Your relationship cannot be as close as you’d like it to be if you’re not willing to shift your attitude about your differences, i.e. what causes the friction between you. In the beginning, you probably thought his differences were cute, adorable, enchanting even. As you became more familiar, some of those differences have probably begun to wear on you, maybe even make you a little bit crazy.
It’s important to remember that it’s our differences that make us interesting to each other. It’s essential that you remember you two are not the same, that you don’t want to be the same, and life would be less interesting if you were too much the same. The trouble is, most of the time it’s the differences that cause most of the problems in a relationship.
If he saves money and you like to spend it; if he’s messy and you’re tidy; if he likes to eat at 6:00 sharp and you eat when you’re hungry; if he’s too lenient with the kids and you’re strict; if he’s casual and you’re more formal; if he likes sex in the morning and you like it at night; if he likes sex more often than you do; you’re going to have trouble if you don’t know how to deal with your differences. Generally, it’s the differences that breed resentment and distance.
Would you like to know how to make those irritating differences be a vehicle for deeper intimacy? This is a very important topic to embrace if you want to truly guarantee a lifetime of love.
True intimacy is an ability to open up to each other and allow yourselves to be vulnerable. The only way a person can be vulnerable with another is if they know they’re not going to be attacked. They must know that what they have to share is going to be heard, honored, and accepted as what’s true for that person. If you and your husband have gotten into the habit of attacking each other because of your differences, then this is going to be a very difficult habit to change. But it ‘ essential if you are going to develop the kind of intimacy that lasts a lifetime.
Before discussing how to bridge this gap, let me inspire you to seriously consider staying open to the possibility that the following might be the best way to guarantee a lifetime of love. That’s because you’re going to turn the primary reasons for divorce into the most precious means to ever-deepening intimacy.
To make this concept work successfully for you, you must both be willing to have open-hearted, revealing conversations with each other. You have to be able to talk about your differences in a way that stays loving. To do that you must keep in the forefront of your thinking the realization that everything you’re going to be doing here is to insure an enduring relationship. You got married wanting forever, this is an important part of making that a reality. So let’s get started.
How To Make Your Differences Work For You
Make a date with each other, or select a time and place, where you will work on transforming your differences into deeper love, respect, and intimacy. Treat it like you would an appointment with a couple’s therapist.
To begin this process, make a list of all your differences. It’s most effective if you categorize them into differences you admire and enjoy, and differences that cause friction. Since the goal is to deepen intimacy, you’re going to learn that this new way of talking to each other works any time you want to understand each other more clearly. Once you get comfortable with this form of communicating, you’re going to want to make it an important part of how you interact.
I would advise you to begin to learn this new way of opening up to each other by working with one of the differences that you both admire and appreciate. You can decide whose list you take this first item from.
Have an open discussion about why you appreciate how you are each different in regard to this item. Discuss why you think it’s a benefit for the two of you. This is a nice beginning to set the tone for this discussion.
Now you can move into the meaty part of what this conversation can accomplish for you. Take turns talking about why you think you each are the way you are. How did you come to be this way. Look back on your childhood, how your parents were as models, how you maybe developed safety mechanisms to counter something that was going on in your childhood. Maybe you were married before and you created certain types of conditioning to get along with your partner.
I was married for 29 years to someone who was judgemental. But not in any way that was obvious, which turned out to be very damaging. The conditioning that was put into place was to fear making any kind of mistake. How that interferes in my relationship with my partner today is that I feel judged when he goes into what I call his Professor Mode. He has been a finance professor for over 20 years. His topic is pragmatic so he teaches in a pragmatic way. But for me, it seems critical. He was lovingly trying to help me learn, but my defenses went up. We talked about these differences between us and he admitted that I am not the first to point this out. So he said he would try to be more gentle and loving, that he would not assume things about what I was thinking, and that if he forgot, to stop him. The outcome of this conversation is that I don’t get defensive and he is more than willing to shift how he is talking to me so that I feel loved, which is his greatest desire.
Another, even stronger piece of my conditioning is that, as a little girl, I felt like I was a bother. I won’t go into why that belief was put into place, but it helped me to step right into believing my husband when he made me feel like I was a screw-up. He’s since apologized for putting me through all those years of his judgementalism, but the damage was done. Because I understand this about myself, I can work on it in every arena where it gets in the way of what I want, and my partner can help me let go of that old conditioning.
From this example, can you see how this kind of deep understanding of each other can create more intimacy? The more you know about each other, the more you understand why you are the way you are, the closer you will become. That’s because you’ll be sharing from your hearts.
After you feel like you’ve gotten to the core of why you’re different in regard to the particular item you’re working on, tell each other how you’re feeling toward each other with this new insight. I suspect you’ll be feeling more deeply connected. It’s very sweet.
When you’re working on the differences that create friction between you, this final step will help a lot. What you must do is create a plan for dealing with whatever feelings might come up the next time that particular difference shows up. Hopefully, your reaction will not be as strong, but if you have a plan already in place, you’ll both be able to make some significant shifts in how you react.
Just remember that the goal is not to be right, but to be loved. You cannot float in a river of love if you are mucking around in a hole of mud. Besides, being right at the cost of losing your connection is not going to help you sleep better at night. It’s certainly not going to hold you or make love to you.
From my heart to yours,
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