Men and women are different. No big surprise there. And so a man and a woman decide they will begin the adventure of weaving their lives together into the future. Noting how different they each percieve the world, issues, even their view on their relationship, they take the advice that they are best off in learning to ‘appreciate’ each other’s differences rather than let their differing ways be a cause of contention and difficulty. Many people can make that first jump into ‘appreciating’ their mate’s eccentricities at first. But for most of us there is a step we need to take before such appreciation between the sexes can occur. It is the act of ‘restraint and endurance’.
When we first meet someone special it is amazing how out of our way we will go to be accomodating and considerate of each other. And the great thing is that we don’t consider it a burden. It is not uncommon to hear phrases like, “Whatever you’d like to eat is fine.”, “You look very nice today.” or “Hey, it’s okay.. everyone makes mistakes.” But then when love seems more secure it is very easy for us to take it for granted and assume our familiarity with our loved one gives us new permissions to be increasingly demanding or critical. I don’t believe we do this because we’ve lost any love for our beloved, but merely because it is our own selfish nature to put our own comforts and egos ahead of anyone else’s.
But when these dark echoes of demanding criticism begin to make us less kind to the one who has offerred us their love it is time to take a step back and remember the reasons why we first longed for love to begin with. One thing couples would do well to remember is that they met and decided to stay together in order to make each other’s lives ‘better’ and not ‘harder’. We all have enough sources of stress, criticism and grief from daily life without being served extra portions from the one we’ve chosen to be by our side. And likewise they need not any extra, unnecesary grief from us. If ever our mate is hoping to find some source of verbal encouragment and physical comfort it is surely us they hope to recieve it from.
Another thing couples do well to remember is that the goal of a life shared together is -not- to turn the other person into a clone of yourself. You first met and appreciated that person because in many ways they were nothing like yourself. Despite your areas of ‘compatibility’ it is their uniqueness that also stirred your curiosity. It is good to make a lifelong curiosity out of knowing that person better rather than making a project out of getting them to do, think, and percieve life exactly in line with your own way.
Getting back to those differences.. again, it is not always easy to appreciate them. Especially when it comes to making decisions together. As long as you are with a mate there will always be the chance of having to compromise or even completely give in to your mate’s view. Once in a while you might even get your way. A healthy rule of thumb that might reduce your chance of having a stroke prematurely is to remember that in life there are two categories of issues.. “Big Things” and “little things”. Solomon, the wisest of men, once wrote; “It is better to live on the corner of a rooftop than to share a house with a contentious woman.” I dare say that living with a contentious man is scarce much better. We don’t find mates in order to have someone to contend with over every little matter from ‘which direction the toilet paper should be hung’ to ‘whether it was you or them responsible for locking the keys in the car’.
The most positive, healthy relationship we could hope to have is one in which both parties focus more on giving rather than taking.. on building rather than tearing down.. on enduring rather than frustrating. Which brings me back to the step before appreciating our differences, ‘endurance’. Returning to our ‘first love’ is often simply rememberring what it is to first endure and then appreciate and then constructively encourage our mate. Sometimes this is best done by holding our tongue even when we are proven right. Other times it means making suggestions with a tone of kindness rather than a critical attack.
We have each had at some time in our life examples of harsh criticism and the warmth of loving encouragement. It is not that we are unlearned in avoiding the one or giving the other, but rather we simply get unmindful of our reason for wanting someone in our life and forget why this person chose to have us in their lives. Most people spend much time and anxiety worrying their mate will leave them for someone more beautiful or handsome. But as much as our eyes and flesh may desire such vanities.. it is an unloved heart that is most vulnerable to the kindnesses and compassion of the ‘other woman’ or ‘other man’. While there is no security we can lay hold on a person to keep them from straying, loving cords of kindness are not set aside as quickly as the heavy yoke of contention. First we endure, then we appreciate.. but at all times we love.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.