Picture this couple of two people madly in love for many years but seemingly incompatible. Can they still create a peaceful house together, or are they to give up on an impossible dream of a life together?
I will show you that in most cases, they can work it out, if only they would have the right information, analysis, advice, coaching, therapy, patience.
If there is no violence, don’t split up unless you tried therapy.
The relationship is there for the partners, not the other way around.
What is truly good for one is good for both of them in the longer run. What is truly bad for one is bad for both of them in the longer run.
Many differences may not be compatible but are inconsequential. So, s/he doesn’t like it when I slam the door or pick my nose. S/he’ll get used to it, or I’ll discipline myself to shut doors gently or clean my nose privately.
My mother taught me that you can ruin any relationship by wanting a perfect combination. Do you love opera and your partner hates it? Then, have a steady friend to join you at the opera.
Some ‘difficulties’ just need the notion that your partner is not you and that you can have tolerance for differences. You can simply agree to disagree and leave it at that. Do you have different tastes in music or friends? That makes the couple more diverse and resourceful. It also can help the partners to become more balanced and less extreme. This is also nice if you raise kids or students: that they have options to choose from.
Typically, problems between partners are emotional, not sexual. But, when they are about intimacy, they are important and need to be addressed.
Some important differences seem impossible to live with. But, see below for frequent surprisingly easy of laborious solution options.
Some couples like to fight. Then they feel the least lonely, the most connected. They may also like the reconciliation process (make-up sex). But they might need to learn to argue without either or both getting hurt.
Let us admit that some differences cannot be worked out. A few examples.
A woman, tough as a nail, wants a husband who is that too, or she can’t respect him. But her lover is in an emotional whirlwind or roller-coaster. He faithfully visits Emotions Anonymous support groups for years. He’s not getting any calmer. This is not going to work. She will not open up to therapy and will become abusive, and he will first get more emotional for a long time and never be satisfied with a wife who is secretive and cold.
He wants a sit-at-home wife, and she wants to make a carrier above anything else.
One wants to live in Belgium, and the other in the US.
One partner is (a little bit) abusive, and the other feels (a bit) unsafe.
As long as there is no mutual love (willingness to give) or at least deep respect, in my experience, the relationship has no chance to last.
Empathy can be learned.
If your partner has a wish that you find hard to consider, ask her what her underlying need or belief is. Once you know, it’s easier to accommodate.
When someone is inconsiderate, they are battling old hurt and want help. You may need to set a limit, but someone should ask them how they are.
Incompatibility Could be Superficial
One can talk to see what’s behind their wishes. Motives maybe could be satisfied in other ways. If someone doesn’t want to live in the US because s/he’s afraid of the street violence, then, therapy and self-defense could lower the fear and they could look for peaceful communities to live in.
He certainly wants kids, she desperately doesn’t. Why doesn’t she? * Is she afraid of the pregnancy? Take therapy. Use surrogacy, adoption, or foster care. * Did she have a dysfunctional mother and feel incompetent, or does she not want to hurt her career? She could take up therapy and begin to work with kids. He can take care of the parenting. In the latter case, sign a prenuptial that in case of divorce, the kids go to him. * Doesn’t he provide enough money to raise kids? Let them see if they could earn more or live on less. * Does she hate kids, and he loves them? He could be a teacher.
So, when you know the underlying reason, you can begin to seek solutions. Not by compromising, but by taking care of the needs that each has.
One can’t change someone else.
You also cannot expect your partner to shape up if you hold that you are perfect. Inspire your partner by taking the lead in self-improvement.
Each is responsible for their own well-being and emotional growth. It’s is also possible that each takes responsibility for the well-being of the other. What doesn’t work is when one partner gets all responsibility for the well-being of both partners.
Change slowly so that your partner has time to adjust to the new you.
Wanting to change the other typically comes across as “s/he doesn’t like me.” We all need to be loved exactly as we are, with our lesser qualities still in place. When we feel loved, we may have an easier time freeing ourselves from old trauma. But, when our partner doesn’t love us, we feel stuck. So, you want your partner ‘to change,’ love them more as they are.
High but relaxed expectations combined with patience work.
Ending criticism works wonders.
People can’t change. They only become more themselves. See below.
Only for good qualities, it is good to say: “This is who I am.” But to say this to justify our vices is not good. See below.
Solving Incompatibility Through Free Will
Free Will is the ability to improve oneself. It’s not an ability to randomly change. It is the art of bringing out more of your deepest, best self.
It helps when you understand what is a virtue and what a vice is. You can’t expect yourself or your partner to become less good or holy. But, you may expect either or both of you to increase your goodness or holiness. Ask a wise outsider what direction to go. Or try therapy with a wise person.
For example, one partner is a dedicated sexist, always saying negative things about women and assuming they must just serve, obey, and comfort the men. The partner can request he stops this abuse and gets closer to their own holy soul. The bigot cannot expect the other to ignore this evil. But the other can learn not to take it personally (It is not against you, it has nothing to do with you, it is a flaw in the other), have patience and trust in their love and the ability of the other to change this, and set clear boundaries (“You can’t talk or behave like that anymore”) with a resolute smile. Learn to say no as if you hand someone the moon.
One takes no responsibility for the state of the house. The other should not suffer in silence and be the only one to keep up the living space. Instead, the latter should educate the former. Playing the (secret) victim doesn’t work. Train them to pay attention and act responsibly. If you both love each other, trust that s/he will shape up and become good at this.
No Easy Way Out
Don’t quit too quickly (unless there is violence). Don’t be surprised to find yourself having the same trouble in the next relationship.
You could chauvinistically say that all (wo)men are like that but have you ever looked in the mirror and considered that you’re part of the problem? And even if you’re right, why did you settle for a ‘typical (wo)man’ (again)? Take therapy, and wait till you find an exception to your rule.
Disclaimer: This overview was written in a couple of hours without prior notes. Don’t expect it to cover every relationship or replace every therapy.