It was a year after meeting that we noticed we hadn’t had any arguments, and 10 years on from that, it’s still true.
Let us clarify our terms here. We have disagreements – things where we have different points of view – but they never, ever, turn into arguments. We define arguing as a way of communicating that makes each partner feel separate from the other; it creates estrangement, a feeling of being on different sides, and manifests as shouting, anger, tears, ultimatums or withdrawal.
When we first noticed that we hadn’t had any arguments, we were very curious, and started looking at why. Some of the important reasons are that we:
- share core values
- don’t enjoy conflict
- are prepared to listen
- are open to change
- appreciate differences
If there is a basic belief or desire that a couple does not share it will always be a source of dissatisfaction in the relationship. It might be money, monogamy, politics, faith, children, etc.
Some people, at some level, seek out arguments. Maybe they like the adrenaline rush, maybe it echoes family behavior. We don’t enjoy it, so we don’t do it. To have a relationship free of this kind of energy, both partners have to want it.
Conversations with Other Couples — James and Rita
Q: How do you deal with disagreements?
RITA: I think we don’t fight because neither one of us wants drama. I’ve had so much drama in my life. I just wanted peace and I did that consciously. I don’t want fighting; I don’t want upsets and all that, so we started using humor and it works really effectively for us.
How Two: Have a Successful Relationship
To understand your partner’s position, you have to listen to what they’re saying and look for the emotions behind their words. This creates empathy for their position, and also allows them to feel heard.
Openness to Change
This should be obvious, because without it, no resolution would be possible, but people can get very attached to their positions. Think politics! But the empathy created through listening is the solvent that can dissolve those hard-held opinions. Is it possible that you don’t have the best and only position on the issue? Look at what your real needs are; when you share core values with your partner, these needs are not going to be trampled on. By continuing to explore your positions and feelings, the understanding of your needs changes, and different possibilities arise. Finally you will find a position that works for both of you – and it doesn’t require any compromise!
Appreciation of Differences
When you can avoid seeing differences as threatening, they instead become a source of variety. Your partner has different ways of doing, thinking and being that enrich your life, bringing new perspectives that you would not see on your own.
This is a radical way of thinking about relationships that contradicts the normal wisdom about struggle, healthy conflict and hard work. It requires self-awareness. A relationship lived in this way has a completely different quality. and provides an unparalleled experience of peace. The freedom it offers is unexpected and unmistakable. We speak from experience, and our goal is to support others in having this experience as well.