by Susie and Otto Collins
When we get into intimate relationships and find that "perfect soulmate,"
we expect that our partner will be like-minded, have similar views, like to do
the same things, have the same views on raising children, and the same ideas
about spending money. The reality is that we are each separate individuals, with
different backgrounds, belief systems, and emotional patterns. In the Sept/Oct
2000 issue of "Modern Maturity" magazine, an article highlighting
inter-racial, inter-generational, and inter-cultural relationships caught our
attention. Since there's a 16 year difference in our ages, this article really
spoke to us.
In this article, John Gottman, author of several relationship books, said,
" We often expect our mate to understand and meet our expectations. If that
doesn't happen, we feel he/she must not love us enough, or is intentionally
The point is that your mate is just coming from another point of view. He
goes on to say that because "inter" couples "often enter marriage
with a more conscious
awareness of the cultural, age or racial differences between them, they're
more likely to address these issues by talking openly about them." This
from the beginning of the relationship helps to depersonalize the conflicts
and eliminate the hurt feelings that often arise when differences surface.
People tend to believe that if they have the same spiritual beliefs, grow up
in the same community, got to the same schools, have the same family background,
or like bowling, golf or dancing, they will always think alike and the
differences between them won't be great. The fact is that you can grow up next
door to someone, be the same age, go to the same schools but have dramatically
different cultural, philosophical and personal viewpoints and belief systems.
The "inter" couples in the article said that when there are
apparent differences in ideology, culture, race, age, religion, those
differences stand out quickly,
forcing you to deal with them up front. We've all heard people say "What
happened to the person I married?" The truth is that more likely than not
the differences were there all the time and were just finally coming to the
seems like such a shock to you that you have these differences that you start
doubting the wisdom of your choice to be in a relationship with this person who
is so "unlike" you.
This concept is illustrated in Steven Covey's story about the man and the
optometrist. Imagine if you would sitting across from your optometrist.
Your are handed his/her eyeglasses and told to try those on. When you tell
your doctor that you can't see a thing, the optometrist says, "I don't know
why--they've worked well for me all these years. I can see perfectly fine with
Isn't that what happens when we don't accept that our intimate mate might
come from another frame of reference, separate from ours, on a particular topic?
You expect that someone else's lenses will work for you and when they don't,
you are surprised and sometimes angry.
If you really want intimate, connected relationships, you have to understand
and respect the "glasses" that your mate uses to see life, while
honoring and sharing your own "pair of glasses." We've found that
expecting that there will be differences, listening without interrupting, and
then speaking freely without fear are key elements to working through the
differences that arise between us.
The first step to healing anything in your life is through awareness, If you
are feeling separation or distance from your mate or anyone in your life, try
at the issue from the frame of reference through which the other sees life.
Habit 5 of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits says, "Seek first to understand
then be understood."
When you do that, it's very difficult to be angry with that other person and
can be the beginning of a deeper connection.