There will always be both joys and challenges in being different from your partner. Unfortunately, after the initial romantic stage, couples often find the joys become forgotten amongst the challenges of difference.
Difference Games. Do you get into role-playing ‘games‘ about your differences?
Critical Parent vs Sulky/Rebellious Child.
Hyper-efficient/Controlling Parent vs Incompetent Child.
Guilty/defensive Child vs Angry Parent.
These deadly games often happen when we adopt critical parent and rebellious child roles.
|Why does s/he have to always fuss about tidiness?||I wonder why I get irritated when s/he clears up in the evenings.|
|Why on earth is s/he so strict with the children?||Why do I get triggered into fear when I know my partner is not hurting them?|
|S/he is so damn stupid to get angry.||What is it in me that is so alarmed at the slightest bit of anger?|
|S/he drags us through this constant round of socialising!||What is it that I need in relation to other people?|
Responsibility for Self. If you do find yourself blaming or angry with your partner in this way, it may be worth reflecting and asking: ‘What do I really want for myself over this issue?’ ‘Am I being open about what I need while in this relationship?’
We have to accept that our partners are essentially different from us. Their needs are different; different things annoy them; different things make them feel secure or sexy; they differ in their competences, socialise differently. When you stop judging how they are different and accept it, you can work out compromises and amicably settle how both of you get your needs met.
Only when you understand, at a deeper level, your partner’s motivation for how they behave, will you fully accept him or her. Step out of irritation and get curious about what it is s/he gets from doing things their way. Initiate a non-judgemental dialogue instead of sitting in blame. Replace conflict with validation and curiosity. “What was it like to feel uncomfortable at the party?” “How do you feel when the children run a bit wild?” “What was it like for you when you got angry yesterday?” Then listen with patience and empathy. When you talk only use “I Language“.
Enjoy your differences. You chose your partner partly because of them! Give appreciations about contributions that are different from yours, e.g. “I really appreciate your clear boundaries with the kids.” “Your thoughtfulness and patience are amazing!”
With thanks to Imago Therapy, J Derrida,
The Dance of Intimacy by H Lerner,
I and Thou by M. Buber,
The Art of Loving by E Fromm,
To Lead and Honourable Life by J Schlien,
Games People Play by E Berne
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