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In our last post, we shared that Eric and I have committed to going on the “Eight Dates” prescribed in Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by John Gottman, Julie Schwartz Gottman, Doug Abrams, and Rachel Carlton Abrams. We will then share our experience with you each week in the hopes that you’re inspired to do the same (or your version of it, of course!).


This week was our second date: Agree to Disagree — Addressing Conflict.


Full disclosure: I have never really liked that phrase, “agree to disagree.” It makes it sound as though you are doomed to remain stuck in your own ways — and that there’s no path forward. Like we’re just supposed to watch one another walk away dissatisfied, unable to really hold one another’s heart. 


So even though that is the name of the chapter in the book, Eight Dates, for the purposes of this piece, I’m going to call the topic, “How to Hold Each Other in Conflict.”


As we have discussed many times before in blogs about conflict, the “goal” of conflict isn’t about resolution or getting your own way or giving up so much that you don’t feel valued, honored, or accepted. Rather, it’s all about learning the other person’s perspective. It’s gaining a deeper understanding about what your beloved is experiencing in the conflict and why they feel that way. 


This chapter is all about understanding what lies beneath your perpetual issues (remember, 69% of all our conflicts will be perpetual!). Try not to see this as a glass-half-full opportunity. After all, as the authors note, “within these perpetual problems that you can’t ever seem to resolve lie the greatest opportunities for growth and intimacy.” 


To help you get started, the authors provide a list of 25 potential issues to discuss. You can discuss all of them or just choose one; you can even choose another point of conflict that isn’t listed — it’s up to you. In fact, that’s what Eric and I decided to do. 


If you’ve been reading my blogs the past few weeks, you’ll know a tectonic shift has recently taken place in our lives. My (Sabrina’s) mom passed away after living the better part of two decades with us. She was not the only person who shared our space throughout the years. To be honest, we’ve sort of lost count of the number of people that have called the Walters’ Home their home for four weeks or more. We figure the current count is somewhere north of 70 people! 


So this is a huge change for us, all this time and space with just ourselves. We are finally empty nesters. And what does that mean for us? I sort of want a new beginning — sell the house and start anew elsewhere. Eric really wants to just enjoy being together, the two of us. 


We have different dreams. And knowing that, we realized we needed to spend some time understanding our differences about this new season of our lives — and why we feel the way we do. 


We explored this issue with the authors’ recommended questions in mind:

  1. How are we the same and how are we different?
  2. How can we accommodate and accept the differences between us?
  3. Are there differences we cannot accept?


As we took turns sharing our perspectives, we noticed that we had several things in common — and a few things where we differed. We spent time making a list of the things we agree on and the things we disagree on concerning this big issue. And then we shared our core needs surrounding it. We also talked about what we’d be able to be flexible on. As Eric and I shared with one another, we drew closer together and eventually came up with a temporary compromise.


There was no grand resolution to our evening — or this point of conflict — but we made great progress, connected, and grew closer as a result. Which, remember, is the whole point of conflict. 


If our experience has inspired you to explore your own areas of conflict, we invite you to join us! Get the book and/or download the summary of each date here.