The Magic Of Your Differences
The first blush of love is intoxicating. Every touch, every
kiss, every thought of each other is enough to quicken your
heart and thrill your spirit. You are perfect for one another.
Then things change. Differences show up. You feel annoyed. Irritated. The flare of anger is close at hand. Instead of that wondrous perfection you enjoyed what seems like just a few days ago, that sought after and treasured experience of two-who-have-become-as-one, you now feel suddenly separate, almost alone. You're not even sure he is someone you like anymore.
While it is shocking and painful, your relationship has entered the
next passage of its growth and development. We call it the clash of
differences. In order for your relationship to deepen, to become more
intimate and trustworthy, the clash of differences must occur.
Why? Because love is not static. It must grow - or wither.
During the first passage of love, that time of ecstasy when you've just
found each other, the rich feeling of oneness often blocks awareness of
your individual differences. But for love to be real, to last and flourish
over time, it must be based on the discovery of a deeper love, one that
can only grow out of the uniqueness that each of you bring. We call that
the magic of differences. To have that magic you need only be willing to
follow where love wants to take you - and that is into greater care and
respect for yourself and one another.
Real love insists that you move beyond the easy connection of the
early days and allow your differences to make themselves known. You can't help but
reveal more of your complexity, your limitations, quirks, excellence,
and most important, those moments when you can't imagine things going
any other way but your way, those moments when you don't remember that
there ever was an ecstasy. In other words, real love demands that you
reveal your whole self. If not, how can you know that you are truly
loved - loved for who you really are?
Unfortunately, most couples don't understand that the clash of
differences is not only inevitable, but necessary. It is that time when
love asks, "Are you serious about your relationship? Are you willing to
venture beyond what you expected and learn what awaits you? Do you want
a full and wondrous love, a love that takes root deep inside both of
you? Or do you just want to be entertained?"
When faced with love's challenges, far too many couples give up and let
go of what could have been a very good relationship. Why? Because they
think that conflict means failure. They expect that a spiritually
meaningful love will just happen without any effort on their part. They
rage or withdraw emotionally, convinced that something has gone terribly
wrong. And they despair that love is no longer possible.
This notion that love is without conflict is wrong. Flat wrong. That
not only short-changes the spiritual journey love wants for you, but it
also denies the natural and necessary progression you must face when you
join your unique self with your partner who is also one-of-a-kind.
Excluding emotional and/or physical abuse, which absolutely and
unequivocally have nothing to do with love, your conflicts are signals
that both of you are showing up in your distinctiveness, and that is a
fundamental requirement if you are to ever have a relationship you can
trust with your whole heart and soul.
However, we must all have compassion for ourselves. Since no one
receives training in how to date effectively and how to co-create a successful,
romantic long-term relationship, most people, men and women alike,
believe that conflict means that somebody wins and somebody loses. No
one likes to lose and the winner never really wins because the loser
gets revenge somewhere down the line. So that kind of conflict is not
only painful but pointless. Why wouldn't we want to stay in the simple
and easy pleasures of the first part of love?
Because that isn't possible. As we said, love changes. It takes all of
us into the dark side of who we are so that we can be assured that we
are loved wholly - no masks, no games-loved for who we are, through and
through. That's the only way we can know if we are truly lovable and
develop the capacity to love someone else in just the same way.
The key to attracting and co-creating trustworthy love is to redefine
the notion of conflict. Rather than a win/lose battle, understand that
each conflict is a gift from the heart of your togetherness. It acts
like a flare, shot up from the depths of your relationship, alerting
both of you that something important needs attention. Something in your relationship is calling out for new understanding,
compassion, care, and healing. In other words, when you avoid conflict,
you avoid an important expression of the rich unfolding of growth and
change that benefits each of you and your relationship and keeps you
true to love's journey.
The idea of opening yourself to conflict may sound daunting. After
all, do you want to risk antagonizing the very person you feel such love
for? But if you don't bring forth the truth of what you are feeling-the
hurt, fear, disappointment, anger, and sadness that arise from your
clash of differences-then you are not being loving, no matter what you
say. You are not letting your partner know the truth. And that is not
Furthermore, you will end up secretly stuffing your vulnerable and raw
feelings, keeping secrets from your partner, and you will drain the life
out of your relationship.
Love cannot thrive in pretense. Love can grow only out of what is real.
So where is the magic in all of this? The magic comes in the singularly
rich intimacy you will be creating together. This is the real,
dependable, all-embracing intimacy in which you both feel secure and
willing to expand on and explore the full range of your feelings for
each other - from the sweetest affection, to your personal doubts and
insecurities, and, yes, your fierceness when necessary.
There, in your differences, you will discover lasting passion, romance
in even the smallest moments, wisdom that guides you through the tough
times, joy in simply being together, and a deepening spiritual awareness
that love is real and it is what you thought it could be.
Don't hide from your differences, especially when they lead to conflict. They are fertile soil for co-creating mutual respect, esteem, trust, intimacy, joy, and the very real magic that awaits you at the heart of who you really are.
About the Authors:
Husband-and-wife psychology team Judith Sherven, Ph.D. and Jim Sniechowski, Ph.D., are the bestselling authors of Be Loved for Who You Really Are, The New Intimacy, and Opening to Love 365 Days a Year. As guest experts they've been on over 900 television and radio shows including Oprah, The O'Reilly Factor, 48 Hours, Canada AM, and The View.
Visit their website at www.themagicofdifferences.com/swm