BY: T. Franklin Murphy | December 2018 (edited October 23, 2021)
The differences give partners the opportunity to express appreciation, building trust and security.
We don’t all respond the same—I may be attracted while you are repelled. Accepting and allowing differences improves relationships—and politics. Differences expose insecurities, threatening stability. Naturally, when two people agree on everything, there is little conflict. Exact matches are a fantasy. Successful relationships must skillfully work through differences.
The fear is unrealistic; unresolved conflicts can destroy a relationship. Two unhealthy approaches commonly used when faced with normal disparities are to abandon individuality through always sacrificing personal aspirations and needs or attacking any opposing any difference in opinion, action, or desire, utilizing tools of manipulating, berating and criticizing.
Exact matches are a fantasy. Successful relationships must skillfully work through differences.
Compassionate understanding is a better way. Compassionately allowing differences reduces the threat. When an intimate partner reacts differently, we can curiously remain open exploring the differences, creating deeper understanding, not only of our partner but of humanity. Unrealistic expectations of sameness destroy the trust and security of the partnership, always fearful that expressions of self will be met with a critical remark or angry attack.
This is the same process of mindfulness used to integrate our emotional experiences, accepting the differences without undue distress. People are naturally different in many ways. Healthy bonding doesn’t happen through elimination of differences but from integrating the differences into a healthy companionship. Oddly, contrasting to old ways of thinking, relationships thrive with acceptance rather than expectations of change. We accept differences and challenge our creativity to mesh those differences with our own oddities, creating a beautiful tapestry of two different but accepting people.
Books on Relationships
Relationships thrive with security. Security is the foundation of attachment theories. Security doesn’t come from avoidance of conflict and smoothness of emotion but from skilled resolutions. When confronted with differences, we are gifted a golden opportunity to create security, showing a partner the acceptance, we have in their individuality, creating an atmosphere for growth of confidence. A couple that discusses differences and finds workable solutions that navigate through sensitivities create strong bonds. The convey a constant message of acceptance that builds trust. The question evolves from, “why in the world did you do that?” to something more accepting, “you feel differently than I do, how can I better understand what you are feeling?”
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