Many of us dream of a relationship that includes spending time together, pursuing mutual hobbies or activities, and creating new memories. We crave laughing together, working together, and talking together – while feeling heard and supported.

In my last blog post, I gave four simple suggestions to break old “roommate” habits and create new “partnership” ones – habits that make us feel more connected and fulfilled. Today, I want to share a story with you about how my partner and I practiced healthy and sustainable habits during a recent race.

This was a race that was really important to my wife. I, on the other hand, was less interested in it, having already run my own “big event” earlier this year. During that time, my wife supported me unconditionally, and I wanted to do the same for her own event.

We started off by communicating about race day. Initially, my wife said she didn’t care if I was present or not, but then on further reflection, she changed her mind and said she didn’t want to go alone. I then asked her if she minded if I ran, and she said she was fine with me running, but she had already planned a certain pace.

During the race, she was often ahead of me, but towards the end, she had slowed to a walk and I caught up with her. She communicated with me that she was fine with me running past her, but I opted to stay to talk to her and encourage her to finish the last laps.

In the past, this would have made us really mad at each. But we were able to be different from each other and not get upset too. We were able to practice differentiation, which is when you act like yourself even when there is tension or disagreement. It helps us not to “catch” the emotions of your partner when they get upset.

Let’s dig deeper. How does this apply?

  • First, my partner changed her mind. This is brilliant. She is allowed to change her mind. Differentiation is ongoing and changing. I was able to go with the flow without being frustrated.
  • Second, I asked her if she minded if I ran. This was us practicing communication about our own individual needs without taking the other personally. Learning more about her desires.
  • Third, she wanted to work towards her own individual goal of a certain pace. I think couples should be able to say what they need and sometimes, it’s going to be different than being with their partner. Think of wanting to spend time alone or do something different. This can be hard, but it is healthy.
  • Finally, I opted to stay with her at the end, rather than run ahead. This was not because I felt pressured to, but rather, because I wanted to live up to my own ideal of supporting her during this challenging experience.

At the end of this experience, I was able to be the supportive spouse I wanted to be. More so, my wife and I were able to practice differentiation for us both to have a valuable experience – together.

In my next post, we’ll explore this further as we talk about how this applies in common home situations/disagreements.