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How to Embrace Differences in a Relationship

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Photography: Sarah Hasstedt

We have heard a lot of love stories started with this statement, "We are two really different people, but I guess, opposites attract." She is the chitty-chatty type, while he is the silence-is-golden type. What they say about their relationship next is definitely heartwarming: "We complete each other in love." Does it really work that way? Will choosing someone who is totally different from you really benefit you in the long haul?

Most people get together to balance each other. For example, one person seems as an easy-going and adventurous person, and the other person takes the role as the uptight and responsible one. At the early stage of a relationship, dividing roles like the previous example might come as a fun idea, but it is not really sustainable. Practically, it will work until someone gets tired and shouts, "I am tired of being the responsible person here!"

Now, the real question at hand, when that happens, what should we do next?

Going through the differentiation stage

"The couple has to come to terms with reality that 'We really are different people. You are different from who I thought you were, or wanted you to be. We have different ideas, different feelings, different interest,'" said the co-founder of Couples Institute, California: Ellyn Bader

There are two elements of differentiation. The first one is self-differentiation: 'This is who I am and what I want. This is how I feel and what I desire'. And the second one involves the differentiation from the other person. After all being said and done, then it is safe to say that the couple is capable to be separated and involved at the same time.

To overcome the rough patches, the key is acceptance. With this effort – which seems very simple, but in fact requires real work – the differences can no longer hinder the intimacy between the couple, thus, no harboring resentment that might reap the seed of conflicts in the future.

So it all comes to this: Will choosing someone who is totally different from you really benefit you in the long haul?

It depends. Depends on how much effort you are willing to make and on how much tolerance you are willing to give.

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