Success in a relationship is not about two people being alike. Success is about how a couple make their differences work for both people. Differences are inspiring because they keep things interesting. Imagine a television show or a play without conflict, it would be boring. Relationships are more vital when there is conflict that respects both points of view. Unfortunately avoiding & deflecting conflict in personal relationships has become an art form in our culture. We’re willing to watch it on the t.v. screen but not to learn how to do it well. There is only one way to soften differences while there are a million ways to harden and increase problems. The only way to soften differences is to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk and talk. When families with teens or couples arrive for help in my office I am the grease to help the talking to continue. Last weeks’ episode of 24 had a terrific scene
that clearly demonstrates how talking is crucial to softening the differences between two characters. 24 is having a timely discourse on torture (somewhat tainted by the fact that Jack is always right). When the series began our hero, Jack Bauer played by Kiefer Sutherland, is under investigation by Senator Mayer for human rights violations. Day 7 episode 9 PM-10 PM includes a scene where Jack holds Senator Mayer hostage in his own home. Their conversation begins with complete animosity and as Jack continues to speak honestly Senator Mayer begins to develop respect as he listens and ends up offering to be a team with Jack. It’s an excellent demonstration of what can happen when two people honestly encounter each other. If you are in a relationship you care about prove it by not ignoring the differences. Don’t deflect conversation about differences. The best thing an angry husband, betrayed wife, frustrated father or dramatic teen can do is be less defensive and more curious. Curiosity is what changes things between Senator Mayer and Jack.
There is true danger in being either self-absorbed or self righteous. Note the use of the word self in both of these words, there is no room for the other. Curiosity is crucial because it leaves room for the other. Restaurants are wonderful because two people have to talk while waiting for the food to come. A frustrated father can take his dramatic teen out for lunch and make it an opportunity to be curious about who they are (different from how you may have decided you’d like them to be). Curiosity is a wonderful springboard to change. Curiosity is about opening the door instead of slamming it shut. Curiosity about differences is the work of all relationships that truly matter.