How to Strengthen Your Relationship/follow-up
Thank you so much for taking my question(s). 3 months ago, I started dating a pretty great guy. We had fun together, good sex, great conversation...but we also have some differences.
I am older by 7 years (33). We are also somewhat politically and religiously different. This doesn't bother me very much because I've dealt with such differences in the past and found ways to compromise etc. (They never turned out to be as big of a deal as we originally thought they would be).
This guy, though, can't see past them. It's bizarre because he was fine with it until we started talking about exclusivity. I suppose he wanted to date/sleep with me but also date other more compatible women so he wasn't "losing any time". (my words). He recently told me that he was falling for me and that he's had trouble with the break-up but doesn't see any alternative.
I can see lots but that's me. I suppose I am writing to get advice on how to move forward because I do care for him a lot- and, oddly enough, we both suffer from chronic sicknesses (I always thought that would be the biggest likeness). I would like to show him- not forcefully but just show him that there are other options; resources; ways to work together to overcome some of these things. I just don't know where to start. Your input and direction will be greatly valued.
ANSWER: Dear Katie,
The problem here is that some people believe that their political and religious differences are differences in moral values. Since a lasting relationship generally needs to be based on similar moral values, then that is probably what he is thinking. The key is to sit down and determine what values you do agree on and then show him that differences in your political and religious beliefs perhaps do not need to take away from the values that you do share.
Start with values you both share--such as you both care about people, you care about happens to people, you believe in being honest, or any thing you can think of where you would both agree. When working things out with another person always start with the positive and build on that. Unfortunately, when you look at your differences you both might be looking at it from such different values that it would detract from being able to respect each other. That is what you have to determine. If you can agree to disagree and set down some rules on how to handle the differences such as comments made when watching TV or what to do on Sundays, or how to handle children, if they are involved at all, then perhaps he can see how it might work.
Men need to be shown in black and white, so write out all the good things about your relationship and then do as I suggested above. I do hope that it works out, if it is the best thing for both of you. This should help to make it clear as to whether you could live with those differences or not.
I wish you well.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Sharon,
Thank you so much for your response and advice. Do you have any other activities, lists, exercises etc that I can use to help in this process? I love the idea of approaching this as values and not categorical differences of opinion. I also love the idea of focusing on the positive etc- how can I involve him in this process before just showing him the end result?
Yes, I think you should involve him in the process. You might say something like: "One thing I like about our relationship is the values we share such as, I think we both believe in honesty, or we both care about people, or some other value that would appeal to him. "What values are important to you?"
Then go into your differences and ask him if he thinks your differences are in values or just differences in opinion as to how to carry out your values. In other words, you ask questions to get him thinking along different lines to help open discussion about how you might work things out and still respect each others values and also opinions.
Hope this helps. Make sure you also ask him first about what he thinks are positives about your relationship and then add your own observations to the list. Then go into values.
Whenever you wish to communicate with another person avoid judgmental statements, ask a lot of questions from kindness and caring, and being very and sincerely interested in how the other person feels and thinks. Asking things like, "What does that mean to do?" or saying, "Describe to me what you mean by that." "What is iimportant to you on this subject?" Then really listen--with your ears and heart so that he doesn't feel interrogated but that you really want to know what he thinks and feels.
Let me know how it goes.