March 2006 Issue --> Relationship Article
 
The Blessings of Being Different
 
By: Jim Sniechowski and Judith Sherven, Ph.D.

 



We didn't married eighteen years ago. Jim had been married twice before and this was Judith's first walk down the aisle. While we loved each other in ways we couldn't even explain, we also knew that our differences were a major challenge.
 
Each of us is opinionated, head strong, known to get defensive, and more often than we'd like to have admitted back when we were first married, downright stubborn. So our irritation and anger at each other over the big and little differences that cropped up most every day had to be dealt with or we would be one of those couples claiming "irreconcilable differences" in divorce court. And that, we agreed, was out of the question.
 
Meant To Be Together
 
We knew we were meant to be together. But how were we going to deal with all the ways we were so different from each other?
 
Before we married we talked about the issue of our differences many times. And in our wedding vows we made sure to commit to resolving conflicts in ways that would honor each other's differences. That was all fine and good.
 
But we still kept getting into arguments and fights about dumb stuff like Jim leaving the kitchen towel in the television room after he'd taken it there along with a snack. Later Judith would be cooking and . . . the towel would be gone. Or Jim would get really upset when Judith walked into his office and interrupted to ask him what seemed like a trivial question while he was working in his computer. Jim couldn't believe Judith could be so inconsiderate and self-centered. And Judith couldn't believe Jim could be so inconsiderate and self-centered.
 
Oh sure, we came up with "rules" and "policies" meant to organize our behavior and that helped to some degree.
 
But it wasn't until we started to study the issue of differences for the relationship workshops we began to give and the book we started to write, that we arrived at the spiritual truth that helped us the most.
 
The Spiritual Truth About Differences
 
The fact is, each of us was created to be different. One-of-a-kind for all time. There has never before been another person just like Jim, or just like Judith. Or just like you. And there never ever will be. And that goes for every person, every animal, every thing on this planet.
 
When we took that in, really took it in that we weren't supposed to be alike, and that differences between two people in relationship are there as crucially important spiritual challenges, then we were able to open ourselves to each other in nearly miraculous ways.
 
For example, at first it drove Judith crazy that Jim admired mountains and cloud formations while he was driving. Judith wanted to feel safe and that meant eyes on the road at all times. As she eased off of her one-sided perspective to embrace the miracle of who Jim really is, she could see that Jim's ability to drive safely and still look around was not the issue. It was her own separation from nature that was being challenged by Jim's differing manner of relating to the world around him.
 
Little by little Judith realized that Jim's ability to rejoice in nature was a gift from the Universe sent to help her open up to the natural bounty beyond her fear. Now, years later, it's just as likely that Judith will point out to Jim the sunset or the glorious weeping willow by the roadway.
 
Likewise Jim, who'd never used an appointment book before meeting Judith, and who would get annoyed at her list making, daily planning, and what felt like micro-managing everything, now relies on the daily planner as much as Judith.
 
Conflicts Are Necessary Teachers
 
We could go on and on with examples of how conflicts spurred us to realize that changes were necessary to help our relationship grow stronger. They weren't dangerous, those conflicts, unless we prized our own ways more than we would allow love to lead us in the better direction.
 
Now when we get in a fight, and yes, it still happens though not nearly as often and the brouhahas don't last nearly as long as when we were first together, we know it's time to examine some entrenched beliefs or behaviors that are causing us trouble. We know it's time to grow personally and to grow in our ability to love each other.
 
We are different from each other because of the higher purpose for our lives. After all, how else can we learn what it actually means to love someone "for better or worse?" unless we are challenged by the difficulties that are a natural part of being with another person?
 
That's how we came to see that our differences are a daily workshop for overcoming our fantasies about love, fantasies about how the other person "should be," and fantasies about how we ourselves should be. Year after year we see ourselves growing further and further away from the self-centered notion that the other person should behave, think, or feel "the right way," -- "my way." Year after year our love grows stronger, richer, and more expansive as we embrace each other's differing ways as being magical, spiritual gifts from the Universe.
 
Judith & Jim are best-selling authors of four relationship books, including Be Loved for Who You Are. With their latest book, they are redefining the future of the American wedding. From now on brides AND grooms will be co-partners every step along the way. Be sure to read an excerpt from their new book - The Smart Couple's Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams. Just go to www.smartweddingcouples.com
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