Emerging Differences

At some point in a marriage, differences erupt.  It was pleasant to dwell in the fiction that nothing could blight the serenity you shared.  You could smirk at couples who argued, certain that you would never find yourselves at loggerheads.  But no more.  Troublesome topics that had been relegated to the background now clamor for attention.  Once one or both of you begin to divulge what’s important to you, you’ll land yourselves smack in the midst of some pretty rough strife.

Why go there?  Because it’s necessary.  Because after the intense togetherness of the Honeymoon Stage, there’s a need to assert separate desires.  Because, if you don’t, you’ll get drawn back into the dark side and feel smothered.  Because the realities of who your partner is and how you function together are hitting you in the face.  Because the old deceptions you had relied on for equilibrium don’t work any more.

And also because you’re intrigued by what you’re finding out about your partner.  You intuitively feel that your partner has something to teach you.  When you struggle through serious disagreement, you may understand and appreciate each other more deeply….

When you can deal with differences that arise, you will bring both tolerance and dynamism to your marriage.  If you suppress them, however, you’re setting yourself up for trouble….

The process of reckoning with differences is essential to the vitality of a relationship.  Couples need to know that they can work through conflict; otherwise, they’ll always live in fear of it.  Partners need to know that they can speak their minds; otherwise, they’ll bottle up everything, and wind up angry and estranged.  You must be able to own up to the lies that you’ve told yourself and each other.  If not, those lies will dominate the relationship.

— Ellyn Bader and Peter T. Pearson, Tell Me No Lies, p. 102-104

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