I have written twice before (August 4th 2011 and May 29th 2018) about differences…the pros and the cons. Now, however, following the world’s recent upheaval for two years, I know a little bit more about tolerance and acceptance of difference.. Sometimes, when clients come into my Practice, the difference is presented in terms of ‘you can’t love me if you don’t agree with me’. Or, ‘We used to feel like one person and now we never agree on anything’
How can two people who love each other enough to make the choice of staying together and facing the good and bad of life, start with a sense of being, ‘at one with each other’ and then find themselves seemingly far apart on every major decision? When this happens it feels devastating but over time and if agreed together, some couple work with an objective third person, can help to create healing and resolution. Life begins to feel safe again.
It is easy to love the good bits of each other. When working with couples, however, I most often see people when the not so loveable side of each other has surfaced. Together we try to work through this and look at why. It is helpful to spend time remembering their experiences as children, adolescents and young adults. If there were mood swings, anger or arguments acted out by the adults in their families of origin, this may have felt frightening.. So when their loved one suddenly manifests a different side of themselves, they can respond in the same way they did in childhood. They can lose the ability to talk it through with adult verbal skills. We look at ways to listen, hear and process words bringing a new way to negotiate and conciliate with each other. Each gives up a bit of their way of responding and reacting and by listening and understanding, each feels heard and they find a third way together.. That doesn’t mean they have to be the same, rather they begin to experience a feeling of respect for each others different approach not as an attack but, hopefully, begin to form a couple culture which is known only to them.
A couple culture is about conciliation, negotiation and mediation, each person letting go of a hitherto retained way of being and possibly even borrowing some of the other person’s way of being. When this is achieved, through tolerance and trust, the couple visibly grow and evolve. But, they need to feel the change is safe and respectful.
Difference in cross-cultural couples. is accepted and often loved and admired at the beginning. Perhaps, they each see something in the other’s culture which could, if followed together, become a safer place than their experience of childhood memories. It all seems exciting, romantic, caring, and possible. A few years into their story together, however, the difference can become a conflict, particularly when raising children. Each tends to want their known ways of continuing the family line and this can cause friction. Each side tries to lay down the law. If, however, they choose to enter some couple counselling, we all work together to learn how valuable the differences are and blend them equally to find a couple culture of their own. This will come out of equal give, take and understanding leading to a kinder and more ambivalent couple culture, unique to them.