As a species we humans crave intimacy; we are social creatures, believing we are worthy of another humans love. But if you’re dating, married, or divorced, you know that it can be really challenging keeping a steady relationship full of this intimacy. Especially if you and your lover share a fundamental difference of opinion on key topics like money, religion or core values. In the first few years of a relationship, it’s easy to overlook what appears to be minor differences. But as the newness of the relationship wears off, these minor details begin to appear as major issues full of unwanted stress. How does a relationship overcome these fundamental differences and find common ground that respects each individual?

Why do some relationship grow while others may part?

We all face this challenge at different points in our lives. Relationships take work, and no one is perfect! Many struggle because of the simple fact that rarely are we taught how to maintain and nourish relationships, nor do we know how to effectively communicate and problem solve. There are no classes in high school that prepare us to deal with these topics when they “pop” up in relationships.

Lacking the knowledge for proper execution, many shy away from discussing these differences. Overlooking or ignoring only projects the frustrations in other areas when you usually find commonality. It is important to discuss these items before the next steps are taken in a relationship; i.e., marriage, moving in, or having a baby. Begin to scratch the surface, but be prepared to dig deep. It needs to be an exploratory conversation, one that is focused on how each individual’s environment contributed to their manners and views on the particular issue.

Commit to having an honest conversation, that’s coming from a place of love and respect. Consider having the conversation at a neutral location like a casual lunch or stroll through your local botanical garden.

Tips for finding common ground

Here are a few important tips to keep in consideration:

  • Be honest about your views. Lying will only end up hurting you both.
  • Respect one another’s views, place your judgments aside and be open to listening.
  • It’s not about “opposites attract”’ it’s about successfully managing those differences.

Recognize your partner’s strengths and determine how they compliment your strengths. According to clinical psychologist Michael Broder, Ph.D., author of Can Your Relationship Be Saved? “Successful couples know how to use their opposite traits to their mutual advantage. If each partner can honor the other for what he or she does best, then between the two of them, they can do a lot more together.”

Don’t ever try to change your partner’s views on a subject, instead approach it as an opportunity to learn and teach one another. With that being said, make sure you are clear on what you are willing to accept.