One of the deepest and, yes sacred, parts of any relationship is the total mutual respect for each other’s individuality. Your partner – and everyone else – is different from you. You may think that is too obvious to even be pointed out; you may think it’s bound to cause difficulties, but unless these differences are profound, they need not be a problem. When you understand that both of you are unique and that this is a gift to be savored and appreciated, you are on the road to creating a wonderful relationship.
MAUDE: I’ve been fortunate in that my parents held this kind of appreciation and support for the unique quality of each member of our family. So I think I entered the social world somewhat expecting this type of behavior from others, filled with the wonder of how others acted and deeply interested to find out who they were.
In my journey through three long term relationships (5 years, 26 years, 14 years) till my relationship with Phil (starting almost 16 years ago) I did not find partners with whom to share this type of togetherness. I did find numerous intimate friendships where this kind of acceptance and respect for the individual was possible, and I still treasure and partake of most of those.
I think part of the unfulfilled possibility was due to my lack of true knowledge about myself, little reflection on what my basic core values were, and mistaking sexual connection for the deep intimacy we are describing here.
Perhaps because Phil and I were both experienced, and both knew ourselves well by the time we met, we were able to move easily into the type of peaceful relationship that is based on respect for the others’ uniqueness. Neither of us is in the least bit interested in changing the other or wanting them to act and behave as we do ourselves. We marvel at the difference and at the same time the unity between us. I feel deep support for who I am and for what I feel I want and need to do. I feel safe that Phil is not trying to change me or correct me. He mostly only offers advice when it is asked for. If we come from two divergent points of view when making decisions and solving problems, then we communicate. We listen to each other. We look for and find mutual solutions for action.One of the deepest parts of any relationship is the mutual respect for each other’s individuality Click To Tweet
PHIL: It is a challenge to remember that other people are just as complex as I am. I know my interior world intimately; my unspoken thoughts and desires, my history, my wishes and plans for the future. None of this is visible when I look at someone else; all I see is their behavior, and it is easy to react only to that. When I’m out in public, I sometimes try to push past that surface view by looking at all the strangers and imagining what their world is like. Each of them has an entire world of which I know nothing. What are their joys and struggles? It might be divorce, illness, love, ice-skating, children. But mostly I am in my own world and just responding to the stereotypes they bring up for me.
With Maude, as with friends, it is different, of course. I want to understand, and I have at least some insight into how she behaves. But understanding is secondary. The differences are what they are. With Maude, it might be her parking style or the huge number of friends she keeps in contact with. These differences between us nearly always add variety to my life. Only on rare occasions do we have to hunt for a solution.
How do you react to differences; are they irritations or vast upsets in your life? We’ll be writing next week about how to look at them and the responses you can take.
Photo credit: Phil Mayes