Over the years I have noticed patterns in marriages- both in the counseling office and out. There are always polarities! In nearly every couple there are several personality polarities. Polarities are areas that are on opposite ends of a spectrum. Often individuals have distinctly opposite ways of doing life and relating. For example, some are planners and others prefer spontaneity, some are highly emotive and others highly rational. Though these polarities may not emerge fully during the dating relationship or even early on in the marriage, eventually, for most couples, they do begin to present themselves. More often than not, it is these polarities that bring people into my office. Even though they are challenging, I am firmly convinced that they present an opportunity for growth. There is obvious friction when you realize that there are fundamental differences in the way your spouse handles things and deals with life. It may be hard when those differences cause pain or create very real problems. But I would argue that this is at the heart of “iron sharpening iron” relationships. Friction is painful and there is a rubbing away of parts of self- loss of self is never easy or comfortable. There are two main pitfalls when dealing with polarities:
- The spouse fails to appreciate the perspective of the other person, usually beginning to resent that side of their spouse and likely begins to become more extreme in their side of the polarity. For example, one spouse grows to resent and even become disgusted with the others’ emotionality and then begins to discount and judge emotions even more. This causes the other spouse to begin to become even more emotional and the distance between the polarities grow.
- The other main pitfall is PERSONALISATION. Spouses tend to take the differences personally. Rather than being able to recognize that the difference is rooted in a different way of being or seeing the world, the differences are experienced as attacks, evidence of not being loved or cared for, etc… These “meanings” cause their love and appreciation for the other spouse to erode and creates a feeling of being trapped.