Why is it we so often look for similarities between us when it's the differences that matter.

Last Saturday, I performed the wedding for a couple and as part of my meditation on marriage urged them to remain curious about each other.  Curiosity, I told them, will keep the flame of your love alive.  You'll be tempted to shave off the sharp edges of difference, those angularities you'll be tempted to want to soften in exchange for what you have in common.  But it's the differences that electrify (and, of course, create boat loads of consternation).  

I've too often found myself frustrated and annoyed by the things my beloved does so differently.  There's a part of me that would like her to me more like me.  

Am I crazy?

It's her radical difference that first enthralled me, and still does when I step back as see her as the mystery she is.

Esther Perel , internationally acclaimed marriage and family therapist and intimacy guru, first helped me really get a handle on how important it is to celebrate our differences and remain curious and intrigued by the other.  Her teaching helped me put to rest that nearly incurable effort to refashion Patty in my image.  Perel's work on sexuality, attraction, and attachment is marvelously helpful, a needed antidote to the drabness that comes when we try to reshape our partners; the result is, they lose the brilliance that first attracted us (and could keep the flame of intrigue and desire alive).  See Perel's work here.  

Mary Oliver (right) with Molly Malone Cook (1925–2005) at the couple's home in Provincetown, Massachusetts

And then, this week comes this lovely post about Mary Oliver, America's poetic voice, by the incredible wise young woman who writes a weekly column I'd hate to live without: Brain Pickings.

About Mary Oliver . . . and relationships . . . Maria Popova writes:

"'For one human being to love another,' Rilke wrote, 'that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks… the work for which all other work is but preparation.' And yet the work of love too often leaves us feeling profoundly unprepared, nowhere more so than when lovers confront the abyss of daily differences between them. But rather than a fault line where the relationship fractures, that gulf can be the source of deeper communion – that's what beloved poet Mary Oliver(b. September 10, 1935) suggests in a portion of her wholly wonderful Long Life: Essays and Other Writings (public library). Reflecting on the enduring love she shared with her soul mate – the photographer Molly Malone Cook, for whom she later wrote one of the most moving elegies of all time – Oliver considers the gift of differences." 

Read more from Brain Pickings here.


AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman