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Why is it Important not to Focus on Relationship Differences?

Jewelry with two hearts joinedPHIL: We continually ask ourselves how we live so peacefully. We know that we do; the challenge is to turn that knowledge into reasons and words.

One of the most fundamental aspects is the sense that we are each completely separate and unique individuals, and we have no desire to do anything to alter this. Much to our delight, we keep finding this echoed in poetic writings. One of our favorite authors is Roger Housden, who writes commentary on poems. In Twenty Poems to Bless Your Marriage, he writes “We must, I think he [D. H. Lawrence] is saying, go deep into our own solitude to find the essence of who we are; down into our deep old heart, and lose sight of the usual references that make up our habitual identity – including our relationship itself.”

Kahlil Gibran writes “But let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

Rilke writes “Love … is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world for himself for another’s sake.”

We have this sense of each of us being completely on our own course in life. We each know that, and know that the other person knows that, and it gives us a wonderful sense of freedom, and also so much joy at seeing the other being so untrammeled.

It also allows the opposite to occur. Because of this total acceptance, as we like to call it, there is no limit to the closeness, the sharing that arises. There is no risk in being open, and in this way, we each feel seen, recognized, acknowledged, loved for who we are. No mask necessary, even in these Covid times.

Along with this is how it changes our perception of differences. We’ve written before about how the differences between us are not a challenge but an asset that adds variety and a different understanding to our lives. Yet because of the way we recognize each other as sovereign, there is an incomparable quality that makes differences invisible in the presence of the other. The differences are there, but are irrelevant to the experience of another being.

MAUDE: In discussing the foundational aspects of a peaceful conflict-free relationship we have often spoken of how differences are something to be celebrated and of how they bring new ways of viewing shared core values.

While we still believe this to be true, in recent discussions we have started looking at our practices and realized that there is another way to talk about this, one that perhaps better describes what we recommend and what we do. It is important to know that you share the values upon which you build your life, but the need for matching and comparing ends there.

We don’t really compare our differences and our similarities, our actions, thoughts and desires. We just don’t experience each other through that kind of relating.

Each of us is a unique and essentially different person. We have established a relationship of trust which enables us to be open, undefended and sharing with each other. This is based on the fact that each of us is respected and accepted in our separate personhood. We each want the best for each other and want to support each other’s growth and fulfillment. That does not include changing, rearranging or directing each other.

As we relate to each other, we are learning about who the other person is, what they want and how they feel. We are listening and hearing each other. We are often blown away by the ways the other expresses our mutual meanings and values. We each have a strong desire to learn more and more about each other and to see the other reach fulfillment and joy.

What we do not do is see the other in terms of ourselves or as an extension of ourselves. If one of us does or says something, it is heard and related to as an expression of that person. We are not comparing or looking at sameness or difference.

This is the essential underpinning of the kind of peaceful relating we espouse. This way of being together allows you to go forward secure in the knowledge that you will not be assailed or pressured to be other than you are. From this kind of supportive platform you can blossom into who you have the potential to be while being loved for who you are.

Photo credit: Phil Mayes

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Happy Valentine's Day!

Let us tell you the story of the two hearts pictured above. This was originally a brooch that Phil's father gave his mother of two hearts entwined, but when Phil's sisters were little, they called it the owl brooch because it looked like two big eyes.

This was Phil's engagement gift to Maude. She loves it and wears it often because it can be seen as two hearts both separate and together, just like us! 

Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfThis week, we discussed why you shouldn't focus on relationship differences. Here are some articles that examine different aspects of this topic.

How To Resolve Conflict And Save Your Relationship "A conflict becomes harmful when you’re focused on defending yourself from attack rather than on solving the problem. By focusing on your pain and suffering, you are ensuring you’ll experience more of the same, because where focus goes, energy flows, or as Tony [Robbins] says, 'Whatever we consistently focus on is exactly what we will experience in our lives.'"

How to Navigate Differences in Your Relationship "But how do you know if a difference is more than something to seek counsel about, but is indeed a deal breaker? Because, the fact is, some are. Deal breakers are those differences that you anticipate will have a consistently divisive impact on your relationship. The two most important words in that sentence being “consistently divisive.” It’s impossible to grow together as a couple if your relationship lacks a foundation of unity."

Relationship Tips: How to Handle Differences for a Successful Relationship "In a Wall Street Journal article, columnist Elizabeth Bernstein writes about the challenge of marriage between an ardent planner and a partner who prefers to be spontaneous. Perhaps you’ve known people in a marriage like that—or maybe you’re one of them! In my work with couples, I have heard many a planner call their spouse passive-aggressive or the spontaneous one refer to their spouse as a control freak."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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