It’s critical to a successful relationship to learn to accept and respect each other as two entirely separate and unique individuals. And yet often in the early days when building a relationship, this important aspect gets pushed to the back burner.
You are so excited by the feelings of togetherness, the new experiences of intimacy, that you can barely relate to anything else.
As you are creating your relationship together, make sure that you understand that each of you is a separate individual, with a different way of expressing yourself in the world. This kind of separateness does not mean there is a lack of connection. Surprisingly, it lays the groundwork for the deepest of unions, and allows for a joyous relationship in which you share an undefended and open form of intimacy.
When you are able to honor your partner as a different individual, you realize that they are not necessarily going to do things as you do or express themselves as you do. This is the time to look at what they do and distinguish between actions that are just plain different and those that are really unacceptable because they offend your deepest values.
It’s tricky to distinguish these two cases. On the one hand, lust, love and loneliness can make you overlook and forgive someone who really doesn’t fit with you. On the other hand, you may just be reacting because their way of expressing themselves is different from yours.
To recognize one sort of behavior from another, you need to look at what your real values are. These core values rarely change, so if your partner does not hold to the same values, this is a relationship that will not work. Get out.
Don’t just listen to what your partner says, though, make sure their words carry over into their actions. Once you find your core values mesh, from that point on, celebrate the difference and let it enrich you.
Do not try to change or alter the individuality of the other.
You will find that when each partner does this, you will experience a wonderful sense of openness, because you do not have to protect yourself from any kind of attack. Your partner is not trying to change you or make you more like them. One of the women in a couple we were interviewing once said. “I’m not looking for another me in my partner. I already have me. How boring that would be.”
You can often see this behavior with couples in social situations. He says something and she gets very upset. Why? Because she thinks in that moment that he is actually her, and he is not saying what she would say. She needs to correct this mistake and put it in her own words! She has lost the sense that they are indeed two wonderful but separate individuals.
Another problematic situation which comes of this confusion is that if you think you and your partner are the same person, you will feel what they do and say reflects on you. She is talking, and he keeps thinking “How embarrassing that is, the other people are going to think less of me when they hear that. I’d better correct it right away; that’s not what I meant to say.” When you don’t confuse your partner’s identity with your own, you can relax and let the conversation flow without feeling you have to keep correcting or altering what your partner says.
The more you come to understand that the two of you are separate, the more you will actually be able to experience your union.
The more you practice this, the more you will come to celebrate the difference and realize how it enriches your life.