I’m Different Than You, and That’s Okay.

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In the wake of an epiphany I typically feel the need to write. Tonight I have made a discovery, although not exactly new I have new clarity and a sense of righteousness that cements this idea in my mind: There is nothing wrong with me and I should be loved exactly as I am.

As cliche as that sounds, and as common-knowledge as it may appear, it is one thing to know something as factual and quite another entirely to really believe it to your core. I am so shaken by these new found feelings that I am on the verge of tears from relief.

You see, each and every person is completely unique. We all share a common experience called human existence, but the sum of our collective experience causes us to be truly one of a kind. There really is no one in the world quite like me, or you for that matter. And because we are all completely different and incredibly complex, we all have something equally unique and complex to offer. Unfortunately, what we have to offer is never of use to every single other individual.

I firmly believe that all people can, on some superficial level, get along. Deeper levels of intimacy and commitment in friendships and romantic relationships require that deeper needs be fulfilled than the initial superficial level. When we really dive into another human being our emotions get ahead of us and when it doesn’t work out we are always left with the question: why?

Well, in EVERY scenario I can think of the answer is depressingly simple: incompatibility.

Think about it for a second. On a superficial level, one person has a passion for fishing and another for hunting. Although they may be able to find some common ground in conversation, it is unlikely they will be able to have an in-depth discussion about the finer points of either because they lack the compatibility to do so.

In romantic relationships, it takes very little compatibility to get started: a base level of attraction and the means to get to know one another. Things can go really smoothly for a while and then the inevitable incompatibilities start to reveal themselves and cause major issues.

For example, my EH and I were so different that I don’t know what we were thinking getting married in the first place. I think we felt like we had a lot to offer one another because we WERE so different. It was like – Hey! Here is this new person in my life that can challenge me in so many new ways! Unfortunately, in reality, that just doesn’t work out.

I began to resent his disinterest in my interests and I know he felt the same way about my disinterest in his. What started out as academic conversations about our differences ended up turning into arguments. These arguments almost always ended up being ugly because at the core, both of us were hurt. What does it say about me if the person who is supposed to love me could give a crap about my interests? Does that mean that I am not good enough because I am not more like him?

To add an even more complex layer, human beings are genetically designed to fear things that are not like them. We shy away from what is different than us because it threatens the species. Try combating that when tensions are high. Here’s a heads up: you can’t.

In my own relationship, these conversations and arguments became a pattern that was subtle and did mass amounts of damage. The fallout is that I am a human being that is accustomed to not only feeling bad about myself for being unlike my partner, but I will try (and fail) to be different in order to be loved. It’s not all his fault, either, because I know for a fact I did the same thing to him. I am not about to sit here and bash my EH – I remember saying things to him that could be summed up as follows: I am pointing out that you are different than me and I think you are less because of it. I may not have said these things outright – who would? But it was certainly the subliminal message. I did love him after all, and still do, and probably always will. But that does not mean we are remotely compatible.

So, what does that mean for romantic relationships? Are we all screwed? I think not. Even though it’s impossible to find someone with 100 percent compatibility, you can at least start by getting in the ballpark. Think about who you are and seek someone with common interests, goals, values, religious beliefs, or whatever you find to be most important to you. I believe it is possible to deeply love someone with whom you have nothing in common, but it is hard to build a lasting relationship with out any kind of common ground. The hunter will never convince the fisherman that he loves to fish, and the fisherman will never convince the hunter that he loves to hunt.

So, with this realization, what does that mean for Kyrston? Well, for starters, it means there is nothing wrong with me. My relationship, the arguments, the cruel things said to one another, the violence – all can be chalked up to incompatibility and extreme measures in the face of adversity. Some of it was just plain weak character on both of our parts, but at the core there is nothing wrong with either of us. We are just people and one of us is a hunter and the other a fisherman. Personally I wish I had picked a better example, perhaps one involving shoes, because I don’t care for either of those. I suppose if I had to choose I would choose fishing.

Anyway, my EH and I… we did love each other. I did love him for every thing that made him different, not in spite of it. But that was never going to be enough for a mutually satisfying life together. The elusive “it” that everyone talks about… I think what they are referring to is a real connection of kindred spirits and the highest compatibility possible between two individuals.

So, it’s okay that I didn’t want to have sex as often as he did. It’s okay that I like getting my nails done and my hair done and having shoes that I will never wear just to have them. It’s okay that I love reading more than watching sports and that I prefer Katy Perry over whatever is on the angry rock music station. It’s okay that I don’t like taking out the trash but like folding laundry, and it’s okay that he doesn’t do laundry the way that I like it to be done. It’s okay that he loves playing softball and flag football just about every waking moment of the day. It’s okay that he would rather spend his time playing Call of Duty than watching Glee. It’s okay that we have different religious beliefs, it’s okay that we feel differently about how to tip at a restaurant (or just about anywhere) and it’s okay that he liked Michigan and I like Ohio State. All of it is okay. I am not less than him, and he is not less than I.

I have been spent a long time feeling cruddy about myself because I could tell that I wasn’t making him happy and no matter how many times I spoke poorly of him, I never really believed any of it. I can’t believe that personal preference makes me better than any human being and I also can’t believe that I am unlovable because I was incompatible with my husband. So, Kyle, if you are reading this, I want you to know that I am deeply sorry for every time I made you feel like you were less than me or that the things that made you different made you undesirable. I am issuing this public apology because I have to acknowledge that for every negative thing I feel about myself, I know that I probably did the same thing to you. I think sometimes we did it on accident, but near the end it was just plain cruel to treat one another that way and I regret it. Maybe we should have gotten out sooner, but you and I both know we were happy the day we were married and so no one can judge us for that.

So what thoughts do I leave you with, my readers? The very next chance you get, tell someone you know that you appreciate that they are different. They they matter, that they have value, that they are unique and completely singular and that is a good thing. And the next time your friend goes through a breakup, assure him/her over and over again that sometimes people just don’t work out and that’s okay, too. Our emotions are so deep and complex that we forget how simple the world really is. We forget that no two people are alike and it is a mathematical impossibility to have perfect compatibility. We think that we are broken or damaged or unlovable when we’re not.

We’re all together in this human experience, each in our own unique way, searching for another to share it with as best we can.

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