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How to approach your relationship when differences are causing problems

COUPLE, LOVE. SMILE
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Advice for how to be happier with a partner who is not like you.

Sharing life with our alter ego—an exact replica of who we are and how we think—is definitely not a good idea. But living with someone who is extremely different from us can be painful if we haven’t taken the time to get to know each other and learn what it is that makes us different. What can we do to make the differences between us enrich our lives rather than make us miserable?

What if the different personality of our spouse were extremely interesting?

In spite of the several things she and her partner had in common, Leah felt disappointed when she discovered the degree to which they differed. Married five years ago and mother to two children aged 4 and 12, she looks at all the things that separate her from her spouse, and she wishes they lived and spoke with one heart and one voice. She lists some of the typical things that bother her and keep coming up: not keeping track of money, paying no attention to the mess in the house, lack of interest in the children’s education, etc. 

Her husband responds that he has problems with the way she obsessively saves money. According to him, if a house is a little disorganized it means it is full of life. Regarding the issue of educating the children, he does what his parents did with him. And he concludes that they will have to evaluate all these issues together as a couple. 

Indeed, communication is essential for clearing up misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and dead ends that bring a relationship to a halt. To do this, we can try to observe the differences of our spouse in a kind-hearted light: “In what way could his or her attitude be interesting, and even totally acceptable, if I changed my point of view?” This can help you find a good balance between how to act and how to think. 

The golden rule and what you have in common

Another attitude you can take is to decide that you don’t need to change him or change her. If a change is necessary, let’s start with ourselves, by choosing the most precise and kindly spoken comments possible for our spouse. Do our opinions differ on certain points? With the utmost respect, we can apply this golden rule: “In everything, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” (Matthew 7:12-14)

Lastly, there is something even more essential than those disappointing disagreements: the things you have in common. While it is not necessary to share all the same values, it is necessary to share the ones that are most important for each of you. It is in these deep values where the strength of the relationship finds its roots. 

Marie-Noël Florant

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