There’s the kind of puppy love we experience as teenagers. The kind where you are just happy this person likes you and you are totally willing to accept everything about them. Their failings and weaknesses are aspects of their personality you deal with and you have no expectation for them to change for your benefit. You just want this person in your life. Focusing only on the few things you have in common only comes to strengthen your resolve to endure whatever you must to maintain and preserve this relationship. But when you get older, you realize that you not only need someone who you are happy to be with, but a person who makes you happy when you’re with them. So you place a higher premium on having certain things in common. And this makes falling in love when you reach adulthood difficult, since disagreement means more when you’re looking for someone who makes you happy, rather than just being happy to be with them. Any disagreements seem to bring any potential for a relationship to its knees.
The trick then it seems is not in finding a person who shares the exact worldview as you and never disagrees with you. It’s about finding the person who constructively challenges you to be a better person because they share so much in common with you in the first place.
Say you both love being outdoors and communing with nature. But one of you loves to go to the beach and shorelines to fish. The other loves nature walks and hiking on trails. They hate the water and the smell of fish guts. But the beach go-er has phobias about getting lost in the forest or they have allergies that wild pollen always irritate. It feels like you are at an impasse. But you both love the outdoors. You both love getting away from the city; you both love the quiet that comes with abandoning cell phones and highway traffic and take-out food.
Maybe one of you makes the suggestion to go to a lake, where there is both fishing and nature trails to explore. It’s being challenged as well as being nurtured along towards some kind of growth. You start doing things you never would have done before. You go to Miami Beach and step foot in the ocean for the first time. You hike in the Rocky Mountains even though you’re petrified as you descend into the wilderness. You grow. Yet this growth would have never taken place if you had not being challenged.
But you may never have been open to the challenge….until this person who you share so much in common with came along.
Maybe that is what love, deep and healthy love, truly is. Finding the right person willing to not necessarily change for, but mature into your better self for. Because seeing the world through this person’s eyes, caring about someone else to gain a greater sense of empathy for them, allows you to see how you can become more than you already are.