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This is a reflection on a process that my partner and I have recently been through. It was an extraordinarily intense and difficult time for us. It lasted about a month. During all this time we didn’t know whether our relationship would last – even though we thought we would always remain friends.

The result is a whole new dimension to our relationship. We both now know who we are, have the sense of being ourselves and in our own skins. We are disentangled and can be interdependent.

These eight steps are what we went through. I’m sure they will be related to other processes and ways of doing things but they are not copied from anyone else. These steps come directly from our experience and just chart the journey that we went through.

We haven’t seen, in the blogosphere, or in books much either, information about dealing with deep differences in an important relationship. We find that people usually settle for either ‘compromise’ (we can’t do what you want, and we can’t do what I want, so we’ll do what we both don’t want) or one side or the other. People support one side or the other on the basis of ‘morality’ or ‘practicality’. We were unhappy with either of these options (we are both resolute individuals and value highly respecting others’ differences). We are here to tell you that it is possible to get through what looks like an impossible impasse – and for a relationship to be better as a result. (We aren’t saying that this is always possible, but it was for us.)

Where we started.
We started from a place of great anger. It was simply inconceivable that the other person could actually believe what they did. That they couldn’t see that it was simply wrong.

The situation was that our buttons had been pushed and we were clear that the other person was wrong. This process is for when you feel overwhelmingly reactive. The first six steps are for working on ourselves. The last two for relating to the other person – if we are currently in a relationship that we then wish to maintain.

Step One. Stop focusing on the other person
This is not easy.
We found that it needed enough time feeling our anger and disgust with the other person. This took us days. We don’t think that this dissatisfaction with the other person can be skipped. We need to do enough of this before we can move on from it.

We needed to do enough of the lecturing the other person in our heads, going over how wrong they were, and all the reasons that we were right.

After enough of this it became possible to look, not at the other person but, at ourself.

It may be that talking to others may help with this process. Neither of us felt that we had people who would be able to listen without taking sides. Hopefully this is not the case for you, but if it is, then it is our experience that you can get through it together.

If you liked this post you might also like:
Doing Anger Well
Anger is Good


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8 Comments to “Eight Steps for Working with a Deep Difference in an Important Relationship #1”

  1. My favorite book on the subject is Difficult Conversations by Stone, Patton, Heen and Fisher. Their first step is to assume neither party has the whole picture, so have a “learning conversation”.

  2. Evan says:

    Thanks Jean. It sounds like a great first step – if you can calm down enough to do it!

  3. I enjoyed your writing style and I’ve added this blog to my RSS reader. Keep up the good work. Pitcher.

  4. Evan says:

    Hi Pitcher,

    Many thanks. I’m glad you enjoy my writing style – I do work at it (though I don’t claim to be a great writer).

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  5. Raymond Chua says:

    Hi Evan,

    I hope everything goes well for you now.

    And thank you for sharing your experience.

  6. Evan says:

    Thanks Raymond,

    Thinks are going pretty good for me at the moment.

    Hope you are having a good day.

  7. Existential psychology would add that taking personal responsibility (rather than blaming another person) is also the correlate of personal freedom. You can’t have one without the other!

    A good first step. I look forward to the next stops on your journey.

    G.

  8. Evan says:

    Thanks Grace.

    I like existential psychotherapy – mostly anyway, especially the emphasis on responsibility.

    I hope you like the next steps.

    Thanks for your comment.

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