Understanding Perspective in Relationships
When I’m counseling a couple, often times they both have the same exact experience but have completely different perspectives of what actually happened. Usually one of the partners is trying to impose their perspective on the other, which is what’s creating the conflict. The truth is, our individual perspectives are subject to bias and infinite interpretations. No two perspectives are alike. There are no absolutes. Reality can be so complex that equally valid observations from different perspectives can appear to be contradictory. Everything we see is a perspective, not necessarily the truth. Frederick Nietzsche the great philosopher once said, ” there are no facts, only interpretations.”
We don’t see things the way they are; we see things the way we are. A fact has to be verifiable. An opinion or judgment is not verifiable. The problem is we live our opinions as if they are facts. If you are in a relationship, it is important that you see your partner’s point of view and accept its validity even when you don’t agree with it. Validation conveys to your partner that you know that their subjective experience is as valid as your own.
With any communication between two people, there are always two points of view. There is no “objective view.” Any report of an experience is an “interpretation” which is the “truth” for each person. It enables you to allow two different worlds to coexist safely. Nothing is black-and-white.
We often don’t realize that we are in relationship with another person who sees the world differently and has different opinions, perspectives and values. We often want to change them so that they can see the “right perspective” which is “my perspective.” We do that with criticism, shaming and blaming.
Trying to find ” the truth” in relationships is a dead-end. Our state as human beings is to struggle with a plurality of values, opinions, judgments, and competing perspectives or truths. In relationships we are often trying to reconcile what may well be irreconcilable. That often means giving up “being right.” As my mentor Harville Hendrix likes to say “you can be right or you can be in relationship.” and another mentor Terry Real likes to say “objective reality has no place in personal relationships.” In relationships, if you’re trying to win an argument, even if you win, you lose.
So take heed from the quote from the famous 13th century Persian poet Rumi who says:
“Out beyond rightness or wrongness. I will meet you there.”