An important lesson I learned recently is it’s okay to disagree with your partner. I work so hard to find a compromise when my boyfriend and I disagree but sometimes we just don’t agree on things. At first, I was upset and unsure about if agreeing to disagree was healthy. Nervous that some of our values being different would lead to issues down the road but now I see otherwise. Let me set the tone with the story that inspired this lesson.

Story Time

My boyfriend and I were walking our dog and reminiscing about our time in Amsterdam. Then he brought up a moment when I “left him” and he walked back to our Airbnb alone. (Technically, he left me but let me finish the rest of the story.) After a basketball incident four months prior to our vacation, he was experiencing knee issues. Therefore, he could not walk for long periods of time without pain. Europe is a trip that entails a lot of walking.

My cousin, my boyfriend and I had just finished viewing the Rijksmuseum and we were planning to explore some shops in the area. While we walked out, my boyfriend expressed that he wanted to go back to the hotel. My cousin expressed that she wanted to go explore the area. There I was stuck in the middle. I really wanted to stay out and I tried to find a compromise but neither of them was budging. My cousin and I ended up staying out while my boyfriend went to rest.

I thought we had gotten past this disagreement while we were on the trip, which was April of 2019 but here we are talking about it a year later. He believes that no matter what I should have gone back to the Airbnb with him and I believe that it’s okay to separate if we want to do separate things. Even though we ended the conversation on that note, it didn’t sit well with me. I started to question what else we would disagree on. As you can tell, that sent me on a downward spiral where I wasn’t sure if our values were compatible long term. I can be a bit melodramatic, it’s just a personality trait of mine.

A little research transformed my perspective

To rescue myself from the spiral I did what any millennial type-A woman would do, I googled “how to peacefully disagree with your partner.” What I discovered were some amazing tips on how to disagree and communicate effectively that can apply to all our close relationships. Here are the tips I highly recommend.

1. You can have a conversation with someone, completely disagree about something, and still, love each other

It’s so difficult to listen to someone who doesn’t share our same morals or opinions because we believe that we’re always right. It’s been a tough pill for me to swallow but the truth is none of us are always right. One agreement or disagreement doesn’t have to be the end all be all. I’ve wanted to cancel so many people because of their viewpoint but that’s not always necessary. It’s tough to not see eye to eye with your best friends, family, and especially your partner but it will happen. There are things I used to believe in 5 years ago that I definitely disagree with now. If you can give yourself grace, also give that courtesy to your loved ones.

2. It’s okay to have a conversation with someone without trying to change their mind

I love to influence my opinion on people but that is not always necessary. When dealing with a loved one, we often want the best for them. Sometimes that translates in our head to “I know best, so they should follow what I say.” Whether that’s true or not, every conversation doesn’t have to include you getting your agenda across. There’s so much power in simply listening without judgment. Think about how many times you instantly hate someone because of their radical opinions. Why do we feel like we need to make the person agree with us or eliminate the person?

People desire to drown out voices of hate and fear. But then end up hating the haters and judging the judgmental people without even realizing it. Of course, that instinct comes from good intentions and us defending our ethics, but does it make us any better than them? I’m quick to make assumptions about someone’s actions but I’m working on taking a step back and reevaluating first. Remember hating doesn’t serve you but understanding does.

3. There’s something to be learned from people we disagree with 

Once you can get past disagreeing with someone’s political, love, money, or entertainment views, maybe you can learn something new from them. If you only listen and consume content from people you agree with you, your mindset will stay stagnant. Postpone your own agenda when you’re listening to someone else and focus on learning instead. When we seek understanding, we’re more inclined to listen to the other person’s viewpoint and be empathetic.

4.  Listening doesn’t equal agreement 

We can all do a better job of respecting people. That means not huffing and puffing when you don’t agree with something they said, not talking over them or yelling at them to get your point across. I know it sounds tough, but it can be achieved. This level of Zen behavior is a goal of mine.

A lot of times we’re afraid that if we listen to someone and we allow them space and the voice to speak what’s true for them, then we are somehow agreeing with or consenting to what they’re saying. That is not true. Listen with the intention to understand, not agree.

5. Remember the person you’re disagreeing with is not upsetting you, your brain is

This piece of advice is tricky. When I first read this, I was like that makes zero sense, but it actually does. Your thoughts are the only reason you’re upset with someone you disagree with. When you’re conversing with someone you only become upset when your brain tells you that you disagree. Without those thoughts, everything the other person is saying can be received neutrally. Instead of allowing our thoughts to ignore everything that comes out of the mouth of someone we disagree with, we can be open to learning what’s true for the person speaking because their opinions matter just as much as ours. It’s time to start respectfully disagreeing with our loved ones so we can foster stronger and healthier relationships.