A quick check on the definition of ‘stubborn’ and a look at its synonyms can leave you in no doubt of the negative associations of this particular personality trait.
Stubborn (adj): having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.
obstinate · mulish · headstrong · willful · strong-willed · self-willed · pig-headed · bull-headed · obdurate · awkward · difficult · contrary · perverse
But before we explore some methods to combat stubbornness and improve your relationship with your stubborn partner, let’s just take a moment to think about the positives of this character ‘flaw.’
The fact is, some of the most influential contributors to our society only scaled those dizzy heights because of their sheer strength of mind and will. Apple founder, Steve Jobs, was a classic example.
We have his dogged determination and persistence to thank for the development of the technology behind the device you might be using right now to read this article. Where would we be without it?
And there are countless other examples of highly successful and influential people throughout history whose achievements result largely from their single-minded pursuit of their goal.
In reality, there’s a fine line between stubbornness and persistence. Though it may be tough to deal with strong-willed individuals – since people skills aren’t their forte – perseverance and determination are essential for success.
What has this to do with your quest to improve your relationship with your stubborn partner?
Well, you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the qualities which make them difficult to deal with are the very same ones that may make your relationship work.
Their dogged determination means they don’t easily give up on something they value once they’re committed to it, making them stalwart, reliable partners.
These often difficult (some might say pig-headed) individuals may not be the easiest to share your life with.
However, once you stop seeing stubbornness as negative, stop locking horns with them, and learn how to use more effective tactics to counter their seemingly intractable position, you’ll be in the driver’s seat.
You may even find yourself thanking your stubborn partner for making you a better version of yourself!
What steps can you take to achieve this transformation?
Keep scrolling to find out…
1. Don’t allow yourself to get stressed – breathe!
Getting angry and showing your emotions in the face of your partner’s stubbornness isn’t going to help.
If you show that you’re upset or angry, they’ll get a sense of victory.
You need to take steps to keep yourself calm.
When you’re about to approach a topic which you know is likely to raise tensions, take time out to de-stress beforehand.
Taking about 10 deep breaths will help you feel more relaxed and ready to face the situation calmly.
During the conversation, if you feel the heat rising, slow down or even leave the room for a few minutes to compose yourself.
Your words will be way more measured and therefore effective if you’re calm and collected rather than foaming at the mouth and spouting fury.
2. Choose your moment carefully.
Timing is all when it comes to facing up to your stubborn other half.
If s/he’s stressed out with work or preoccupied with other matters, this clearly is not the time to raise a thorny issue.
Choose a time when there aren’t any outside distractions and you can both focus clearly.
Make sure you’ve eaten well and stress levels are low so you both have the mental and emotional space and the energy to share ideas and explore different perspectives.
3. Don’t forget to express your love.
It’s so easy to forget to be loving when you’re faced with a situation where your mate’s stubbornness is causing strife in your relationship.
Be sure to let your partner know that your love is unconditional and, no matter what the outcome, you’ll still love him or her.
With this reassurance, even the most stubborn partner is likely to be more willing to compromise in order to show their love for you in return.
4. Massage that ego.
Since stubborn people think their way is always the best way, they don’t take kindly to being told that there are different ways to approach things.
They may even see such a suggestion as a personal attack, even if that wasn’t your intention.
Starting with a bit of flattery and making them feel good about themselves is a great way to get them on side.
Showing appreciation for something they’ve achieved is ideal: “I know things have been pretty stressful recently. I’m in awe of the way you’ve just soldiered on in spite of everything.”
The egocentric approach of your stubborn partner means that they’re more concerned with their own position than anyone else’s – even yours.
Make sure you get across that your alternative suggestion to the one they’ve put forward is going to benefit them. This will spike their interest and they’ll likely be more open to your way of thinking.
If, with a bit of smoke and mirrors, you can use the twists and turns of your conversation to convince them that it was actually their brilliant idea in the first place, they’ll feel a whole lot better.
It’s not the easiest trick to pull off, but it’s a very effective one and the more you practice it, the better you’ll get at this sleight of hand.
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5. Don’t tell them they’re flat-out wrong.
Your stubborn partner will definitely not want to hear that they’re wrong (even if you think they are).
Saying something like “you’re coming at this from the wrong angle,” or, worse still, “I don’t understand how you get this so wrong” will be like waving a red cloak at a charging bull.
