Differences sometimes initially attract people to their partners. For example, a quiet introvert is sometimes attracted to an extrovert’s bubbliness, or someone who lacks confidence is attracted to someone who has it. Over time however differences can cause conflict in relationships (see here (link is external) and here (link is external) for a couple of research examples).
Below are some quick self-reflection questions to get you thinking about the ways in which it’s nice to have a partner who has different traits and strengths than yours.
6 Differences to Appreciate in Your Romantic Partner.
1. The ways in which your mate is a morally better person than you.
For example, my spouse has a much stronger desire to volunteer than I do. She has better attitudes towards people who are less fortunate than we are, but those better attitudes rub off on me.
2. Healthy ways your mate copes with stress that are different from how you do it.
When you live with someone, you become intimately aware of how they cope with stress. Partners can pick up new skills from each other, or you might just admire what the other person does. What have you learned from your partner about useful ways to cope with stress? For example, your spouse may go for a run after work each night.
3. Practical skills your mate has that you don’t have.
Maybe your mate can make dinner for 6 without getting stressed about it, or can do DIY projects that you’re hopeless at.
4. Ways in which your mate will step in a do things that you find anxiety provoking.
Maybe your mate is the one who’ll deal with awkward conversations that need to be had with your family members or neighbors. Maybe they’ll be the one to return items to stores because you feel embarrassed doing it. When is your partner willing to step in and rescue you from things you feel anxious about doing?
5. Are any of the qualities that annoy you about your partner the dark side of their more attractive qualities?
For example, if get annoyed by your partner’s stubborness, do you also admire their belief in themselves and their ideas? If you get annoyed that they spread themselves too thin, do you also admire their generosity?
Pinpoint what irritates you about your partner, and ask yourself whether there is relationship between that quality and something you like about them.
This isn’t about dismissing the annoying aspect. It’s just about seeing things in gray rather than black and white.
6. Are there any specific tasks that your partner does in a way you admire or find sweet/cute/amusing?
Does your partner make sandwiches in a particularly adorable way, or do they have a super well organized system for keeping their mail and receipts in order?
It’s easy to ruminate about it when your partner doesn’t do tasks the way you like them to be done. What do they do that’s different from your approach in a good way?
It could be as simple as their favorite weird sandwich fillings, or the goofy apron and chef’s hat they love to wear when they’re grilling out.