How to Manage Differences With Your Mate

By now you have probably experienced a variety of dating choices, all while trying to manage differences between you both. You found some good potential partners and a lot of “bad options” along the way as well. Those experiences were part of your path in finding “the right mate”.

Yes, it’s really important to have some good similarities between you both. But you will also have a lot of differences as well. After all, it would be boring if you both were 100% the same, right? The answer is RIGHT!

Let’s take a look at why differentness is just as important in relationships as are similarities.


Examples of Differences Between You and Your Mate

  • First, let’s talk about what “differences” would look like: Some Examples:
  • You each like watching different TV shows.
  • Your taste in foods is different from each other.
  • You don’t like arguing. Your mate does.
  • He likes staying up late. You like going to bed earlier.
  • He likes sports and is active. You like fewer physical exercise options. You enjoy reading instead.
  • You like planting a garden. He wants to work on his car as a hobby.
  • He is close to his Mom and Dad and wants to visit often. Your family lives
  • out of the area, or you are just not really close with them.
  • You want to travel. His idea of a vacation is to go surfing in different settings.
    He loves hard rock. You like the Beatles.

Get the picture?


Why You Need to Manage Differences in Relationships

Without managing your differences as much as your being alike, you and your mate will often be at odds. And as you well know it is easy for things to escalate if not worked through.

Some will say…” but you get to makeup at the end of the argument, right? Or have great sex afterward!” Maybe so, but making up can be very challenging for a lot of people. There are hurt feelings, loss of trust, feeling controlled, etc. And this can occur even if one partner does not speak up. So you may not even know that there are hurt feelings.

Or even worse, maybe one partner doesn’t care if the other is hurting. So this is why it is so important to speak up, and always try to work things out. If you don’t do this, the relationship most often begins to atrophy and fall apart.


Why Differences Can Also Be Great!

By being somewhat different from each other, you learn from your partner as well.
In some ways, you each become “more” than you would have been without your mate because of your differences. You each get to grow!
As a couple, you also can grow together in some ways. For example, if you both are open to learning new skills, such as “fair fighting” or making peace with some issues you have.
You both have a chance to experience things in life you never would have done on your own.
Accepting your differentness from one other will bring new experiences you wouldn’t necessarily have had without your partner.
By learning to tolerate your differences, you may actually expand your horizons and find new opportunities you wouldn’t have had otherwise.


What Happens if Your Partner Won’t Accept Your Differences?

Living with each other’s differences is not easy sometimes. By not accepting each partner’s differences, it could be a continual battleground to see who can sway the other mate. Not a good dynamic to practice.

When someone can’t or won’t accept differences from their mate they will be in competition to be the “winner” in an argument or decision-making. Or worse yet, one mate may control the decision-making which will eventually alienate the other.

Oftentimes, when one doesn’t accept the differentness of the other, it may involve a fear of trying new things. For some, it may be a fear of failing and looking bad.

Any way you look at this dynamic, it can easily destroy what could have been an enjoyable and healthy relationship.


My Partner Won’t Compromise – What to Do?

Ask your partner to help you understand why they won’t compromise. What does it mean to them if they would compromise at times just as you do? If it’s about thinking they will be overrun or will look bad if they can’t compromise, ask them for more information.

Has compromising not worked for them in the past? Ask them for an example to help you understand more fully. Try to explain that you are not trying to take over or always have your own way. It’s more about each of you honoring the other with things that are more important to each of you.

If this is challenging for you both, you can try to make easier changes. Practice allowing each other to pick something that is their choice, and switch next time. Not right/wrong or good/bad. Just different.


Final Words

Change can be a challenge for anyone. The unknown can be very uncomfortable for a lot of people. But if your partner is open to trying, you can each make some small changes to see what can improve.
Remember, it’s not about control. It’s about growing together, compromising along the way, and valuing the relationship you are building.

If you find you and your partner are struggling, I recommend seeking the guidance of a psychotherapist to help you move forward together. If you truly love one another, it’s so worth the work!

About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Dating, Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on and on

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