We recently went to the movies and when we came out Susan said, “That was a good movie, I really enjoyed it. It was romantic, but at times also sad.” I thought to myself, “Really? What movie did she just see?” It was a great movie! On that we agreed. But my first thoughts about it were that it was full of action and suspense.
What just happened?
Now, we both went to the same movie. We heard the same words and saw the same images. We listened to the same soundtrack, accompanying the same actors saying the same words. But we had two completely different interpretations. In life and apparently in movies we don’t always see events and happenings exactly the same way. We are both unique, we see things differently. We have our own ideas about the reality of our lives and we even have unique experiences of what parts we play in that reality.
So, if you want to have a great relationship or marriage, here is an important concept you need to get familiar with:
You need to have a movie theater attitude!
The thing is, in life we would be lucky if we felt like we were side by side in the same theater experiencing the same thing. The hard truth is that most of the time, and especially during conflict, it can feel like you both are in your own theater, watching your own movie.
My Own Movie Theater
Susan is sitting in her own theater watching her movie. That movie is based on her perspective in life: it has her preferences, likes and dislikes. It has her experiences; and is made up of the meaning she has made of her life, her situations, and her circumstances. It is based on her family of origin, and the experiences of her past relationships. It’s HER movie; it’s not my (Mike’s) movie.
And I am sitting in my movie theater. It’s mine. It has my characters in it, my soundtrack; it’s made up of my perspective, my view of how the world works, the meaning I have given to how I grew up, the events and experiences and relationships I have had in MY LIFE. It’s my movie, it’s not Susan’s movie.
Here’s the part we really need to understand:
Great relationships are made up of partners who learn to get up out of their movie theater, and go and sit in their partner’s theater-not as a movie critic- but as an INTERESTED, CURIOUS, OBSERVER!
We are always going to see things differently, but that is not an excuse for giving up on trying to understand why your partner sees things the way they do.
You and your partner both have your own reality. And you both have your own VALID reality. But each of you must remember that your valid reality is SUBJECTIVE. If we look at our partner’s differences, things we don’t especially care for, or see their point-of-view in critical, judgmental ways, we will lose sight of honor, respect, and acceptance of our loved one. It’s a path that in the long-term leads to a lack of closeness and friendship.
Instead, be interested and curious. Find out…What is going on inside my partner’s heart? Is she thinking or feeling something I don’t understand? What’s the meaning she is making out of this situation or event? I wonder why she does what she does. Why is this so important to her?”
Be a great observer of your partner! Really find out what’s underneath how they see life. Get interested in learning to understand your partner better, to share the meaning of life they have with yours. The result will be less conflict, more compassion and understanding, and a healthier, happier relationship.