John Cowan - Disagreement

Publish Date
Thursday, 28 June 2018, 3:36PM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan

Today I walked two dogs at the same time; my own dog and one I’m looking after. I felt like I was getting ripped in two. I had a leash in each hand – one would pull this way, one would pull the other.  One would stop, one would strain to go on. Huge differences of opinion on what needed to be sniffed at or chewed or peed on.  But it was okay; I was able to cope with it because I’ve done marriage guidance counselling. I’ve had couples in my office who were just like those dogs, pulling in opposite directions, and getting all tangled up.  I got those two dogs to the beach and home again and we had a great time, and even more importantly, some of those couples I worked with are still very happily together, too.

Harmony in a marriage is good but it doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything and the research says that disagreeing does not predict doom for your relationship – it’s what you do with that disagreement. My top tip for this is that some issues are for fixing and coming to an agreement on but there are a huge number of day to day issues where you mightn’t agree but you can just shrug and get on with being a couple, even though you still disagree. If you’re a Marmite man, how much counselling will it take before you like Vegemite?  You can disagree, but just don’t disagree disagreeably. Hold to your opinion, but be kind and respectful. Maybe you will concede on this issue, and maybe your partner will next time.

I know: there are some issues around abuse and addictions and  safety that can blow my argument clear out of the water – for your own safety and the safety of your kids you might have to dig in and hold the line, but for most things, being together means working through or working around differences of opinion. Homework time: if you are forceful person, let your more passive partner win on an issue this week. Say, “I see your point. Let’s go with what you suggest.” Inside you will be screaming because you know you are right – you are always right – but because you love this person, you are doing it. In a relationship, being kind beats being right any day.

About John

John has been with The Parenting Place ( for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.

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