3 Easy Ways to Stop Focusing on Your Differences

3 Easy Ways to Stop Focusing on Your Differences

They say that opposites attract — but it doesn't always feel that way!

Kim and I are like apples and oranges.  Our personality…our communication style…our approach to parenting are all just about as opposite as you can get. 

When the pressure is on and we should be working as a team — our differences can trip us up.  Maybe you can relate.

But, we've learned a few secrets over the years that help us stay connected — despite all our differences.  As we work with more and more stepfamilies, we're also learning that every step-couple can stay connected — despite their differences — by shifting their focus.

Here's 3 simple ways you can shift your focus:

Emphasize What You Do Have in Common

You and your partner have something in common. 

Maybe you enjoy the same kind of food or you laugh at the same kind of humor.  Maybe you like the same outdoor activities or the same movies.  If you can't figure it out, think back to when you were dating.  What did you both genuinely like doing together?  Hint:  I'm not talking about the stuff you tolerated because you wanted your partner to like you! :-)

Think it through.  Come up with at least three ideas and write them down.  If your partner is willing, have them write down their ideas too.  Then compare your lists.

What are the things on your list(s) that seem to have disappeared?  They're missing in this season of your relationship. 

Figure out a way you can revive at least one of those things this week. 

When you start with small things that you enjoy together, you'll begin to reduce tension and shift your focus away from your differences and toward what you have in common.  This is a simple starting point.

Clarify Your Shared Values

Two of the most common differences couples wrestle with are their styles of communication and parenting.  They often get high-centered on their different approach, but completely miss that they both desire the same results.

Kim and I spent several years stuck there too.  We often wasted time and energy arguing about the little things, rather than looking at the big picture.  When we were able to start focusing on the Values we wanted to establish in our home, we discovered that we both wanted the same things.

Take a few minutes to consider your most important values.  These are the words or phrases that describe the "climate" you want in your home.  They're the things you want to see developing in the character of your kids and step-kids.

Here's a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Respect
  • Fun
  • Generosity
  • Responsibility
  • Openness

Ask your partner about their values too.  You may be surprised at how many you have in common. 

Clarifying your shared values will help you lead your family as a team rather than wrestling with each other to get your own way.  Your values will get your focus off your style differences and onto the results you really want for your family.

Move Toward Common Goals — Together!

What do you want to be different? 

Not what do you want to be different about your partner…but, what do you want to be different in your partnership or in your stepfamily? 

Here's an example:  I want to be able to talk together about important or difficult matters without us ending up in conflict.

If you both resonate with that example, then you've discovered a common goal.  Take note that this statement doesn't point fingers at either of you.  It's a simple, objective observation of something you would both like to experience at some point in the future.

Once you name your goal, you can focus on the skills you both need to learn in order to get there. 

Kim and I have had very different "styles" from the beginning — and guess what…we still do!  The difference has been how we have intentionally learned new skills that allow our style differences to work together.

Notice that this is about learning skills — together.  If you're just looking for your partner to make changes, you're going to be disappointed.  You both have changes to make no matter the challenge you're facing.

When you name your common goals and find ways to build the skills you need, your focus will shift away from your differences and onto the positive difference you want to make in your home. 

You can intentionally build your skills through reading a helpful book together.  Maybe you can attend a class or seminar together.  Or you might consider coaching or counseling together.  What really matters is that you're approaching your skill building as a team and moving toward your common goal.

What's Next?

Shift your focus away from your differences by discovering the things you DO have in common, clarifying your shared values and moving toward your common goals together.  Start this week!

Then check out next week's article where we'll shift our focus even farther away from our differences by discovering what makes a good step-couple team!

QUESTION:  Which of these 3 strategies have helped you shift your focus away from your differences and onto common ground?  Leave a comment below…

What if your differences are actually a good thing?

What if your differences are actually a good thing?

How to Implement a Simple 'Code of Conduct' in Your Home (Part 2)

How to Implement a Simple 'Code of Conduct' in Your Home (Part 2)