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April 29, 2015

Jack Sprat

by guest contributor Lynda Chalmers

Jack Sprat could eat no fat....

Today's post is about differences and how to handle them in long-term relationships. At first, most differences in our partner are delightful. Those we don't find so delightful we are able to put aside. It may not be long, however, before those differences loom up in a negative way and we start to let them separate us. Or perhaps we begin a long campaign to change the other person, creating difficult dynamics in the relationship.

When I am talking about differences here, I am not talking about issues such as drugs alcohol, affairs, violence, or other issues that will threaten or betray the attachment that you have. I am talking about everyday differences that can be irritating. One of the best ways to think about differences between you is to decide to honor them and to make sure they do not play a part in disconnecting you.

Let's take an example that can certainly become disconnecting for some couples. John is a meat lover and Jen is a vegetarian. At first, they managed by each making their own dinner and doing their own grocery shopping. It was disconnecting in that they were not a team while doing this. Soon, Jen started making disparaging remarks of disgust when John's meal was being prepared (gagging over the smell of the food). John came back with as good as he got, and they each became more isolated and hurt. They were now preparing their meals at different times, not eating together, and eating out a lot.

What would honoring their differences look like?
  • Accepting what is important to each of you. In this case, John and Jen would need to accept each other's values around food. Part of that acceptance is to know that your opinion is not superior to your partner's. Many different bodies need different nutrition, and over many millennia people have had different preferences.
  • Become a team in your differences. Shop together or shop for each other. Watch out for special foods your partner might like. This act says, "I accept you and care about what you like."
  • Cook together. Chop and dice for each other. Try out recipes that can have meat or vegetables added to the dish so that you are sharing some tastes together. Have an attitude of curiosity about the other's preferences. This says, "We are in this together."
  • Be grateful for the many parts of the food that you are sharing. For the farmers, the soil, the animals - all that goes into your meal together. Gratitude and criticism cannot share the same space.

This example (although very difficult for some couples) is just one that you can use to find ways to honor each other's differences. Remember the example of Jack Sprat:

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt them both you see
They licked the platter clean

A great metaphor for making your differences work for you in a relationship where as a couple you become greater then the sum of your parts. Go forth and be wonderful!

My name is Lynda Chalmers. My pleasure has been to work with couples for the last 20 years. I love to facilitate and strengthen relationship attachments between partners and be a part of their ongoing transformation toward being the loving partners they have the potential to be. You can find more about me at my blog Healthier Marriages or my website, www.lyndachalmers.com.

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