.

Whether it’s politics, values, money, child-rearing or the way we like our pizza that causes those moments of friction, the most important thing is that you are able to work things through.

And if you can’t align? Then you’ll need to learn to manage those differences in a way that won’t be so disruptive to the relationship, the friends and family around you and importantly, your mental health.

Illustration by Marta Pucci

Why it’s not necessarily a bad thing to disagree sometimes

Many researchers in the field have found that couples who approach disagreements and conflict in a healthy way are more likely to stay together than those who never speak a cross word to one another. In fact, a US study of married couple found that arguing is healthy - especially if the focus is on problems that have an achievable outcome.

But why is that? How can disagreement be something to strive for?

The answer might surprise you.

The Gottman Institute has one theory. Embracing difficult conversations or disagreements is a good sign because it means we are willing to share our thoughts with our partner. We open up and speak with honesty about how we feel and what we believe. And while we may not always agree with our partner’s opinion, we at least know they trust us enough to share their thoughts with us.

The opposite, of course, is running from the conflict, opting for the status quo. We might hear of couples who ‘never argue’ and envy them, but actually, this may not be the most healthy relationship. Being afraid to speak out and instead accepting peace at the expense of standing up for what you think or believe in. And as Gottman says, this risks slowly eroding the intimacy and emotional safety of the relationship.

Another school of thought suggests that getting used to the idea of debating things with your partner ensures you don’t bottle things up. By getting things out in the open you will discuss them and find out what you both think. Your partner is not a mind reader, and neither are you, so unless you tell one another what you are thinking, it’s hard to know for sure.

Keeping your feelings screwed up tightly inside you can lead to a buildup of resentment and frustration. And over time, this might actually be worse for your relationship.

And, of course, there are benefits once you’ve worked through a disagreement too. You will have learned plenty about yourselves and your partner, enabling you to understand how better to communicate with one another. You’ll understand how to make sure the issue doesn’t rear its ugly head again. And what’s more, you’ll feel a sense of being able to tackle anything as a team.

Quiz: How well do you manage conflict or difference of opinion in a relationship?

Some people naturally accept other people’s different opinions and can co-exist side by side with little problem. Others feel a need to let their own views be known and even shout others down.

How do you feel about disagreements in general? And how do you feel you manage them both personally and within your relationship? Let’s find out.

For each of the statements below, answer:

A. agree
B. somewhat agree
C. somewhat disagree
D. disagree


1. I relish the opportunity for a good, healthy debate.

2. I am not afraid to tell my partner how I feel about something, even when I suspect they do not share my opinion.

3. When my partner disagrees with my point of view, I am able to react in a considered way rather than getting defensive.

4. I feel that within our relationship we are usually able to reach a compromise on difficult topics.

5. I feel secure in the knowledge that when we have a difficult conversation, we will reach a positive conclusion.

6. When I have a difference of opinion to my partner, I feel I must address it. I know I will not be happy if I just leave it and don’t react.

7. I feel able to accept the differences that I and my partner share and build a strong, healthy relationship not just in spite of them, but because of them.Work out which letter you have answered the most times to find out what it says about how you manage difficult situations and differences of opinion.

Mostly A
You embrace debate and discussion in your relationship. You know that you have the respect of your partner and feel you can trust them with your innermost beliefs and feelings. You regularly engage in healthy conflict and are usually able to reach a resolution that you’re both happy with. Just be careful that arguments don’t become so accepted they are the norm. It’s important you find areas of common ground too. You’ll find tips on managing healthy conflict below or if you want to dive deeper, take a look at our Navigating your Differences course inside the app.

Mostly B
While you are not scared of a disagreements with your partner, you don’t go out hunting for them either. You will engage when you feel it is important to do so but equally sometimes feel more comfortable just leaving things be. And while your interactions with your partner are generally positive, you could do with a few tips to help resolve those repetitive arguments that rear their heads from time to time. Read on for advice from the experts or try our Navigating your Differences course inside the app for even more depth.

Mostly C
You’re not the biggest fan of speaking your mind or expressing a difference of opinion, particularly if you know it’s likely to be controversial. But you do understand the benefits of listening and trying to understand the other person’s point of view. Even if you don’t always succeed. The good news is there are tons of ways you can improve all aspects of communication and conflict resolution skills, and our Navigating your Differences course inside the app is the perfect place to start.

Mostly D
You avoid conflict like the plague, ducking for cover if there’s even a sniff of a difference of opinion coming your way. Like many, you struggle to raise difficult topics with your partner for fear that they’ll out-argue you and you’ll end up ‘losing’. So you tend to just put up and shut up. The trouble is, you’ve started to notice a building resentment that it is becoming hard to shift.If you and your partner are repeatedly finding that your opinion differs on important topics, it might be time to seek support. You’ll find conflict-changing exercises, tools, techniques and practical advice on the Blueheart app. Why not start in our short course Navigating your Differences inside the app.

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How do different perspectives affect relationships?

While for some people having a difference of opinion with someone can feel like an almost enjoyable little challenge or tussle, for others it really can feel like a threat or conflict situation that destabilises them.

The goal when it comes to differing views in relationships is to reach a point where you can be open enough to listen to and acknowledge your partner’s opinion but confident enough to accept that you can and do feel a different way - and that’s OK.

Many people shy away from conflict, finding it difficult to stomach and having an urge to run for the hills whenever they sense a disagreement on the horizon. But a good dose of debate can actually be extremely healthy for a relationship.As long as you’re both approaching it in the right way.

The positives
When you have wildly different views to your partner it might feel that you’ll never find common ground, but that’s unlikely to be the case. Learn to love and accept your partner for who they are and what they believe in, and you might find a whole new world opening up before you. Not to mention a newfound sense of compromise, tolerance and acceptance. Just think of couples who blend their festive traditions to celebrate ‘Chrismukkah’, for example.

And with different ideas, you’ll probably have different hobbies and interests you can share with one another too. Not only will you get to try something new but while you’re sharing these experiences, you’ll likely learn a thing or two about one another as well. Even if you are not a fan, you’re sure to get a kick from seeing your loved one happy and enjoying themself. And having a chance to spend time apart is healthy for relationships too. 

The negatives
Of course, having a difference of opinion can lead to arguments and while we’ve seen that this isn’t inherently a bad thing, it can be challenging to navigate. Especially if one of the differences between you and your partner is your approach to conflict in the first place. One of you might be a ‘shout and clear the air’ person while the other needs time out followed by quiet, calm conversation.

The first type of person might view disagreements as invigorating, while for the second this is far from the case. If you, or your partner, are conflict averse, the idea of speaking up can feel paralysing. 

When someone who is genuinely conflict averse feels another person criticising or confronting them it can literally feel like they are being physically threatened. This may happen due to how disagreements were managed during their upbringing, or because of experiences they may have had during previous relationships. Either way, ‘embracing differences’ and opening up to conflict may be more challenging for them, and may require more work both personally and as a couple.

What happens when we start to view conflict as a positive?

We’re not formally taught at school how to deal with conflict. How we manage it in our own relationship depends very much on how it is modelled by our parents or guardians, or those around us as we are growing and learning. Many of us see conflict as a negative word. It’s even used as a synonym for war.

But actually, when we break it down, conflict doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A conflict is simply a disagreement. It’s two sides of a story. It’s differing perspectives on a subject. Or if we put a truly positive spin on it, it’s an opportunity to build a better understanding of the world, and people, around us.

It might be that you like the house clean all the time while your partner doesn’t mind the lived-in look. Perhaps one of you favours sending your children to private school while the other is against the idea. Or it could be something more to do with how you are as people - one likes a bit of space when challenges arise, the other wants to sort things out straight away, or one likes to keep relationship issues private while the other prefers to share more openly.

When we hold differing views to our partner it might sometimes feel like they are an alien species from another planet. But if we truly dedicate ourselves to listening and understanding better and choose to have those tough conversations, we really can reach a place where our relationships and our own personal belief systems are all the better for it.

Illustration by Marta Pucci

How to hold difficult conversations in a healthier way

Disagreements or tough conversations are not only completely normal in a successful marriage or romantic relationship, they are actually pretty healthy. It may surprise you to know that happy couples have disagreements all the time. It would be unrealistic to think we will be totally aligned on everything we ever do together, so of course there will be times where we butt heads.

The important thing is how we handle it and work to resolve those differences. And this is something that Blueheart can help you with.

We have to learn to stand up for our own views and opinions, where they are important, while also showing respect and understanding for our partner’s perspective. Even if all we actually want to do is run to a dark corner and place our hands over our ears until it’s all over.

