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Learn to love differences

Feb 9, 2012 - By Betty Starks Case

February: Valentines. Love. Weddings. It's almost impossible not to get involved.

Actor Clint Eastwood offers his own view, and you can look at it both ways.

"They say marriages are made in heaven," Eastwood said. "But so is thunder and lightning."

Thunder and lightning can be quite a thrill. Or a fright, depending on your manner of participation.

My dad once thought it would be great fun for him and Mother to drive up the hill from their country home and sit in the car to watch a lively storm move in. When a bolt of lightning split the big rural electric pole to the ground in front of them, the idea lost its appeal.

So is "made in heaven" a vote in favor of marriage? Or a warning?

Moving more seriously into the subject, I recall a book titled "Be Loved for Who You Really Are." It was written by a husband and wife team, Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski, published by Renaissance Books. Both authors hold a Ph.D.

Their philosophy is, "You grow as you are able to embrace that which is different from you." Come to think of it, isn't that how we learn anything?

Regular readers know I'm a believer in love and marriage. But with the present emphasis on the subject, it might be a good time to consider a few aspects of life with someone probably quite different from one's self.

"No matter how much two people have in common at the beginning of a relationship, they soon discover all the ways they are different from one another," according to the book.

Then they struggle to get one another to fit into some expectation of how things "should be." They treat their differences as something to be fixed.

In my years of people watching, I've noted that we are invariably attracted to someone quite different from ourselves. And not just sexually.

My explanation? You've heard it before: It's how God keeps the world in balance.

Yet we often say we are attracted to someone because "We have so much in common."

True, up to a point. God made you love yourself so you could survive. But he knew you didn't want a clone for a life partner. Boring. . . boring. . .

So what do you do with the ways the two of you are different?

Hopefully, you do not try to "fix" one another to fit your idea of what "should" be.

This means that in conflict, even anger, you don't walk away in a huff. Nor do you wish to lose your independence.

Instead, you look for strengths in each other. You emphasize the power in your differences. And you both grow as you learn to embrace that which is different.

My brother and his wife put this philosophy to practice.

"I'm good at business," she explained to me. "But he's the one who's good at public relations. And without good PR, you have no business.

"We figured out what strengths and talents we each possess naturally," he said. "Then we combined them to make a better life for us both."

But in order to be loved for who we really are, don't we first need to know our own identity? This may ask some insight, and a good bit of honesty.

For example, doesn't it sound rather silly for us who are adults and middle-agers to refer to an opposite sex friend as "boyfriend" or "girlfriend?"

Does this speak the degree of adult maturity today? Or what?

An honest inward look might be well worth the effort. There may be more uneasy questions to ask in order to really know ourselves.

Did I hear someone say, "Now how about trying the book's philosophy on yourself?"

Hmmm... I'd guess my mate and I are loved for who we really are in spite of ourselves.

We've used our differences to better our lives in many ways, but more out of respect and caring for one another than wisdom about the process.

We could have done better if we'd learned early how to appreciate the power in that deeper understanding of difference.

Hold on. Maybe there's still time...

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