The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. Thomas Merton
Difference represents danger, the unknown, risk. This butterfly looks like my usual food source except it’s got spots on it. This cheese looks normal except it smells strange.
Difference represents variety, novelty, diversification. This mold didn’t grow in the Petri dish as expected. (Penicillin!) What are those delicious spices?
In relationships, we lean towards people who think and act the way we do. Who would want to partner with a junkie or a bank robber? (Unless your names are Bonnie and Clyde.)
But it’s necessary to distinguish between important differences and unimportant differences. If you pick your partner for their superficial similarities, yet you disagree over deeper values – religion, family, finances, whatever it is for you – there is no stability there. It is like living in a haunted house — it may be peaceful for weeks at a time, but the demons will appear.
Whereas if you agree on basics, then those superficial differences are no threat at all; instead, they offer variety and novelty, not risk and danger. Differences between partners in a relationship are inevitable, but conflict is not. Once you have made sure that your core values match with your partner’s, by listening to their words and experiencing their actions, then you can truly relax into one of the most wonderful aspects of a relationship.
Your partner is one of the people you are going to be the most intimate with. You are going to get to see many things about them that won’t be shown to others. They will have the same knowledge of you. This can and will bring a great enrichment to your life if you learn to celebrate the differences between you.
Your partner is a complete and separate individual, and no matter how close you become, this will always be the case. They will have different ways of expressing themselves and the core values you share. This will add so much to your world experience if you allow it to. Viewpoints and behaviors that you would never have thought of will become part of your experience. A person you trust and appreciate will be showing their ways to say and do things that present no threat to you and your way. This does not mean that you should change or adopt their ways, only that you can appreciate more of the world as a result of seeing a new way through a different and trusted person.
Everyone wants to be appreciated and acknowledged. Make sure to let your partner know how much you enjoy the differences between you and how much you appreciate who they are. Humor is such a great cure for so many ills, and sometimes seeing another way of doing things helps us to laugh at ourselves and some of our ingrained behaviors. The differences within our mutuality are a wonderful way to stay awake and avoid falling asleep in life. Your partner, your intimate friend is one of the best sources for this kind of reminder. Stay in the present and everything can be new.
When the positive nature of this enrichment becomes obvious to you, you will naturally begin the process of celebrating these differences, these additions to your life and your experience. Imagine how very boring it would be if all you encountered were mirror images of yourself! You already know yourself. You wouldn’t want that over and over as the only choices and behavior, would you?
The more you understand this, the more you will be able to use those differences to expand your world. Open to them, welcome them, enjoy them, celebrate them.