There's Not Enough Me In You
When it comes to relationships, instead of expecting and appreciating differences, we are often unnerved by them.
We want people to understand us. Because of this, we can assume that understanding us means being like us.
But people are different to us. Sometimes very different to us. They think differently and feel differently and behave differently to us.
This can make us uncomfortable. If there’s a difference, who’s right?
When exposed to differences that mean something to us, our tendency is to judge. Differences can feel threatening. We want to feel powerful. We want to defend ourselves.
But difference doesn’t have to produce competition. Two people can have different perspectives of the same thing, and neither can be wrong. My view of a theatre stage is different when I’m seated front and centre compared to sitting on the far left and at the back.
When we don’t give others permission to see things differently to the way we see them, our relationships will suffer. If I refuse to allow you to be you in our relationship – because I need you to be me – this will invalidating for you – because you’re not me. I have placed an impossible expectation upon you. Relationships are injured or sometimes even destroyed because we don’t see enough of ourselves in another, and feel insecure because of this.
Insecurity says “I need you to be me in this relationship (to think and feel and behave like me) to feel secure”.
Insecurity is based on fear. Fear is divisive – that is, it produces disconnection. When we operate from fear in our relationships, our goal is to maintain whatever psychological distance we need to feel secure. We create this distance using control strategies: intimidation, manipulation, blame and coercion.
Some of us are inclined to be most fearful of (and therefore intolerant of) the parts of others that we are most intolerant of in ourselves. Here, our perspective is this: “I want to see more of myself in you, but only the parts of myself that I like”.
No wonder relationships can become complicated.
The science and art of relationships is seeking to understand. This requires openness, humility, and intentionality.
Are there limits to how well someone can understand you? Yes. No one’s mind is wired exactly the same, meaning we will experience the world uniquely - in ways that are both similar and dissimilar to others.
Also, if you want someone to understand you, it’s your job to help them with that by providing good information. Sometimes, people’s misunderstanding of us is simply because we’ve provided poorly communicated or insufficient information about ourselves for them to work with.
Communicating understanding doesn’t require having the same life experiences as those you want to connect to. It requires connecting to emotions.
We understand each other through emotions because we all feel, so when emotions are expressed and acknowledged between two people, we experience our humanity.
I may not know exactly what your sadness feels like, but I know what my sadness feels like, and if I connect to my own experiences of sadness, I can sense yours.
Sensing is important. Because, I don’t need to be like you. I need to try to understand you. And I don’t need you to be like me. I need you to try to understand me.