Waiting at my doctor’s office, I picked up the May 2010 issue of Reader’s Digest because Michael J. Fox was on the cover. Between Michael’s intellect and sense of humor, I can always count on not only enjoying his interviews, but I always come away from them enriched. The Reader’s Digest interview proved satisfying, as expected.
Of course, everything in Reader’s Digest is short and digestible. So out of just a few, brief paragraphs answering a question about the success of his marriage to actress Tracy Pollan, Michael gave me the following gem.
He said that the key to his marriage with Tracy “is the capacity to give each other a break. And to realize that it’s not how our similarities work together; it’s how our differences work together. You have to realize that someone can care for you and still not understand your every motive, emotion, need, and desire.”
Give Your Partner A Break
It’s a quality that can tear apart a relationship is unspoken expectations. Conversely, a quality that can build up a relationship is the ability to cut each other some slack as you come to appreciate how your differences work together.
I remember that as a young newlywed it sometimes seemed that the differences between my husband and me were evidence that 1) we might have made a mistake, 2) I might have made a mistake, 3) our differences were proof that our relationship wouldn’t make it, and 4) our differences were proof that there was something “wrong” with one or both of us. I suspect my husband experienced our differences in our early years as something that confirmed his sense of inadequacy. That is a heck of a lot to put on the differences between two lovers, but people do it all the time!
I think one of the expectations we come to new love with is that our beloved will always understand us, be able to anticipate our desires, meet our needs, and appreciate our motives. It’s fantastical thinking and in the very early days may actually seem true! When the chemistry is fresh, young lovers can magically read each other’s minds, confirming that moving forward with this stranger is a good idea. But the newness wears off as young lovers get to know each other and the chemistry unique to new love dissipates, taking the ability to read each other’s minds with it.
When Your Love Is Young
By the way, as I refer to “young lovers” in this article, I’m talking about the love between two people being young. I’m not referring to age. And the “chemistry” in the above paragraph isn’t a reference to science! It’s that succinct term we all use to refer to the magic of connection that happens between lovers.
If you think about it, chances are the couples you most admire are those who are made up of two people who are each comfortable in their own skin as well as comfortable in the “skin” of each other and the relationship. There is just something about couples who cut each other some slack that is comforting and sexy. I’m not talking about the kind of giving each other a break that will result in one of them being a doormat. I’m talking about two people who genuinely appreciate each other – even the differences between them.
When we appreciate our differences, we welcome the other’s person’s perspective as something that heightens our life experience. We know that our life is richer because of those differences.
For instance, in one couple you have a dominant personality and promoting personality wedded to each other. If they can appreciate and embrace their differences; then rather than driving each other crazy, the promoter brings a joie de vivre to the serious nature of the dominant one. And the dominant one helps keep the promoter honest.
Learn To Embrace Your Differences
Or if you have an analytical type wedded to a supportive type and they embrace their differences; then the supportive one helps the analytic relax and go with the flow while the analytic helps the supportive one consider multiple options when problem solving. These are broadly sweeping examples but the point is that our differences don’t have to be red flags that something is wrong. Instead, they can be spices that enrich the flavor of our relationships.
The next time the person you love most in the world makes you nuts with how they’re different from you, stop and consider how the difference enriches your life. If they’re different, they have something you lack. You chose them. Figure out how you benefit from this difference and try a little attitude adjustment. You just might find your attraction for him or her grows exponentially as a result, and with that the quality of your relationship as well!