When Differences Become Problems

By | April 9, 2012

I once met a woman with long, dark hair who moved with a flowing grace. She revered Gandhi, listened to Andreas Vollenweider, and treated all beings with kindness. We found ourselves nodding in agreement so much we hardly had to talk. We were the perfect couple, and that first year together I thought we had returned to Eden.

And now for the fairytale ending—it turned out to be the most boring relationship I ever had. The conversation, the sex, even the meals, were so excruciatingly predictable that I felt like Bill Murray caught in his endless Groundhog Day time loop. I laughed at the fact that if irreconcilable differences were grounds for divorce—I was screaming to get out because of irreconcilable similarities. A marriage counselor’s bread-and-butter is resolving differences; who could I turn to? Everyone told me I had the relationship to die for; how could I make them understand that I was dying because of it? Living with my clone might have been fun for a while, and a stroke for my ego to boot; however, how long can one stand gawking at himself in a mirror?

I’ve come to learn that fertile ground comes not from all clay or all humus, but from the blending of many diverse elements. Resolving differences might create stability in a relationship, but along with it comes blandness. It may not be easy to live with diversity, but it’s impossible to live without it.

If I’m in my ego, I perceive differences as a threat. If I’m in my heart, differences sweep me out on my frontier, where I can be wowed by the unknown and tremble with exhilaration from the unexpected. Of course there is one hitch—isn’t that always the case? Living from the heart takes centeredness and trust, not to mention embracing perhaps the greatest fear: abandonment.

All those formula patch-’em-up-and-send-’em-home therapists and self-help books are doing us a tremendous disservice. If they could retool and help us honor diversity, I believe they could not only help us have loving relationships, but a loving world.

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