I have some really good news when it comes to the state of your relationship: you and your SO don't have to agree on everything. Isn't that a huge relief? As long as you have the cornerstones of a healthy relationship — like honesty and openness — then you can pretty much relax when it comes to everything else. Don't like the same movies? Can't agree on a restaurant? Who cares!
"Differences are what keeps the relationship interesting," NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. ""Values should be similar and what you are looking for in a relationship — such as commitment, children, etc. — are important for a long lasting relationship. However, you shouldn't agree on everything."
If you agree 99.9 percent of the time, that's awesome and will likely make for a great relationship. But if you two can't get on the same page for a few things, it definitely doesn't mean things are unhealthy. "It is not realistic for a couple to agree on everything, and if I met a couple who said they did, I wouldn’t believe them," says licensed psychologist Dr. Jesse D. Matthews, PsyD. "When it comes to the foundational issues of life or relationships, agreement or holding similar values is essential; but when it comes to other things, talking about it and trying to find an understanding are what will help a couple to find or stay in a healthy place." Read on for some foundational things you should agree on, as well as the times it's OK to meet each other half way.
Things You Should Agree On...
1. How To Properly Communicate
Open communication is the key to a healthy and successful relationship, so you really need to both be on the same page when it comes to talking honestly, figuring out conclusions to arguments, etc. As Matthews tells me, if your partner lashes out in anger, shuts down, or keeps things inside, your partnership won't ever be healthy — or successful.
2. Your Basic Life Goals
Successful couples are always heading in the same direction — even if they get there in their own, unique ways. So, do you both want to focus on your careers? Buy a house? Get married? As Matthews says, "If you and your partner want very different things, it will be very hard for this to work, especially in the context of a lifetime."
3. What "Love" Means To You
Since "love" can mean a million different things, it's necessary that you and your SO figure out your own personal definition. "When a person hears the phrase 'I love you' they expect certain things," says therapist Monte Drenner, LMHC, MCAP. "Being on the same page of what love means to each other and the expectations that go with that is important for the health of the relationship."
4. How To Spend And Save Money
No two people are going to fully agree on how to spend and save money. But you'll definitely want to be with someone who comes close. "Couples with similar financial styles and goals will do better than those with big differences," Matthews says. "A saver and a spender, an impulse buyer and a thinker, or a minimalist and a materialistic person are unlikely to make it in the long run."
5. The Importance Of Honesty
As with communication, a successful relationship will be built on heaping piles of honesty. "Honesty is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship, so it's essential that both partner hold this value," Matthews says. "If not, then someone is likely to be hurt or disappointed, perhaps repeatedly. A healthy relationship cannot be built on a weak foundation, which includes lies, deceit, or important information being 'left out.'"
6. What Constitutes "Cheating"
Successful couples will be on the same page when it comes to the definition of cheating. So go ahead and figure that out, ASAP. "Have frank and open conversations about what constitutes infidelity," says relationship and wellness coach Shula Melamed, MA, MPH. Is it cool if they hang out with an ex, or if you go on vacation with someone of your sexual preference? Find out, because it's not cool (or healthy) to make each other upset.
7. How Much Sex You Both Want
Since sex can be such a major part of a relationship, you'll want to agree on how much of it to have. As life coach Nina Rubin tells me, you can start by asking yourselves how much sex and intimacy seems satisfying for the both of you. If your relationship is healthy, you'll be able to reach a compromise, and eventually agree.
Things You Don't Have To Agree On...
1. Whether Or Not To Get A Pet
While you should't surprise your SO, or bring an animal into a bad situation, it isn't necessary to agree 100 percent on whether or not to get a pet. "Some people love pets and need to have them, while others either do not, or do not want one at all," Matthews says. "If having a pet is important enough to one partner, he or she may be able to have one and take primary responsibility for it, or he or she can find a way to make it work for the other person."
2. Who You're Voting For
OK, so this can create some nasty fights, for sure. But do keep in mind that you don't have share the same politics in order to have a healthy relationship. "You want to have similar values but it's OK to have different beliefs," Hershenson says. As long as you stay respectful, it doesn't have to have a huge impact on your relationship.
3. What You Like To Eat
If you have some strong feelings when it comes to food, it can be tough to be with a partner who sees things differently. And yet, it's another thing that you should chalk up to personal preference, and then let it be. As Hershenson says, "If one partner is vegan and the other eats meat, or one partner loves health food while the other likes to indulge, these differences can be worked out."
4. Where To Go On Vacation
This disagreement can cause some pretty hefty fights between couples, so keep in mind that it's really not that big of a deal. "You can take turns deciding how you want to plan vacations by giving each other a chance to do the planning," says relationship expert Stef Safran. You choose what to do this summer, and they can choose next year. Easy as that.
5. How Much Alone Time You Need
If your needs for private time don't match up, it can create some problems at first. But eventually you'll realize everyone has a different way of recharging, and that's perfectly OK. "Some people are more introverted or place more value on solitude, while others don't have much need for it at all," Matthews says. "In a healthy relationship this can work, provided that this difference is understood and the partner desiring time alone can have it."
6. Music And Movie Taste
While it's great to be with someone who shares your taste in movies and music, it's definitely not a requirement for a successful relationship, Melamed tells me. "If you don't love the same kind of music [or] leisure activities, you can always enjoy theme with friends who do." No harm done.
7. How To Spend Free Time
In the same vein, it's not necessary to agree on how to spend free time. And hey, you probably shouldn't be spending all that downtime together, anyway. "We have to let our partners be themselves and cannot be judge-y," says board-certified behavioral therapist Paul DePompo, PsyD. "As long as nobody is getting into trouble, let them have at it." And go do your own thing.
While it'd be nice to agree on everything, it's not necessary for a successful relationship. Keep that in mind, and you'll feel well less guilty when you happen to disagree.
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