You and your partner are having a fight that you can’t resolve. You need to make a decision together and can’t agree; maybe about money, or about how to raise the kids, or how to organize your day to day lives. Or you have an ethical or political or religious disagreement. Or something else; whatever it is, it goes deep and neither of you feels you can compromise.
So, you go to a therapist, either individually or as a couple. Either way, the therapist tells you several things:
- First, you need to stop trying to determine who is “right”. In other words, you need to stop fighting at the level of abstract impersonal norms.
- Second, you need to examine your own desires and fears, what you want out of the situation, what feelings and thoughts are motivating you to take the practical stance that you are taking.
- Third, you need to open yourself to understanding the corresponding motivations of your partner, and to accept these without trying to change these things about the partner.
- Fourth, you need to give up trying to change the other person. This involves accepting that there will always be aspects of the other person that you cannot identify with, that are irreducibly different from you. Instead, you focus instead on changing the relationship between you.
- Fifth, you need to negotiate with each other on this basis to try to find a solution that works for both of you. This could mean “ending” the relationship (i.e. turning it from an intimate relationship into something comparatively more distant), or it could mean modifying the dynamic between you in a way that preserves your intimacy. But even in the latter case, the relationship as you knew it will, in a narrow sense, be over; there will be change.
This simple, unremarkable process, which countless people go through without needing to consider its epistemological implications, exemplifies relativism in practice.