Why You Should Celebrate the Differences in Your Relationship

jeanFeelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible – Virginia Satir

In these strange days, where prejudices of all kinds are showing their ugly underbelly in the political and legal world we live in, it is time to re-examine one of the basic principles of the process for successful relationships that we teach. This is the understanding that differences are a thing to celebrate in a relationship, and that they enlarge our world and do not threaten it. Learning to expand and grow from the diversity around us is just as important to each of us as individuals as it is to our basic relationships.

When we refer to celebrating the differences between ourselves and our partner, we are speaking in very specific terms. We are not referring to divergent core values. We firmly believe that a process of examining ourselves and knowing what is of true meaning to us is critically important for having a conflict-free relationship.

Once you know what these are for yourself, you must learn to assess whether your meanings and values fit with your prospective partners. This is accomplished over time by speaking your heart and listening to your partner doing the same, and then by observing that these words match the actions that you observe.

When this has occurred and the fertile ground for a conflict free relationship has been laid, then a new approach to differences of opinion and behavior must be developed. It is here that a peaceful way of appreciating difference becomes your task. You are called to learn not only not to be threatened by difference, but to find a path to being so open to it that you can actually learn and expand from such an exchange.

Differences are to be celebrated in a relationship #relationships #quote #love Click To TweetHaving shared interests is wonderful, whether they are golf, Spinoza or depression glass; they give the feeling of being in the same club, of being understood. On the other hand, when your interests differ, that’s not a problem at all. You may be intrigued and want to know more, and end up learning something new, or even developing a shared interest. And if not, it’s an opportunity for some time apart, something we all need to maintain a solid sense of self.

It’s very often with small things that the ands, ifs and buts arise. It’s sometimes a shock, an affront to your way of doing things, to see the way someone else stacks the dishes, makes the bed or cuts vegetables. This is a rich area of discord for many couples. It is a strong temptation for many people to correct their partner, but that is rarely a good idea. Maybe they like doing it that way, or they don’t care to be efficient, or maybe it actually is a better way to do it.

Strength lies in differences, not in similarities. – Stephen Covey

Our response to this is very simple. There is no struggle necessary in this part of the process. There is no need to compromise by giving something up to get something else. Instead, what is required is an act of total acceptance. Whatever the point of friction is, the discomfort it engenders is not a cue to change your partner, but a cue to examine yourself and the reason it is unsettling. It’s far better to treat this other way of living as a source of fascination at how other people do things and how they see the world.

You cannot seek to replicate yourself in your partner with any good results. Why would you want that anyway? As long as differences like these do not count as core values, things that offend your deepest sensibilities, then any discomfort you feel is a form of insecurity, that the world has to be a certain way. Think of it as your own mild OCD. Instead, flip the script. As Jacqueline, one of the people we interviewed for our book “How Two: Have a Successful Relationship” said, “It would be so boring if we coincided on everything – God no, I celebrate the difference.”

The more you get to know yourself, the less you will try to make those around you agree with you and do everything as you would do it. It is much richer to experience your partner, who shares your meanings and values but expresses them in a totally different manner, as the unique individual they are. Embrace the paradox that you are two completely separate individuals, and at the same time you experience the unity of oneness together.

See differences as a wonderful diversity, a richness in your life that would not otherwise be there, and rejoice, applaud, celebrate. Difference and diversity are truly what makes life full, rich and surprising. When we incorporate this sense of wonder into our relationships, every day becomes cause for celebration.

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