How To Navigate Differing Beliefs and Opinions When Dating

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Part of the excitement of dating is getting to know people from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, and we can often be surprised by how much we have in common with other people and how such conversations can broaden our own perspectives on the world. However, no two people have the exact same life experiences, so no two people have the exact same opinions and beliefs, which can potentially lead to some level of disagreement on certain topics . Navigating conflict is a natural and important part of being in a relationship.

Emotions can run high when discussing sensitive topics, and this can cause some to worry that differences in opinion may be an impediment to building a strong relationship. However, not every disagreement is a deal breaker, and learning how to navigate these situations with empathy and understanding can result in a more enjoyable and enriching dating experience.

“Handling conflicts in a healthy manner is one of the most important relationship skills you can develop,” says Barbie Adler, Founder and President of Selective Search, a premier luxury matchmaking firm that uses executive search techniques to help singles find love  and has achieved an 87% success rate. “The way you handle disagreements while dating can tell you a lot about your long-term compatibility. Approaching these issues with respect and compassion can help you grow as a person and as a partner.”

Following are three principles to remember when navigating differences while dating:

Be honest and open

Especially when you are just starting to date someone, it’s common to avoid discussing potentially controversial subjects. There’s a good reason for this–first dates should not be interrogations, but fun, exploratory outings. However, if you start to become more serious about the relationship, certain topics are almost inevitably going to come up (as they should!). In order to deepen your relationship, it’s critical to understand how they think and why they think the way they do. When sensitive topics do come up, it is important to be transparent. Downplaying your beliefs to avoid conflict can set the stage for bigger conflicts down the road. 

How you handle these conversations can be just as important–maybe even more important–than what is actually said during them. If both partners are able to listen respectfully, ask questions in good faith, and avoid dominating the conversation, this is a good sign that both parties can work out their differences. The ability to handle these more abstract disagreements with patience and understanding can translate to more constructive problem-solving skills within the relationship.

“The ability to respectfully disagree is not innate, but a skill you can actively practice,” says Adler. “Taking time to breathe and think about a person’s statement before immediately responding can reduce emotional tension and stop you from talking past one another. Also, avoiding broad generalizations and accusations helps keep the discussion productive and collaborative rather than combative.”


It can be uncomfortable to listen to others voice opinions that we may strongly disagree with, especially if that person is someone we are fond of. However, giving them the space to express themselves honestly and feel like they are being heard can be transformative for both of you.

“In a highly polarized world, it can be easy to overestimate exactly how much you actually disagree on.” says Adler. “While you might not see eye to eye on particular issues, it’s still possible to share the same underlying core values. You might both agree that freedom is important, for example, but disagree about which political party best reflects this commitment. This is not an unbridgeable gap in values, but a starting point for getting to know one another better and learning to embrace each other’s differing points of view.”

It’s also important to remember that opinions about politics and culture do not come to us out of the blue, but rather from our life experiences. Getting to know what experiences informed your date’s opinions and learning more about what their beliefs mean to them can help you gain a more empathetic understanding of where they are coming from. This helps you focus less on what they think and more on why they think that way.

Find common ground

Many in the media believe that their businesses will thrive by sowing discord. In a world where millions of opinions and news sources are instantly accessible on social media, we often find ourselves disagreeing with others about events that have little bearing on our day-to-day lives. This can be a good litmus test for how serious the divide truly is: if you disagree about a particular presidential candidate but agree on what you want out of a partner, there’s a good chance that the relationship will still be workable.

“Engaging with people you may not see eye-to-eye with is a way to broaden your horizons and learn more about yourself and the world around you,” says Adler. “A world in which everyone agrees would be a boring one: our differences are what make us unique, and engaging with a diverse array of people enriches our experience of life. On the other side of the potential discomfort lies a deeply rewarding opportunity to grow as a person and as a partner.”

With that said, it’s important to know your boundaries. If a person’s beliefs make you feel disrespected or are incompatible with your moral values, you should not settle or compromise. When differing beliefs have tangible effects on your ability to respect one another as equals and work towards common life goals, moving on from that person is an act of self-respect. For a long-term relationship to truly last, neither partner should have to compromise on their core values and deal breakers. Finding the right balance of honoring one’s own beliefs while still respecting someone else’s views takes time, patience and a fair amount of active listening, but through such conversations, relationships can deepen and love can bloom despite differing points of view.