In collecting information about the various and sundry complaints people bring to me about their relationships, the themes and issues vary widely. I have heard everything from small issues (why are things thrown next to the laundry hamper instead of in it?) to irritations that grow over time (I’m a night owl, why does she insist on getting to bed at 8:30 pm?) to the truly large concerns (my partner is drinking too much!). At the root of most of these issues, even some of the biggest ones, is the general concept of “Why Aren’t You…Me?” We want people to behave in ways that make sense to us, ways that we agree with, ways that make us feel good, ways that are familiar to us.
Really, look around the world, both your world and the larger world around you. How often is the root of a conflict based in disappointment because someone doesn’t seem to be like us? How many times have you shaken your head at someone because they were acting crazy, or being stupid or not making sense? Well, how did you determine what was crazy or stupid or not making sense? I bet it was based on your version of the world, meaning what makes sense to you, what is reasonable to you, the things that seem smart or dumb to you.
Now I can agree that there are some values that seem to make sense in the world and help the world function more harmoniously. However, even those values that we know work well for most are disagreed with by others. This is why we set up things like laws and have values that are associated with culture. For example, at least in the United States, you don’t just get to go around killing people because you feel like it. Nor can you walk into a business and take things without paying for them without a negative consequence. However, there are different laws and cultural norms even in our 50 states. Ever noticed where it is legal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet (Colorado) and where it isn’t (Virginia)? Or look at educational policies, for these there are Federal policy norms, then State policy requirements, that are implemented differently (at least in Colorado) by each County!
So what does this mean for us in our everyday lives? Well, it is important to catch yourself when you are struggling because someone else isn’t you. And by someone else I mean the person in front of you that is frustrating you because they aren’t you, as well as the larger landscape of the world (think politics, news, hearing about other cultures or countries). You will create significant relief for yourself if you can take some distance and remind yourself gently that no one else is you. No one. Not one other person is going to agree with you, behave exactly like you, value the same things. Sometimes, you won’t even be like you! Giving yourself and others some space to be their unique selves will help soften the suffering of wanting someone to be more like you. Give it a try, and let me know how it helps!