Just like a thriving ecosystem, a healthy relationship requires diversity and balance. Imagine a forest where every tree is the same species or a coral reef with only one type of fish – such a limited environment would be unsustainable. The same is true for relationships. When we limit ourselves to a narrow view of what a “good” relationship should look like, we risk missing out on the rich diversity that makes them strong and resilient. By embracing and celebrating differences, we can create a relationship ecosystem that is diverse, balanced, and thriving. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the key reasons why differences in relationships are beneficial and can strengthen your relationship.
Is your Relationship a Healthy Ecosystem or a Dying One?
A healthy ecosystem is thriving in diversity. It’s made up of many species that work together for the good of the environment. Ultimately, diversity is what makes the environment thrive. Diversity in an ecosystem is the same as differences in relationships. Can we learn something from this? Can the differences in our relationship be our greatest asset?
Have you ever thought about the many different ways we see the world? Or do you tend to see the world through one lens, expecting others to view it the same?
Undoubtedly, our experiences (both bad and good), our level of awareness (both to self and others), and our childhood shape how we see the world as adults. Consequently, no two experiences are the same.
Suppose two siblings grew up in the same household with the same parents. How can they grow up to be so drastically different? Our recollections of memories, the pain we felt, the joy we experienced, how we internalized hardships, and our relationship with family and friends were all different, creating a unique life experience and, thus, worldview.
So why do we expect our partners to have the same views as us, especially when we are initially most attracted to those who differ from us?
The Penalty for Sameness
Society portrays a good partner as one who “completes your sentences,” “knows your needs better than his own,” or “loves the same things as you do.” And at the onset of any relationship, this might be the glue that holds the relationship together because there is comfort in sameness. It’s familiar and feels like less work, making it appealing at first glance. I’m not going to lie; it feels good to be around those who have similar feelings as you, to be mirrored and validated for your way of thinking (no matter how crazy), and to be around those who look and talk like you do.
However, as time passes, nothing is more dull and dreadful than being around someone too similar.
It is our differences that make our world spark and ignite with possibility because differences generate energy.
No matter how many divorces end in “we are just too different,” it’s not the differences that make relationships fail; it’s that those differences were never respected, honored, or valued.
To truly love and connect with somebody, you must let go of your ideas and worldview and see life through a lens other than your own. This is why narcissists aren’t capable of genuine connection; they cannot see things outside of their world.
Most arguments in relationships can be deciphered as “you need to be more like me and see the world as I see it.” This article from the Gottman Institute highlights that each viewpoint is just as valid as the other. Ultimately, the desire for sameness reduces your partner’s life experiences to that of conformity rather than connection. Connection means you see your partner openly and honestly, and it’s safe for them to be themselves.
Are you providing this space for your partner?
The more you connect, the more you realize how different you are
In addition to different experiences, we have different temperaments, emotional maturity levels, mood swings, and fears. Because of this, it’s no wonder how the meaning we assign to certain behaviors and experiences differs drastically from person to person.
I can experience something incredibly upsetting, while Dave can brush it off as if nothing happened. This happens to all couples, not just Dave and me, and it’s an opportunity to know one another on a deeper level if we don’t shy away from the threat of difference. If we want to know our partners honestly, we have to be willing to move into what their experience is. Being consumed with the mentality of one “right way” should indicate ignorance. And just like sameness is bliss until it’s not, the same can be said of ignorance. When we choose to see things from only one perspective, we choose disconnection and become a magnet for conflict.
I’m going to end this with one of my favorite quotes by Brenè Brown
There has never been a time more critical than now to validate the realness of experiences-all experiences, no matter how different than our own. For the sake of kindness, love, and connection, we must listen to understand someone else’s experience before we can ever cast judgment, offer advice, or jump to fix a problem because when we listen to understand, by nature, we eliminate judgment.