Can You Be Loved for Being Different?

By Judith Sherven, Ph.D.
NABBW’s Healthy Relationships Expert

Before we get into what it means to be loved for being different in your wisdom-elder years, we want to take you on a bit of a vision quest.

When you were growing up what did you learn about how you were supposed to think about and treat people who were different from you and your family? What did your family say? How about your friends? Neighbors? What were the messages you received either openly or by suggestion?

You may not have an answer right off, because this is not a question that gets
asked very often. But think about it. It holds the key to better relationships in every area of your life, especially as you continue to add candles to your cake and head out even further beyond the world most people live in.

We\’ve asked thousands of men and women around the world, and they\’ve all admitted that what they learned, some more intensely than others, was to distrust those who were different. So they kept up their guard most of the time without even realizing it.

What does this have to do with you? We\’ll get to that in a minute. But, here\’s another question.

When you were growing up, how were you treated for all the ways you were different from the other people in your family? Were you respected? Were you teased? Were you praised? Or were you brought into line, expected to be just like everyone else or else!?

The people we’ve asked said that they learned to hide what made them different. Some were ashamed of themselves. Some were embarrassed. Some were frightened. And what they decided about themselves was tragic. They decided that they were somehow flawed. It was their fault even when it came to how they were brilliant, talented, beautiful, and all manner of other exceptional gifts.

Think about that. What was it like for you? And here\’s why it\’s important. You can\’t help being who you are. And what makes you you? The ways you are unique and, yes, different from everyone else. And now that may include more years on the planet than many others.

Now think about being in a relationship. You are unique. Your partner is unique. That means you both are different from each other. Now if both of you have buried in your unconscious minds the belief that being different is somehow bad, even dangerous, how do you expect your relationship can ever be truly satisfying? It can\’t be if you\’re hiding some parts of who you are (like lying about your age) and judging your partner for who he or she is.

So what to do? First, know that you\’re not alone. Even a superficial scan of society shows that everyone\’s wary of those who are different. We\’ve all learned it early in life, just like you did.

Next, you have to want to believe that being different is okay. And why not? Differences are inescapable. Rejecting differences is like rejecting air. They\’re everywhere, and necessary for life.

And being older than most people? The wisdom and life experience you hold— that has to become a gift you share only with those you care about.

And now, about love. What is love if it isn\’t accepting of all that you are? If you have to go through your relationship fearing and hiding parts of who you are, you\’ll have to walk on eggs, and that\’s very tiring. It will also be the ruin of your relationship.

Remember, real love loves all of you. Love will work its way into your soul, shining its light on even those parts you\’ve kept covered up. When love is real, that\’s inevitable. The only way that won\’t happen is if you settle for false love, the pretense and charade of being romantically intimate with someone.

Take another look back on what you learned about differences. Those lessons that bring you joy and pleasure, keep them. Those that don\’t, that cause you to disguise who you are and judge others, let them go – little by little – as you see how self-destructive they are.

That requires a decision to grow up and see the world from your own particular perspective, not how you were raised.

When you do you will free yourself, you will free those you would have judged, and you will open yourself to an ageless love that you cannot now even imagine.

In support of your wisdom-age, Judith & Jim encourage you to get the Free Alert “10 Dangerous Beliefs About Aging and How To Avoid Them” at AgelessZoom.com

Relationship trainer and motivational speaker Judith Sherven, PhD is an internationally acclaimed expert. In partnership with her husband of nearly eighteen years, Jim Sniechowski, PhD, she has pioneered a visionary approach to successful dating and successful marriage.

A clinical psychologist, Judith worked in private practice in California for twenty-two years. She has appeared on over 900 television and talk-radio shows including The View, CNN, The O’Reilly Factor, 48 Hours, Mars & Venus, Canada AM, and MSNBC. She has been interviewed for and published by hundreds of newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, O, Family Circle, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Playboy, Woman’s Day, and Parents’ Magazine and is also a columnist for Today’s Black Woman magazine.

In addition to her extensive professional background, Judith brings profound personal experience and knowledge to her work. She and Jim didn’t marry until she was 44, so she knows the frustration and heartache of endless dating as well as the blessings of a continually enriching marriage. She brings hope for almost every woman!

She has co-authored Be Loved for Who You Really Are (St. Martin’s Press 2003), The New Intimacy (Health Communications, Inc.1997), Opening to Love 365 Days a Year (Health Communications, Inc. 2000) and The Smart Couple’s Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams (New World Library).

Judith and Jim\’s most recent website is found at AgelessZoom. Here, they are partnering with several other experts to focus on extreme life extension, also known as anti-aging medicine, experimental gerontology, and biomedical gerontology, refers to attempts to slow down or reverse the processes of aging to extend both the maximum and average lifespan.