During the infatuation stage most pairs create the “story” about their likeness, compatibility and matched views, needs and wants that help assure them they have blissfully found their “other half”. This stance that aids pairs feel more secure in making a lifelong commitment to each other often gets dispelled as they identify their differences and may even cause them to become uncertain about their mate selection. How can couples learn to value their differences as a source of strength and use them to deepen their love?
The notion of affiliation as a sign of commitment has been stated by religious, military, social, political and literary figures for centuries. Jesus of Nazareth is quoted as saying, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
In his 1942 essay “Pacifism and the War” George Orwell wrote, “If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’.” George W. Bush said in 2001, “Every nation, every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” In “The Crucible” Arthur Miller’s Deputy Governor said, “But you must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there is no road between.”
In “Reconcilable Differences”, Authors Andrew Christensen and Neil S. Jacobson offer their perspective about couple’s differences. They write, “If compassion is the best response to a loved one’s vulnerabilities, then tolerance is the optimal attitude toward incompatibilities.” They advocate, “Treat the problem as an “IT” rather than a “YOU”. Their approach is to deal with differences as we would with opinions with respect, acceptance and kindness.
Since being valued by a mate is a crucial supporting element in sustaining reciprocal love, it is important to always ascertain the partner’s right to his /her opinions, character traits, preferences, ideas, likes, dislikes or beliefs even when those are different than yours or are viewed differently by you now. Acceptance is an essential emotion that opens the door to discussion about a solution, honors both of you and strengthens your capacity to reach a satisfactory compromise.
With time, it becomes clearer to some pairs that the original perception of the mate as flawless has faded and the less than admired traits of the mate should be accepted with respect and kindness. Familiarity should not breed contempt but greater forgiveness and deeper appreciation.
Love your spouse as he/she is:
- Accept that although the original image of perfection assigned to your mate may have changed, he/she is still your beloved for life.
- Understanding that your mate’s less appealing traits do not alter his/her lovability will help you become a more sensitive and supportive partner.