Class Differences and Your Relationship 

We Americans don’t often talk about class.  We prefer to think of ourselves as middle class or just simply free agents, choosing whatever we want to be and do.  Nevertheless, class is important in terms of all the choices we make or are made for us. As for relationships, class differences can create conflicts that seem personal and yet can grow to create terrible situations.

Sometimes these class differences are obvious.  They may show up in the kind of house we can afford to live in and how we decorate it.  We may want to be rural, urban, or suburban.  But does that mean we want subdued furnishings, subdued colors, or subdued clothes?  Does it mean we want flash or bling or loud in any of those areas?  What combinations do we want and in what areas?

At other times, these differences are subtle.  Do we walk around the house in our underwear or with no clothes on?  Do we close the door when we go to the bathroom?  Do we sometimes eat out of the pot in which we cooked our food if we’re alone or just together?  Do we leave newspapers on the bed?  Do we leave the bed unmade or the dishes unwashed for an hour or a day?  Do we turn the toilet paper roll inwards or outwards?  Do we use the ‘right” speech? Do we dress appropriately for the other person, especially when we go “out”? Just so you know, all these examples are ones I’ve heard in my therapy practice over many years.

When one person does one of these things, the other person may see that person as crude, crass, lower class, offensive, and, push comes to shove, personally hateful.  The aggrieved person responds by attacking and/or withdrawal.  Then a downward spiral starts, with each person feeling more and more resentful.

Are these differences “terminal”?  Can they be overcome?  There’s no absolute answer.  One compounding feature is a person’s educational level and bundle of interests.  Are you and your partner on enough of the same page to have things and activities you like to do and talk about?  As you begin a relationship, discuss all of this.  If you’re in a relationship, talk about them as well.  Talk to your therapist and be open about your differences and see where you can compromise!  It can be done!


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