You like romantic comedies, but your partner loves action movies. You’re a vegetarian, but your significant other is a carnivore. You love your partner, but you may feel that you’re totally mismatched. If you can’t agree on a meal or a movie, how will you be able to decide on important life choices, like when to start a family or where to live?
There are differences in every relationship. The key is not to see these differences as sources of conflict, but as something to value.
It is essential that you try to appreciate and respect the way your partner is different from you.
But, how do differences actually shape and affect your relationship?
How differences help your relationship
1. They open doors to new experiences
As humans, it’s in our nature to gravitate towards people who have similar interests. While this serves and helps us in many ways, it doesn’t allow us to experience everything else that life has to offer.
With differences in your relationship, you will be able to meet people and do things which will change your perspective of the world for the better.
By opening ourselves up and gaining exposure to a different way of being and living, we are able to make better and more educated decisions about what we want to do in our life. These different life experiences help us look beyond what is familiar, enabling us to fully express ourselves and being more present in the world.
You might also feel your relationship strengthen because of your partner’s eagerness to try some of your interests. These shared experiences can further bring you closer, strengthening the special bond you share.
2. Provides more opportunities to succeed together
You’ll be surprised at the things you can accomplish if you use your differences together. For example, if you’re unable to find good deals but are a math whiz, you can take care of the budget while your partner can decide what to do with it.
Dr. Emma Seppala, the Associate Director for Altruism Research and Education, states that-
Having strengths which your partner doesn’t have, helps strengthen your bond and relationship, enabling you to learn more about your partner.
The risks of having too many differences
1. Unable to follow your own interests
While sharing your partner’s pursuits and hobbies help strengthen your bond, each individual still has their own past-times and interests. If you’re unable to follow your own hobbies, it can result in demotivation and frustration through the course of your everyday routine.
This frustration can negatively affect your relationship, resulting in conflicts and a falling out.
2. Putting yourself and your needs first
It is important to understand that a sense of collaboration and compromise are the foundation of a successful relationship.
Individuals must consider the wants and needs of their partners and place them ahead of their own.
A relationship is unlikely to prosper if individuals put their own needs first, simply because their significant other will become tired of having their feelings neglected and disregarded over a long period of time.
If you’re unable to connect with your partner on a much deeper level because of your differences, it becomes difficult to maintain positive affection, understanding, and a sense of security in the relationship.
How to manage the differences in your relationship
It is important to realize that conflicts are a part of every relationship. Whether the difference is something small like you, prefer to sleep with the window open, but your partner prefers it closed, or something much complex, like how to raise children; it’s important to remember that what matters more is how you resolve them, not what they are.
1. Try the ‘sandwich’ method
We all look for a significant other who’ll make us feel valued, loved, and admired. Since conflicts and criticism can undermine these feelings, it’s essential to find ways to reinstate them. One such way to do this is to make a ‘sandwich.’
A valuable tool in the business world, a sandwich means to put a negative comment between two positive ones.
For example, ‘You’re excellent at finding solutions to all types of problems. It’d be great if you could also find a solution for the mess in our bedroom. Also, I love the way you take such good care of our cat. She looks perfectly happy and healthy!’ However, make sure that the compliment you give is genuine and honest, or the sandwich won’t work.
2. Be careful while criticizing
It’s important to understand that you should criticize a certain situation or behavior, and not your partner’s personality. It is highly unproductive to complain about your significant other’s personality, mainly because the other person will automatically respond by defending herself or himself. Such criticism will also undermine the feelings of being loved and valued which are essential for a strong and healthy relationship.