Building Strong Relationships In Spite of Our Differences

Posted by in dating in midlife, love after 40 | 2 comments

building strong relationships

My podcast guest, James L. Creighton, shares practical tips for building strong relationships in spite of seeing the world through different realities.

My podcast guest, James L. Creighton, PhD, is the author of Loving through Our Differences and several other books. He has worked with couples and conducted communications training for nearly 50 years around the world.

Check out the show notes below for Episode 346: Building Strong Relationships in Spite of Our Differences.

The subtitle of your book is, “Building Strong Relationships from Separate Realities.” What do you mean by separate realities?

Couples fight. My wife and I fight a lot. Many fights are due to perceiving a situation differently. We’ll go to a movie and I think it’s fun, but she’s bored to tears. I say it was a great movie, and she says, “If you think that’s great, you’re an adolescent!” We both bring our experiences to the situation and have a different feeling about it. In conflict, we often stall out at that point. We want others to have our reality. [This is particularly true with hot topics like how to] spend money, goals in life, sexuality, and on and on.

Why do we lock into our realities so tightly?

We think it’s reality. Something external is the cause of that feeling. It’s a combination of external reality and the meaning we bring to it.

You encourage couples to use their differences as teachers. Do you have any practical advice for how we can begin to do that?

One of the key things is to honor the other person’s opinion. There’s a big difference between your feelings vs. your judgments. It’s important to get back down to feelings. Both people have to acknowledge that they have different realities and they can co-exist.

Example: George and Mary are buying a car. George comes from an immigrant family and wants to show that they’ve ‘arrived’. Mary grew up in a family where they didn’t brag or show they’re above others. He wants a Mercedes to show the world he’s arrived. She is mortified because she feels it will be showing she’s above others. They need to understand the feelings to be able to work it through.

Accept that people can experience the same event in different ways.

Tips for talking about feelings: Don’t say, “you’re a this or that” as those are judgments. Do a lot of listening. Listen to the emotional load behind the situation. Couples may discover things about themselves as they re-examine their beliefs.

Say, “We have a problem”, not “You are the problem”.

Tell us about the ‘Five-Minute Rule’ and how we can implement it in our relationships.

When you’re arguing, you can say ‘Five-Minute Rule’, and that lets you say anything you want without interruption for five minutes. Then the other person gets five minutes. If they need another five minutes, they can repeat it.

The Five-Minute Rule helps reduce most of the heat of an argument. Then you can get to problem solving.

If I communicate my feelings, I get smarter about my feelings. Instead of blame and accusation, I start out sharing feelings and check inside with what’s going on. I am often surprised at what’s going on inside. I have more self-awareness as to why I feel what I feel.

What are some ‘rules’ you discuss in the book for resolving conflict?

Arguments start with blaming, then name-calling and judgment. Here are some ‘rules’ that can help resolve conflict before it escalates:

Rule: Notice when you’re escalating and back yourself down. Look at the rules you set together to decide how you’re going to handle it.

Rule: Don’t expand the issue. Try to back down to the original issue.

Rule: Don’t use other people as ammunition (your mother told me, 20 neighbors agree with me…).

What’s one last word of advice you can share to help our audience go on their last first date?

When you resist what the other person is saying, don’t fight it. It will escalate. Take it in and hold it there. People’s feelings change much faster that way.

You can learn more about Jim and find his book at:
Email Jim:

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  1. Very useful information in this podcast. I am going to purchase Mr. Creighton’s book.
    Thank you!

  2. Glad you enjoyed the podcast. His book is wonderful. Enjoy!

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