How Can You Delight in the Differences in Your Relationships?
Coming to terms with the fact that people are different from you can be a challenge. It might be your partner; it might be anyone. It’s fine when you agree, but when you don’t, how can anybody be so stupid? Obviously your way is right: you know the correct route, can stack the dishwasher properly, know how to fix the homeless problem, and know the best way to handle a tantrum in a supermarket. You’re right and everybody else is…less right.
But everyone acts in the world as they choose, and maybe there is more than one approach to doing something, and maybe you never saw it before, and maybe they just like doing it that way.
It might seem that some differences are irreconcilable. That is seldom the case; there are ways to find common ground. Most issues arise from how these differences are handled. By looking closely at your own response rather than just reacting, you can evaluate how real and important these differences are to you. Do they touch on your core values, or are they a matter of habit or preference? Is there another way to satisfy the same thing without emphasizing the difference, and instead finding a place that works for both of you? Are you truly listening to the other and hearing what they express? And if so, is it a real difference or just a different way of expressing the same thing by another individual? If it is really different, can you incorporate it or change it and still stay true to your values?
To answer these questions, you have to know yourself and be willing to reflect on your words and actions. The way differences are perceived holds the key to peaceful interactions and it resides in coming from love not fear. If you see differences as a criticism or a threat, you will respond defensively to protect yourself, and there lies the kernel of discord. But that is not the case. Differences exist because we are all unique and we express the same values differently according to our own unique personality and experience.The more you have a relationship of trust open to diversity, the more expanded your world will be Click To Tweet
An important way to treat differences is to see their benefits.
They bring diversity and broaden the possibilities available to you. They add to what you have, rather than taking away. They bring other ways to do things, see things, think about things. When you can relax and appreciate and enjoy those differences, you are expanding your view of what is possible and how to be in the world, and you can see that the two of you are more effective together than either one of you alone.
Another aspect of differences is the pleasure that they offer. They can be a great enrichment to your life. As someone we interviewed said, “It would be so boring if all I had in my relationship was another me. I already have me!”
There is a real potential for differences to help you in areas where you could grow. They don’t have to be antagonizing; instead, you can see them as inspirational, and greet them as opportunities rather than threats. You see how you are by looking within, but you see how you could be by looking at other people. They might be your partner, a friend, a famous person, or a fictional character, and you might be inspired by their bravery, empathy, or generosity. They can give you new ideas about how to grow and handle the challenges of life.
Let’s turn this around and look at what it is like for the other person.
When they are seen as a different and separate individual, it is very liberating. It gives them the opportunity for true freedom of expression. As they come to recognize the existence of that freedom, they will appreciate what a wonderful opportunity this provides for them to be themselves, not someone else’s expectations of them. There is a peace that comes when one does not feel attacked or threatened; when there is no sense of being pushed or manipulated.
This recognition of each other as individuals allows relationships to include both separateness and intimacy. Although the coexistence of these two seems paradoxical, it isn’t.
As you learn to celebrate differences and realize they are not a threat, your ability to interact peacefully will increase.
The more you have a relationship of trust where you are celebrating and open to diversity, the more expanded your world will be. You don’t need to be the same, you don’t need to act the same. Open your heart and create the kind of trust and lack of fear that lets you see the colors of the rainbow, the power of uniqueness. This can be applied to all relationships, including the greater groups of community and humanity. Differences can be a great enrichment to our lives.
Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Variety in nature
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