Bring it to Barb

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Dear Barb,

Do disagreements with your spouse’s opinion have to be so personal? It is a pressure that if you don’t agree with them, they feel unloved. I am also trying to be right, but I can’t allow myself to disagree since it causes such friction. What is the best way to handle this continuous problem?

Signed,

Feeling Contempt

Dear Feeling Contempt,

People can be broken and not even know it! When a person feels deeply about something and feels strongly enough about it, it can become attached directly to who they are and, in a sense, personify themselves by it and it feels verypersonal. 

Acceptance is one of the most important things to each of us as humans. To a broken person, someone who is connected so directly to their opinions – this need for acceptance is to be carefully guarded. They believe that if you don’t accept their opinion, you don’t accept them. They think that what they believe is the truth and if you loved them, it would be your truth as well. 

Opinions will change all the time, depending on the year, the facts, or the circumstances. How loved you are is not defined by your opinions. Separating this is very difficult for some. It requires purposefully thinking about making that distinction and being ambiguous as to who agrees with you. 

Think of every disagreement or differing opinion you have had in the past with your spouse and ask yourself if he/she ever truly changed your opinion. It is okay to voice your opinion, but it is not okay to insist or force someone to accept your opinion as the truth. This includes any political, religious, ethical or really any perspective that you own and believe to be true. Just because you believe it doesn’t make it true to anyone but yourself. 

Contempt comes from someone who is threatened. The word “contempt” is very important – I talk about contempt in my book that was published in 2014 “Run Your Own Race, Happiness after 50.” 

Pride is having too high an opinion of oneself, thinking they possess influence or power. Contempt is the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, is worthless or deserving disrespect. This state of pride is attached to each of us, but when we are challenged, we naturally want to defend ourselves using an attitude of contempt. 

The best way to handle a disagreement, the next time you have one, is to not defend yourself. Don’t judge the other person’s opinion. Instead, simply agree to respectfully have a different view. Acknowledging and listening to the other person is what they need, yet remain mindful that it is just an opinion. Perhaps next week your spouse’s opinion could change radically. Can you imagine how you would be jumping on an emotional roller-coaster ride if you continuously changed your views to match up with theirs? We are not chameleons!

We all desire to be around and associate with those who are on the same page as we are, but a differing opinion should not change any level of acceptance or love. Present a quiet, softly spoken reminder that our differences are merely what makes us all interesting and diversified. Don’t challenge; just listen. 

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.

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