Charlene, age 38, had two children from a previous marriage. They were 16 and 18 and would soon be in college. When she met Pete, she felt that she had raised her family and was now looking forward to a home without kids.
After a few dates, Pete told Charlene that he had never had kids and felt that he had missed out on a big part of life as a result. He pointed out that she still had a few child bearing years left and inquired about whether she was willing to start over again.
This was a big issue for Charlene. She wasn’t sure she was ready for the commitment to diapers, PTA meetings, little league games, and teen age antics all over again.
She knew that this was a big issue for Pete too. Because her own kids had given her life shape and meaning, she couldn’t say that he shouldn’t have them. She also knew that if she didn’t agree to have kids, Pete might leave her for a younger woman who would.
But the issue of children is not the only kind of family issue that arises.
Blake and Rebecca met on a Single’s cruise and had a wonderful 7 days together. When they got back on land, Rebecca discovered that Blake’s mom, who was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis lived with him. She realized that if the relationship were to progress, she would have to take on some of the caretaking responsibilities for his mom. She also realized that they would never live alone as a couple.
When you marry someone, you marry their family as well. Sometimes, that means you roll your eyes at the drunk uncle at Thanksgiving dinner. But other times, it means taking on the serious issues that go along with caring for the other people in your life.
Determining your attitude toward children and toward an extended family is one of the core compatibility issues couples face.
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You don’t have to be 100 percent compatible on every issue to have a healthy, happy relationship. In fact, I would be surprised if any couple does.
What is important is that you can agree on enough of the “big” issues that the small ones work themselves out.
Here are five ways to handle compatibility roadblocks.
1. Acknowledge that the roadblock exists. Don’t gloss over your differences or pretend they don’t matter at the beginning of the relationship. Deal with them early on.
2. Learn about your partner’s life experiences including their ethnic and cultural background, religion, political ideals, and generational differences. This can help you get rid of misconceptions based on thse differences from the beginning.
3. Don’t think that every disagreement is a compatibility issue. Just because you want to have Valentine’s dinner at an Italian restaurant and your partner wants to go for French does not mean that you are fundamentally incompatible.
4. You can agree to disagree by agreeing that mutual respect overcomes a great deal of incompatibility. Resist the urge to try to “convert” your partner to your political or religious views.
5. Seek common ground. Try focusing on the issues you can agree on. Work from your strengths and strengthen those things you have in common.
Love is what you make of it. If you have a future with someone, you will undoubtedly find that you don’t have everything in common. That’s okay. In fact, that’s human. Working on the areas where you have compatibility issues will strengthen your relationship.
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