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How to Greet the Differences in Your Relationships as Blessings

Phil and Maude being reflectivePHIL: We’ve written before about how to accept the differences between people, especially in a partnership, but a whole other aspect of differences is the pleasure and richness that they offer. As someone we interviewed said, “It would be so boring if all I had in my relationship was another me. I already have me!”

Maude has a caring and supportive character that I admire so much. She makes the effort to keep in touch with her friends, spending hours each week, each day even, talking with them on the phone. She listens patiently to their woes, and is always there when called on. She visits regularly and will drive people anywhere when asked. I have a much more cautious attitude toward people, and that much interaction would exhaust me, but the good that she puts out into the world is an inspiration for me.

She has strong family ties and is close with both her sons, who reciprocate the connection. She reads for hours each day to the grand-kids, accommodating to their schedules, and has been a major influence in their lives since they were born. My family connections are good but infrequent, and to see the dynamics of Maude’s family is like visiting a foreign country.

She is always, always, so optimistic, so upbeat, so joyous. I have known many people who also have a dark side, sometimes emerging viciously and unexpectedly, sometimes suffusing life over days. I cannot describe the security I get from Maude being consistently the same.

She is so relaxed about the events in life, though there are occasions when something happens and she gets bent out of shape but it doesn’t faze me. I’m sure the opposite is true too.

Maude and I have the same values in life, and because of that, we can and do trust each other in all that we engage in. As we have written, that alone is reason enough to accept the differences between us, but appreciating those differences adds whole new aspects. It is a pleasure to see the variety of ways that life can be lived and still be in accordance with our values, and we can each learn from those ways and expand our skills in the world.

MAUDE: I am feeling so blessed today marveling at the relationships I have where we share the same meanings and values while each of us is so unique. Our uniqueness leads us to find entirely different ways to express and activate those very core values.

Differences can be a great enrichment to our lives.

When you have deep relationships where love, trust and truth create a safe, nonthreatening and nonjudgmental environment, then both parties can feel free to show who they are in their full array of feelings, thoughts and intentions.

It can be so inspiring to see your very same values manifested in ways you would never think of and that add so much to your world. It is like when someone has cataract surgery and all of a sudden they can see full color without the filmy sepia that is present before the surgery.

We know our own way of living and spreading our values and meanings, and when others can fully share themselves and their way of living those same values freely, without any attempt on our part to alter or change them, we suddenly gain a rainbow of color that we cannot manifest on our own.

Phil and I are very aligned at the deepest level, and yet our manner of living these basic principles is often quite different. I have been so enriched through the years to see his humble dedication to following truth, to seeing his own weaknesses and strengths (less his strengths, but I’m here to point that out!) and his generosity of spirit. He is such an original thinker and is always striving to find ways to express truths that may open up a way for others to find their way to peace and unity. His generosity can be seen in the way he shares the bounty we both live with.

Some years ago, we rented a garage to a basically homeless man who sleeps in his van. He set up a work space as well as a place to store all his belongings and spends most days, parked in front of that garage. It has really changed his life and he is working, taking on small contracts for people as a handyman and has clearly created a new sense of identity and self-esteem. He gets mail here and is thereby enabled to function within society by voting, collecting his social security, etc. I would never have rented to this man on my own. I didn’t trust him and was worried about his effect on the others who live here. Phil was able to jump beyond these distrusts, seeing the possibility for this person and realizing that we could safely share what we have without harm to us and with great good for this person.

This opened up my eyes to realize some unnecessary fears I had and how they were stopping me from fully living my values. I would not have come to this on my own. It took a relationship of trust where the behavior of the other opened up a new way to see and be.

Differences can be a great enrichment to our lives.

I have experienced this and countless other things from not only Phil, but many of my close relationships. I have a friend who is dedicated to doing things in the community to help with whatever limited resources and time she has. She makes lunch bags for about 20 people each weekend and delivers to a place that distributes them. She has volunteered at thrift stores to help various causes and in general spends a portion of her time doing things within the community to help others. My approach is usually more one on one with the many people I am connected to, offering emotional support, a listening supportive ear and counsel when asked for. Seeing her active in the community has filled me with wonder and expanded my view of all we can do.

I have friends who dedicate themselves and their time in so many different ways to making the world we live in a better place: artists who paint and photograph the beauty around us to help us all remember to look around and open our eyes, people who run international group zooms to bring others together in a spiritually enlightening way, people who help others and change lives in ways that no one ever even hears about, and those who spread these stories to elevate us all.

The more we have relationships of trust where we are celebrating and open to the diversity, the more expanded our world will be. We don’t need to be the same, we don’t need to act the same. Let’s open our hearts and create the kind of trust and lack of fear that lets us see and experience the colors of the rainbow, the power of our uniqueness. Differences can be a great enrichment to our lives.

Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Phil and Maude in a reflective mood

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfThis week, we wrote about how to greet the differences in your relationships as blessings. Here are some authors writing about different aspects of this way of approaching people.

The Blessing of Differences in Relationships "Even with such depth of love in their relationship, Isaiah and John-Nuri have big differences. They have used these differences to fuel their relationship, to bring about more depth, and to find the common place of passion in their work together. People sometimes use their differences as an excuse for their lack of closeness. And yet these differences can be a great blessing, and almost force a couple to go to a deeper place where the differences do not exist."

Multicultural Relationship Advice: Embrace & Celebrate Your Differences! " If your core values and interests are aligned, if you have respect for one another, and if you demonstrate kindness and compassion toward one another every day, you can create a beautiful life together despite differences.  Think of virtually stitching together a colorful patchwork quilt that will represent your multicultural and multinational ideas, experiences and memories."

Celebrate Your Differences "By seeing your differences as strengths in the relationship and utilizing them to their full potentials, you create synergy within your marriage. When each of you acts with the other in mind by contributing in unique ways, you are improving the overall functioning of the marriage. This makes both of you happier and ensures an effective method for maintaining a successful relationship in the future."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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