How to Accept and Enjoy Differences

Couples often are strikingly bewildered by their partner’s inability to feel what they feel and act as they do. It does not easily compute that this person, with whom I have chosen to spend my time, thinks so differently and behaves so “unlike me.” And the “unlike me” is the operative word here.

The human species seeks safety in sameness, though often lured by “difference.” That very difference, in gender, cultural background, or personality style, has attractive and sometimes, alarming features. This becomes troublesome in a relationship when each partner sees this “difference” in personal terms.

If your partner prefers a different color sofa, or child discipline technique, and more importantly, doesn’t feel the same feelings of sadness or happiness as you at the same time, is this rejection or difference? Couples need the tools to communicate about those “differences” rather than letting them become distancing and hurtful wedges in their relationship.

There is only one way to do this. Each partner has to listen to the other talk about why they feel what they feel, do what they do, like what they like, and think as they think. There are historic reasons, family of origin reasons, temperament and fear, different psychological defenses utilized. Someone may withdraw when anxious. Someone may reach out. Someone may act tough when feeling vulnerable, confusing their partner with their attitude.

Trust can grow from deepening understanding that these differences are not “against the other” but rather are a part of the person. Bridges are built through this “conversation” that close the gap and new solutions can be drawn from this life long discussion of difference and knowing. Couples develop many of these “tools” in couples therapy and then have them at their disposal for a lifetime.

6 Responses to “How to Accept and Enjoy Differences”

  1. amy

    I would say it is difference not rejection
    couples need to learn to respect one another and their differences without compromising themselves.
    I like what has been written above re how to accept and enjoy differences.
    It is a mindset, an attitude only to the point where you are not completely compromising your self.
    thank you for this website – it is a great tool

    • jilledelmanlcsw

      Dear Amy,

      I like the distinction that you made here. Respecting the other, and their differences. And, as you stress, keeping your own integrity at the same time. A fine and important balance.

  2. marie-eve

    I love the lay-out. You write beautifully. And the subjects (difference, anger…) are all worthwile exploring.
    Keep on the good work.

    • jilledelmanlcsw

      Dear Marie-Eve,

      Now we can monitor each other in our blogosphere. Thank you for your kind words. Love to get feedback whenever you get a moment. I plan to do two posts a week. See you tomorrow.

  3. Ilene

    Jill, your insights are comforting and thought-provoking. I look forward to hearing your wisdom through your blog… and over drinks this Friday!


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