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“How do I deal with the differences between me and my partner?

I ( male, 22) am casually dating a woman (female, 21) and we have a good amount of fundamental differences. Should I continue dating her or should I move on? (EX. Religion, kinks, finances, what is cheating, social media use, political views)”

For the sake of anonymity and ease of reference, I am going to refer to the question submitter as David. 

So, David, it looks like you got yourself into quite the conundrum. 

It is obvious to me that you like this person, but you think that either views on something are going to cause a rift in this relationship. In this case, I have a quick three-step method to help you through your struggles brother. Ladies, you listen up too because at the end of the day there is a young woman at stake in this situation as well. 

STEP ONE: Learn your hard and soft boundaries.

This is going to mean taking a hard look at yourself and what you want. In doing this, you must first have had a decent amount of exposure to differing kinds of people. From this you will need to be able to identify your hard boundaries, boundaries you are firm on and will never change and your soft boundaries that can change situationally or based on other people.  

Coming from a certain area can mean you are not exposed to differing demographics and it can either be very interesting to you or it could be something that stirs up fear or confusion because you don’t understand. Exposing yourself to different kinds of people will really help you gauge what type of people you get along with best. This is one of the whole points of casually dating someone.

Think about your values and what is important to you. What are your political views? Religious views?

What do you think is cheating in a relationship? How important is sex for you? What are things you don’t want to do during sex? What is your love language? 

Then, you must figure out these things you want to stand firm on, hard boundaries, and the things you are willing to have differences in, soft boundaries. For me personally, a hard boundary would be political views, most of my views that I ascribe to have to do with basic human rights so arguing me on whether women should get abortions is pointless. A soft boundary for me would be what is classified as cheating. I think there are many kinds of communications some people are okay with and others are not when in a relationship with someone and there is room for communication and modification.

Once you know and identify your boundaries you would like to establish, we must move to step 2. 

STEP TWO: Communicate these boundaries.

This part is going to be a bit tricky for some people. You have to have the backbone to stand up and ask the other person these questions as well to ensure see what their hard and soft boundaries are. This is going to take the other person being just as willing as you are and if that effort is not being shown to you just in this conversation I can already tell you to move on. 

On the other hand, if they would like to be an active participant, you can take this time to “compare and contrast” your hard and soft dating/relationship boundaries. 

Turning this into a kind of list or Venn diagram might work (I love a visual aide). But overall just go through your feelings on your personal values with a partner. This can even include what values you think are most important to pass to your children or if children are even a question here. 

STEP THREE: Decide if the differences can be put aside.

Once you have communicated your boundaries and they have communicated theirs you have to be willing to be realistic about what is something you can work with and what kind of thing you can not. But making sure to continue dating and getting to know this person and knowing if you have compatible values all comes down to both of you being willing to be honest and both of you being open and willing to accept differences. 

This next step is something you will again have to dig deep into yourself in order to make this decisions. You have to also be honest with what you want out of a person you want to be with, what kind of person you want them to be, what kind of values rule your personal life. Once you figure this all out you should find the answer to your question.

Differences in relationships can be navigated if all people involved are willing to do so. Being open and honest with your partner and yourself and ultimately, knowing if someone just isn’t for you is the key to your question here. David, I wish you good luck with your conundrum. 

Well Wishes, 

The Guide

Bri Summs

Bowie State '23

Bri is a senior Communications major who loves anime. Writing is one of her major pleasures in life. She likes to be known as the love, sex and relationships guru for Her Campus at BSU.