We all have those friends or family members with whom we just don’t see eye to eye. Whether it is over politics, religion, or lifestyle choices, it is not easy to find those who disagree with us today.
But is it possible to maintain a healthy, loving relationship with them?
Both studies and my own personal experience give us a resounding “yes!” as an answer.
One of my dearest friends has fundamental views about human life that differ greatly from my own, leading to a different worldview and lifestyle.
I thought this would mean, at the beginning of our relationship, that our friendship was doomed and we would be forced to be acquaintances who would have to avoid each other at dinner parties.
I was wrong, and that friendship has grown to become one of the most healthy, vibrant relationships in my life.
Here’s how we make it work.
1. Love the other person for everything they are.
People are far more than the sum of their beliefs and the product of their lifestyles.
Even if you disagree with what they believe, there are undoubtedly character qualities in them that you can admire, point out, and even imitate.
Tell them how much you admire these traits in them, and remind them often in word and deed how much you love their entire person. Get to know their lovable quirks and their annoying habits, and love them for it all.
2. Be honest about what you believe.
Even if you know that your opinions differ from theirs, be honest about where you stand.
Explain your reasoning and how it changes the way you live, without being defensive. Honestly consider their questions, take time to think about them, and let them know when you’re ready to talk about them again.
It can be tempting to nod in assent when a good friend says something confidently, but if you express agreement with them in the moment and then later profess something different, trust can be lost in the relationship and you may appear uncertain of your opinions.
Honesty throughout the entire relationship is key.
3. Be open-minded about what they believe.
My beliefs and opinions have changed slightly because of what my dear friend has expressed, and I am a better person for it.
Even when opposing views seem repulsive or incomprehensible to you, take time to better understand them. Ask for books to read or podcasts to listen to that can help you understand where they are coming from, then honestly respond to them with your questions and concerns.
If someone really believes something in their heart, there is likely at least an element of truth in it that you can believe to. Try to humble yourself and honestly consider their views.
4. Find common ground.
There are undoubtedly things that you both believe to be true and right, so find those things and focus on them if the relationship starts to get rocky.
Read a book together and send each other your favorite quotes. Gush about podcasts you both like. Watch a movie you both like and enjoy the love of friends agreeing on something.
Not everything about the relationship needs to be serious and debate-worthy.
5. Remember that you’re both on a journey.
Discovering what we believe and what opinions we hold is a lifelong journey. No matter how old you both are, your beliefs will change as you gather new people in your life and have new experiences, and so will theirs.
Maybe in a few years, you will end up at the same place in terms of beliefs, and you will be so glad you maintained a healthy relationship through the years of disagreement.
People are worth investing in. Maintaining a relationship with someone you disagree with can be difficult, but it is almost always worth it if the person is someone you love and connect with.
Maintaining a relationship like this takes great emotional maturity from both sides, but you’ll know that it is worth every ounce of effort once you can look them in the eye and tell them how much you love them despite any disagreements.
Relationships like these, I think, make us better people. There is nothing more freeing than knowing you don’t only have to love those who think like you do. Love goes much deeper than that, after all.