Understanding our differences

Albert Einstein once said, ‘Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed’.


Brilliant as he definitely was, Einstein, only got it half right. You don’t have to be disappointed.


Terry and Joanne were both struggling in their marriage. They said they loved each other but somehow, Joanne found herself continually irritated by the way Terry did things.

Terry, on the other hand, couldn’t see anything wrong with the way he did things and failed to see what Joanne was all upset about.

The body language said it all. Joanne was leaning as far away from Terry to make it clearly obvious there was something she didn’t like about him.

Joanne had dragged Terry along to see me in the hope that I would agree with Joanne, that Terry was quite screwed up and I would tell him in no uncertain manner that he needed to change the way he did things.

This strange idea is based on the myth that counsellors have a vast bucket of knowledge, wisdom and good judgement. To say nothing of authority. How wrong she was. We are just ordinary people like everybody else.

What we are well-skilled in however, is the ability to observe what is going on right in front of us. Hopefully, with the skills to reflect this behaviour back to the clients in a way that they will see the light and decide what they want to do about it.  That’s the theory.

Well it seldom works as easy as that.

But to an observer, it was all too clear what was going on.  They had very different types of personality.

Neither personality type was good or bad. Neither of their differences were right or wrong. Neither was better or worse. They were just different.

I suggested we do a personality inventory to confirm my observations, and they agreed.

The results were quite compelling. In the area of how they like to organise their life, they were at opposite ends of the scale.

Terry was quite happy to live life as it came along. Joanne wanted it all tidy, organised the day before and wrapped up in a box and well labelled.

The outcome did not look pretty.

When difference is significant

Joanne was not prepared to accept that anybody could be ‘that’ different, and furthermore, was not prepared to try and adapt to living with the person of her choice, in a way that allowed them to live happily together. Terri was quite happy to let things roll on as usual.

I can’t tell you what happened. They never returned. Clearly, it all seemed to hard.

The reality is, that there are ways we can live with someone who is very different from ourselves. It doesn’t mean we have to change who we are, but it does mean we have to explore ways of allowing each other to be exactly that… each their own person.

It’s not that hard. Just takes a little effort.  It can even be a lot of fun.

Learning as much as we can about how we each relate to the people in our world is vital if we’re going to avoid conflict and tension or ongoing unhappiness.

We will explore more in time.

But there is something far more significant and important that we need to acquire that enables these first two relationship attributes to be in any way effective.   Without it, all our best efforts will be half-baked at best.

We will get to that very soon…

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