Partners are different. This is the basis for many of the struggles partners face while working to create healthy, long-lasting love relationships. Just underneath our conscious awareness, we are much more similar than we are different. Yet resolving our personality differences so they do not interfere with loving connections can seem impossible. Opening to love makes us all more similar.
When we first meet the one with whom we form a romantic involvement, differences form the basis of attraction. Paradoxically, much later it is these same differences which are transformed into the source of friction, annoyance and frustration. As time passes our differences become accentuated while our similarities grow invisible.
Couples who exemplify the truth that opposites attract face an intense challenge to resolve their polarizing differences, which strangely, were not apparent during the early days of courtship. Mysteriously our deeper consciousness knows about these differences and deliberately chooses a partner who possesses specific qualitative differences, ones which match our childhood developmental template. To our conscious mind, when another fits this template, we experience an attraction.
The challenge of our differences becomes all the more intractable, when our reaction to them solidifies into gridlock, which is when partners begin to view each other through a lens of pathology, which communicates that the partner is not different, but is bad, flawed, troubled and unreasonable. A frustrated partner will journey into judgment by diagnosing the other with hopes of understanding and subsequently resolving the difference-based problems, an opinion often bolstered by diagnostic agreement with friends and confidants. Not all problems are difference-based; each partner contributes to relationship problems in the degree to which he or she deviates from loving choices and actions.
For most people it is very difficult to change. So when a hopeful, but frustrated partner requests changes, the request is usually received with a cry of, "Why can't I just be me?" More often than not, the request is granted temporarily, or not at all. The practice of acceptance is highly loving, but life also relentlessly pushes us to grow by increasing our capacity to love. Growth forces us into discomfort, because to do so we must enter new, unfamiliar emotional territory. Each one of us must be the architect of our own growth, guided by being true to ourselves and not by our partner’s pressure. Not much will do more to improve your relationship than a self-generated willingness to demonstrate the strength of growth practiced by eliminating those behaviors and habits that most irritate your partner.
The success of a relationship pivots on how well differences are negotiated and resolved. The larger the difference between partners, the harder it is to resolve them. Unresolved differences are the source of fierce tension, fuel for conflicts and accumulating resentment; all of which are toxic to a passionate connection. A healthy relationship will never be built with anger. Our personal love will not transform our partner, but our love can transform ourselves, which is half the battle. Andrew Aaron, LICSW 508-997-6091 x106