Sally knew that she and Mark had different tastes on their first date. But she
kept her knowledge to herself.
When Mark said he liked to go camping, Sally
didn't express her first thought, which was: "The closest I get to camping is
a walk in Central Park." Instead, she said, "We used to go camping a lot when
we were kids." When he said he liked country music, she didn't say, "You've
got to be kidding!" Instead, she said, "My boss is crazy about Garth Brooks."
It's not that she was trying to misrepresent who she was; she was in fairy
tale love mode. Many of us experience this on a first date. We are wondering
if a relationship is possible and secretly hoping we are "made for each
other." We think if we are, we will understand each other effortlessly and our
relationship will glide forward smoothly. When we are in the first blushes of
a new love, we have a sharp eye for the tiniest commonalities. And we are
often blind to differences, or we try to be. We don't want to rock the boat.
Of course, by the time you become a bride, you are past fairy tale love.
You speak with perfect frankness about your tastes, your goals, your dreams.
Right? Well, maybe not quite. When you move from planning your weekends to
planning the rest of your life, you are on the threshold of a new dream. Once
again you are hoping you are "made for each other." Even if you have achieved
great honesty in your relationship, an engagement ring has a way of
transporting you right back to the fairy tale.
One of my clients told me that in England, you can't get married after 6:00
in the evening. This law is left over from the days before electricity, when a
man could wind up married to the wrong woman, thanks to the candlelight, the
bridal veil, and a sneaky family. If you remain too long in the fairy tale,
you could end up getting married "in the dark." You will be doing yourself and
your fiancĂ© a huge favor if you turn the lights on now, even if you're
uncomfortable. If you wait until you are years down the road, you could end up
disappointed and disillusioned. As a marriage counselor, I see couples every
day who are disconnected and living separate lives because for years they've
kept their real selves hidden.
Most likely you agree completely with what I'm saying. And yet, it still
might be tough to step out of that fairy tale love mode. Here are some ideas
that might help you.
It's important to realize that being "made for each other," is a small part
of what will make your marriage successful. Even if you could find someone 99%
identical to you, that 1% of difference will come to feel like a sizable
challenge. Ask anyone who's been married more than a few years! And there's no
such thing as effortless understanding, no matter how similar you are. People
are far too complicated for that, not to mention that they are constantly
For a happy marriage, you need to learn to handle your differences wisely.
That means believing that you and your partner can have different ways of
thinking and living that are equally valuable. Even more than believing, it
means being able to act on this belief in everyday life and not falling into
the common traps of impatience, criticism, put-downs, or attempts to make your
partner more like you.
Handling differences wisely also means looking for ways in which your
partner's differences can enrich your life. And ideally, it means using those
moments that are most challenging for you as opportunities to look inside and
strengthen your own character. That's when you really strike relationship
gold. This is how you turn fairy tale love into real love.
The first step to handling differences wisely is to acknowledge they exist.
So, the next time you and your fiancĂ© see things differently, bring your true
self out into the light and take a step toward real love. Do your marriage a
favor. Rock the boat!
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