If you read last week's blogs on finding common ground in relationships, this week is for the alternative: embracing each other's differences. When Brian came up with these two topics, I was impressed and excited to highlight the things that make us work. It is not only a couple's commonalities that make them strong, but also finding the strength in each other's differences.
It was apparent from the beginning of our relationship how different we are. It did not deter me from pursuing a relationship because I love how differences can make people grow individually and together. Socially, I am much more introverted, while Brian is more outgoing and extroverted. I crave time alone or with just the two of us, preferably at home on the couch with a good movie. Brian's idea of a good time is going out to dinner with friends followed by some live music surrounded by a lot of people.
I can function better in our relationship because I know this about myself and about him. He never expects me to change and be "more like him" and I do not expect that from him either. We both respect each other's needs for quiet time and going out. I push myself out of my comfort zone and usually have a great time when I do. He understands if I can't stay out as long as he may want to because I find it draining. We make it work in this way, not because we are the same, but because we truly respect the other's way of being.
In relationships, as with life, balance is a necessary component. Balancing your wants and needs with those of your spouse and finding the communication needed to make this happen. I know that I need time to decompress in a completely mindless way when I come home from a long day of work by watching really bad reality TV. This completely differs with how Brian chooses to decompress. It actually baffles him that any intelligent, sound-minded person would want to watch something that, in his opinion, is so terrible. Brian would prefer to go out for a drink or listen to music and play cards at home.
We have worked hard to find the balance in this. The main way is by appreciating that we are different people and remembering that we love each other in spite of and because of these differences. We understand now that it is best if we take into consideration each other's preferences when we can and to communicate when it is not possible. For instance, when I need to communicate there is no way I can play cards when all my mind wants to do is watch trash TV.
Appreciating your partner's traits that you do not identify with does not have to mean you enjoy them. It may just mean that you accept that person for who they are, differences and all. The most important thing about relationships is to allow the person to be who they are with no expectation of change. If you go into a relationship thinking "things would be perfect if they only changed ___" I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that you will be disappointed in the end.
A great way to embrace differences in a relationship is to keep in mind that the goal can simply be to learn about yourself by learning about someone else. Never aim to change your own identity or personality or your spouse's in order to create more similarities. Embrace the individuality of yourself and your spouse and remember that it was likely those differences that attracted you to them to begin with!