We have gotten conflicting relationship advice. On the one hand, many of us have been told that we shouldn’t try to change our partners. And on the other hand, we are often encouraged to support our partners in becoming the best version of themselves they can be. But what if your definition of the “best” is different from theirs? How can you learn to accept the differences in your relationship while still supporting a partner’s growth?
As a modern love therapist and support circle facilitator, I often witness people in romantic relationships who believe that their partner thinks like they do and should therefore act like they do, too. For instance, you might think that your stressed-out partner should try to spend less time working because when you reduce your work hours, you feel more at ease. However, your partner may look at their life and see the solution for stress very differently. By a similar token, if you get quiet when you feel sad, you might assume that whenever your partner is quiet, they’re also sad—when in reality, they might just be feeling relaxed. These examples illustrate the ways in which we tend to overlay our experiences onto others in an attempt to understand the world around us.
It’s only natural for the brain to assume that our reality is the objective reality, after all. Given that its job is to predict outcomes in order to help keep us safe, the brain craves a sense of certainty; such objectivity gives us the comfortable illusion that we are fully in control of our relationships and our circumstances.
But the truth