Being Conscious of the Differences in Ourselves and Others!

When we get into intimate relationships and find that “perfect soulmate,” we expect that our partner will be like-minded, have similar views, like to do the same things, have the same views on raising children, and the same ideas about spending money.

The reality is that we are each separate individuals, with different backgrounds, belief systems, and emotional patterns.

In an issue of “Modern Maturity” magazine, an article highlighting inter-racial, inter-generational, and inter-cultural relationships caught our attention. Since there’s a 16 year difference in our ages, this article really spoke to us.In this article, John Gottman, author of several relationship books, said, “We often expect our mate to understand and meet our expectations. If that doesn’t happen, we feel he/she must not love us enough, or is intentionally being hurtful.”

The point is that your mate is just coming from another point of view.

He goes on to say that because “inter” couples “often enter marriage with a more conscious awareness of the cultural, age or racial differences between them, they’re more likely to address these issues by talking openly about them.”

This openness from the beginning of the relationship helps to depersonalize the conflicts and eliminate the hurt feelings that often arise when differences surface.

People tend to believe that if they have the same spiritual beliefs, grow up in the same community, got to the same schools, have the same family background, or like bowling, golf or dancing, they will always think alike and the differences between them won’t be great. The fact is that you can grow up next door to someone, be the same age, go to the same schools but have dramatically different cultural, philosophical and personal viewpoints and belief systems.

The “inter” couples in the article said that when there are apparent differences in ideology, culture, race, age, religion, those differences stand out quickly,forcing you to deal with them up front. We’ve all heard people say “What happened to the person I married?”

The truth is that more likely than not the differences were there all the time and were just finally coming to the surface.

It seems like such a shock to you that you have these differences that you start doubting the wisdom of your choice to be in a relationship with this person who is so “unlike” you.

This concept is illustrated in Steven Covey’s story about the man and the optometrist. Imagine if you would sitting across from your optometrist.

Your are handed his/her eyeglasses and told to try those on. When you tell your doctor that you can’t see a thing, the optometrist says, “I don’t know why–they’ve worked well for me all these years. I can see perfectly fine with them!”

Isn’t that what happens when we don’t accept that our intimate mate might come from another frame of reference, separate from ours, on a particular topic?

You expect that someone else’s lenses will work for you and when they don’t, you are surprised and sometimes angry.
If you really want intimate, connected relationships, you have to understand and respect the “glasses” that your mate uses to see life, while honoring and sharing your own “pair of glasses.”

We’ve found that expecting that there will be differences, listening without interrupting, and then speaking freely without fear are key elements to working through the differences that arise between us.

The first step to healing anything in your life is through awareness, If you are feeling separation or distance from your mate or anyone in your life, try looking at the issue from the frame of reference through which the other sees life. Habit 5 of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits says, “Seek first to understand then be understood.”

When you do that, it’s very difficult to be angry with that other person and can be the beginning of a deeper connection.

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