Here are some of our top tips:

1. Stay focused
When we argue, our fight or flight response kicks in, our stress hormones become elevated and emotion takes over from reason. Try to stay logical and recognize that emotional trigger for what it is, and you should find you can communicate your thoughts with more clarity.

2. Don’t make assumptions
You know what they say about assumptions! When you’re mid-fight it can be easy to misunderstand what your partner is saying and get hung up on it. Instead, check that what you think they said is actually what they meant to say. Clarify your understanding with statements like, “This is what I understood by that…can I just check that I’ve got that correct?”

3. Avoid blameStarting with “You…” will almost certainly get your partner on the defensive before you’ve even finished the sentence. Instead, try to approach what you’re saying from the perspective of how you feel about things. By making statements that begin “I feel…” and “I have been thinking about…” rather than placing the blame squarely at the feet of your partner, you’re less likely to antagonise and more likely to be able to tackle whatever it is together.

4. Focus on the here and now
The past is rarely a good place to go during an argument. Instead of saying, “Well, you did this last week,” and setting up a tit-for-tat discussion, focus on the current issue. If you consistently drag up what has happened before, you’ll find you never make progress.

5. Agree to let some things slide
When we live with a partner, it’s absolutely normal to find small things about one another irritating. But if we pick each other up on every sock that misses the basket, or every plate left out of the dishwasher it will quickly become a deeper problem. Agree to live and let live to some extent. Perhaps have an amnesty every so often to note minor behaviours that need addressing but otherwise forgive and forget where possible.

Now that you’ve got a good grounding in the basics, it’s time to put your new knowledge into action. Learn how to deal with disagreement and potential conflict with our short course, Navigating your Differences inside the app. You can also explore hundreds of other sessions to improve your relationship health and give love the love it deserves.

It's important to note here that experiencing differences of opinion and approaching them in a respectful way is entirely different from being in an abusive relationship. If you’re concerned that you are in an unhealthy relationship, experiencing emotional abuse, verbal abuse or worse, it’s vital you seek help.

The freeing truth: some differences of opinion are simply unresolvable. And that’s OK.

While many relationship hiccups are solvable, perhaps with a few tough conversations, or thanks to the help of relationship experts or marriage counsellors, there are some that can be a little bit more persistent.

You’ll notice these because they’re relatively cyclical. They come up time and again, causing upset and arguments. And the fundamental issue at the core of the disagreement never gets resolved.

Maybe you’re a democrat, they're lifelong republican. You’re a vegan, they are most definitely not. You have a high sex drive; they just don’t see that sex is that important to them.

Whether your differences of opinion are about politics, religion, personal values or how rude it is to slurp your coffee noisily. If neither of you is willing to understand the perspective of the other, or change the way you think and feel about an important issue, at some point you will have to resolve to agree to disagree.

Or if you can’t do that, think long and hard about how important the issue is to both of you and whether it’s something you can learn to live with. After all, there’s a well-known saying, particularly in our circles – “No-one wins when one of you always has to be right.

”According to the Gottman Institute, 69% of all conflict in relationships is about unresolvable, perpetual problems. But that doesn’t mean there is no hope.

You’ll explore your perpetual problems and learn how to deal with them in our short course: Navigating your Differences inside the app. You’ll find strategies and practical solutions to help you with those problems that come up again and again.

Building better communication skills for the future

In the end, differences of opinion will keep happening through your entire lives together. As your situation shifts and changes and you enter different phases of life, you’ll find yourselves coming up against plenty of things that you initially disagree about.

That’s why it’s so important to invest a little time and energy in learning better ways to communicate with and understand one another. These tools will help you now, and in the future, to navigate those differences with confidence and a surety that you’ll come out the other side pulling in the same direction. And not only that, you’ll enjoy a wonderful mutual respect for one another.

Keep in mind that conflict should not always be viewed in a negative light. Having differences is fine. It’s the way that you and your partner interact that counts. You may find that you are able to reach a compromise or at least come to respect your partner’s perspective even if you don’t completely agree. The journey should be one of learning and listening rather than throwing blame and accusations.

If you’d like some tools and techniques that you can put into place immediately to help you manage those difficult conversations, improve your skills in compromising and accepting others’ opinions, and build a stronger relationship, hop over to the Blueheart app where you’ll find our new short course, Navigating your Differences.

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