They’ll shut down completely and you’ll never get through.
Instead, be sure to make it clear that you really appreciate their point of view and value their opinions (back to the ego-massaging once again).
Tell them they have some great ideas which you’ve considered carefully. You feel that these could be the answer in a different situation, but perhaps not the one you’re facing right now.
Make sure you get that point across by explaining that the situation is complex and there are a lot of different perspectives to be considered.
6. Make sure they have all the facts.
One trait stubborn people tend to share is a fear of the unknown.
Their resistance to doing something may actually be down to it being something new, something that they’ve never done before, or because it upsets their usual routine.
It’s important, then, to make sure they have all the facts; this will help them to feel more confident about it.
Stressing the benefits to them will be an added incentive – remember that ego!
Once they have a clearer picture, they’ll see that whatever you’re proposing isn’t as daunting as they may have feared.
7. Stick to your guns from time to time.
Your stubborn partner is likely used to getting his/her own way because you have a tendency to cave in when faced with their strong views.
There are a number of reasons for your auto-response: you think they’ll sulk or get mad if they don’t ‘win,’ you believe that it’s not worth the effort as it’s clearly more important to them than to you, or you just don’t have enough energy to stand up against them.
You need to remind yourself that you are no doormat and are absolutely entitled to have it your way for a change.
Maybe it will be difficult, but you need to stand firm and turn the tables on your willful partner.
Remember: if you never say no, there’s no incentive for your partner to change his/her ways.
The next time you don’t get your way over something, even if it’s only which movie to watch, tell them you’ll go and see it with a friend instead, or just vote with your feet.
Sure, it’ll be a big surprise, but they’ll see you through new eyes, as someone they can’t easily manipulate.
Breaking the pattern of always being the one to concede will actually make your stubborn partner more respectful of your needs and wants.
They’ll likely pay more attention to your views in the future.
8. Help them to understand how much it means to you.
As we mentioned before, stubborn people can be staunch partners who don’t give up easily on a relationship.
If they truly care about you, then hearing why something means so much to you will help persuade them to let you have it your way.
They’ll understand that it’s not just about being right or wrong, but about fulfilling your needs and desires.
So be sure to tell them why going with your suggestion rather than theirs will make you happy.
9. A bit of give and take can work wonders.
You’ve probably worked this out for yourself already, but living in harmony with a stubborn person requires a level of acceptance that you may not have things your way entirely.
With a bit of compromise and negotiation, you may, however, be able to meet in the middle somewhere.
Progress can be slow, so you’ll need to be patient; it may take quite a few baby steps for your stubborn partner to concede some ground.
Your efforts, though, will gradually be repaid with a better balance between your partner’s wants and your own needs.
10. Be confident.
The key to handling stubborn folk is to be confident about your own ideas.
As soon as you wobble or waver, their respect for you will lessen and anything you have to say is likely to fall on deaf ears.
Conversely, even if you have to bluff a little, acting as if your idea is the best in the world, ever, will make them think you really know your stuff and are worth listening to.
Interacting with a stubborn person whose toes are firmly dug in on a particular point can be intimidating.
Keeping your head up, maintaining eye contact, and standing up tall will all help to boost your own confidence and make your ideas sound more convincing.
And don’t forget to breathe, as we mentioned before!
There’s no harm in rehearsing a little beforehand if that helps you to feel more confident about delivering your ideas when the right moment arises.
11. Don’t tell them they’re stubborn!
This is absolutely the last thing they’ll want to hear because they are, let’s face it, stubborn.
It’ll make them defensive and they’ll dig their heels in further still. They’ll clam up and be even more resistant to change.
It may be the hardest thing to resist asking “Why are you so stubborn?”, but give in to the temptation at your peril.
12. Pick your arguments carefully.
There’s no denying that it can be exhausting trying to fight your corner against a partner who can be inflexible and strong-willed.
Picking your battles, though, is key to handling them.
With the right approach and bearing in mind the points above, you’ll be able to convince them to make some positive changes.
The reality is that, if you’re dealing with a truly stubborn individual, your ‘wins’ may be relatively rare.
If this is the case, it’s really worth taking the time to consider whether a particular issue is worth locking horns over.
Perhaps choosing where you eat on your next date night may not really a big deal to you, but whether you spend Thanksgiving with your family rather than his/hers may be crucial.
Save your energy for the important stuff.