Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships–VIII. Compatibility and Covenant
It is certainly not easy to either appreciate or accept the differences that our partners exhibit in the ways in which they (and we) see and relate to the world around us. According to Bernard:
Our [Gwen and Bernard’s] rhythms are very different even though we enjoy similar activities. My mind is full of symbols and metaphors and basic principles but few rules of details, while [Gwen] maintains lists and facts and a level of organization I could not approach. I have complimentary attributes that together make a greater whole, yet we also argue over which world view will define our actions. On the deepest level it feels correct to be together. However, I feel pushed to understand the lessons we create for each other. At once I feel deeply loved, but not understood fully, at times alone in a struggle to understand our common context.
It is lovely to observe that Gwen, the realist in this enduring relationship, uses a poetic image in referring back to their shared commitments to difference (i.e. their marriage vows). Bernard uses his skills in creating and using symbols and metaphors (citing several lines of poetry) to further articulate his enduring commitment to Gwen — and her differences:
Opposite walls of a deep canyon, facing
forever a different view.
Across the void a different self, a stranger
in the sky I know so well
We are joined and divided by the ever-changing
currents of the river,
And by the common earth, the substance
of our single being.
Bernard goes on to observe:
Perhaps it is the magnitude of our differences that have allowed us to recognize a deeper connection and the singularity of experience. Had we been more alike on the surface, perhaps we would have believed our commonality to be the substance of our bonding. In the past I evaluated my relationships and much of my experience by more superficial measures. Our marriage seems very different. Accepting the ways that we are different seems to bring us only closer. However, this is a difficult process. Each new insight is accompanied by sadness and a letting go of old attachments. Going through this I feel, at times, confused as to what might replace the old hope that another will make me feel complete.