How individuality in marriage scared me – and how I learned to enjoy it
As we’ve seen in the last article, it is the accepting and supporting of the uniqueness and individuality of each family member which creates a healthy, functional family that lives together in unity.
Today I want to share what I’ve learned in this area within our marriage.
“Benny, we have a problem! “
He looked at me puzzled, curious to hear my thoughts.
I told him: Well, I’ve come to realize I am a ship and you are a lighthouse!
Now he looked amused. “And why is this a problem?” he asked.
“Well. You are so different to me. I am made very different from you. I love to be out on the high sea. I am comfortable to transport either many people or merchandise. I enjoy the movement of the waves and the freedom of the wide sea. (metaphorically speaking)
You are this big, stable lighthouse. You are firm in your position, secure and trustworthy. But you are definitely not a ship. So how can our lives truly fit together? “
I knew that we do have many things in common. We have the same values and priorities in life and we understand each other’s heart.
And still, I was really struggling with the realization of us being so different.
On that day he told me:
“Well, I will do everything to let you be this amazing, beautiful ship, free to be out on the sea and be who you are created to be… Will you do the same for me?“
Right then, I didn’t really know how this could ever look like.
These are the main points I’ve discovered on this journey:
Acknowledge the differences
On that mentioned day, when I truly realized that we are so different – I made a big step into the right direction.
Until then, these differences scared me.It was absolutely foreign to my own way of thinking, that they would ever fit together. They made me feel worried, sometimes even doubtful, wether I married the right person. But when this question arose in my heart “shouldn’t he be a ship too – or is it ok if he rather is a lighthouse?”, for the first time, I truly faced the reality of him being a very different person than me.
In our situation, these differences are mostly based on our individuality, our personality. Cross-cultural marriages have the additional challenge of facing the very different culture, background and upbringing.
Accept the differences
I’ve learned that the process of accepting the difference is fundamental for a mature relationship.
I’ve learned that a mature person in marriage is one who has differentiated herself from her spouse. One who is able to establish clearly marked ego boundaries. A mature person grows into a person with individuality – and this individuality is equal to the person’s own identity.“
What does that mean?
Well, as a little example:
One day, I got a call and the person on the phone wanted to know something I had to ask Benny about. I simply handed him the phone, and obliged him that way to talk on the phone, even though he wasn’t prepared for that at all. He was upset with me –this in turn made me angry.
“Why would he make such a big deal out of that detail? I didn’t do anything wrong for him to be upset at me!” This happened at various times – until the day I realized something.
I told him “I am sorry I have put you into that situation while knowing you hate it. I still don’t know why this is such a big matter to you. But I am sorry I ignored your feelings about it.“
I don’t spontaneously hand him the phone any more. I acknowledge him feeling so differently about that matter than I do.
Celebrate the differences
As you see, the difference is bigger than just the “man-woman” thing. We would be missing something, if we would reduce our differences to “well, I am a man and you are a woman, therefore…”. Even though it is important to be aware of this reality, there is more to it. There is this unique DNA every person carries within. There is no other person exactly like you, having exactly the same DNA – the same experiences, the same dreams and the same perceptions.
In his book “the family”, John Bradshaw compares a healthy marriage to two people playing music together. Both are playing their own instrument. Both play the same song. However, they do so with their own unique skills, playing their part of the melody perfectly. Each one is independent and committed to play their melody the best way they can with their instrument, their unique skills, whole and complete.
Celebrate, encourage and strengthen the differences
I’ve seen couples who recognized their differences. They realized that they are very different to each other.
However, I’ve also met couples whose feeling about these differences is similar to the one I described in the beginning of the Article:
It scares them. They try to reduce the other person to a copy of themselves. They wonder, if they married the right person. They assume that the way the other person thinks, what he or she does, has to be because of their past experiences, their culture, their lack of maturity or something like that.
This doesn’t give the other person the feeling of being known and seen, as I described in that article, where I write about truly seeing our children.
To truly celebrate, encourage and support the differences is something very different.
In fact, I learn from Benny how this looks like… He’s an amazing example.
The more I know who I am, what my strengths are, what I am able to do… He supports me with everything he has. He loves to see me thrive in who I am and flourish in what I’m good at. Adding to that, he frequently makes me feel special and loved for being me. And he gives everything to make me succeed. In fact, he is the one investing hours every week to correct my articles in German and English for this Website.. He is the one who celebrates my success and encourages me to go further in who I am… to become this ship I know I am… beyond what I could ever be without him.
I am learning to do the same for him. Today, I simply love who he is. It doesn’t scare me anymore, to be married to a lighthouse, and not a fellow ship. I admire his stability, his calmness, his strength. I respect his need for rest, his need for times alone, his lacking desire for adventure and movement. I enjoy his perfectionist way of doing things. I admire him for his excellence.
We often tell each other how amazing we think the other is in his unicity.
I am so glad that I understood that this uniqueness and being different is something beautiful