Opposites attract, or so they say. So often, we are faced with the allure of choosing a partner who is – by virtue of, well, habit – a facsimile of ourselves. We all search for like souls, someone with whom we have something (or close to everything) in common. It’s human nature: we want a place to belong, and there’s no belonging on starkly altered terrain.
Of course, it is easy to love something that is predictable and which conforms to your own perspective on the world. More challenging is loving the different, the difficult, the sometimes baffling. The joy of caring for someone unconditionally lies not in foreseen patterns of mood, behaviour and events but in the slight discomfort of the unknown that, while occasionally a little scary, continues to push the limits of your desire to fully comprehend your partner.
After all, there is a certain delicate recipe which creates a lasting relationship, though the ingredients differ depending on the couple. In my own life, humour has always been at the very root of a successful partnership – how can you love someone with whom you cannot laugh? – and is complimented by large doses of affection, attraction and frankly, a little bit of tension. I’m not referring to tension in the negative sense of the word, but rather the held breath anticipation that fills the blank spaces between the more mundane aspects of couplehood, like work, children and all of the other time-consuming “adult” responsibilties that monopolise the majority of our time. Most importantly, I’m referring to the tension of the qualities that make us entirely different people.
It’s no secret that the worst preconceived notion a person can have upon entering a relationship is that you will be able to change your significant other. Moods, behaviour patterns, habits – all of these carry with them the potential to confuse and sometimes downright annoy us. But if you are expecting your partner to suddenly metamorphosise into a being in total agreeance with your expectations, you ought to get out now.
Sure, people change – it is a natural byproduct of our experience as living, breathing beings with a capacity for consciousness and sensory intelligence. Over time, couples form a sort of symbiosis; a complimentary pairing which influences and balances the other. Through shared experience and communication, your S.O. may indeed adapt their reactions to ones that signify compromise – a healthy element in any successful partnership. But waiting around for a carbon copy of yourself is a one way ticket to Break Up Town.
One of the most difficult lessons I’ve had to learn in recent years is that it is unfair of me – to both myself and my partner – to view and form expectations of them based on my own experiences. Think about it: how many nights have you spent upset that your partner didn’t do/say/think/feel what you would have liked them to? How many arguments have you started or tear-filled chat sessions with your girlfriends have you had over things which, when looked at in the clear, logical light of day, weren’t actually an issue at all?
There’s no quick fix, mind. Sometimes I still have to remind myself that I’m not involved with… myself. But one of the easiest ways to drill this into your brain is to think of it like this: by loving your partner through the lens of your own experiences, you are not really loving them at all. Loving a person – and being in love with them consistently – requires a willingness to be honest with yourself and with one another about your needs, wants and even your shortcomings. If you are someone who needs to vocalise your feelings five times a day but are involved with someone who doesn’t; if you need time alone but your partner is fine being together 24/7; if any number of disparate elements occur – you must do one of two things: accept that the lack of the reaction which you expect does not negate the other person’s true intentions and move on or, well, don’t – and realise that your relationship probably won’t last very long.
Learning to love and appreciate your partner’s differing qualities can be an incredibly rewarding experience, tightening the bond of your relationship and also spurring personal growth by allowing you to step out of the confines of your own intrinsically narrow worldview and into another’s shoes – a helpful tool in the world at large, never mind in romance. It also provides the push and pull that keeps love fresh and exciting, with some of the qualities you once abhored perhaps eventually becoming some of their most endearing traits. After all, the joy of being with someone to whom you are well-suited stems largely from your ability to compliment and balance one another, and those qualities require some opposing action.
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