There are many skills necessary to have a strong, healthy relationship. Most people understand the importance of things like transparency, loyalty, and communication. But, you might have yet to consider how differentiation could play a role in helping you improve your relationship.
What is it? Differentiation is the process of evolving. It can refer to a physical evolvement or a psychological/emotional one.
Differentiation is important in a relationship because it takes away some of the “pull” that individuals often feel. It allows you to maintain autonomy while increasing your attachment and intimacy. You don’t feel like you have to choose one or the other. Let’s take a closer look at how you can still be authentically true to yourself and improve your relationship through differentiation.
What Does a Poorly-Differentiated Relationship Look Like?
To better understand the importance of differentiation, consider how a poorly-differentiated relationship might impact you and your partner. You might avoid conflict at all costs, which isn’t really allowing you to go beneath the surface with each other. Alternatively, you might find yourselves constantly arguing.
These issues typically arise based on the type of people you and your partner are. If both of you value autonomy, you might have a more volatile relationship where one person feels like they have to be the “leader.” If each of you has a different polarity (one leans into attachment, one leans into autonomy), you might have ups and downs when it comes to rigidity in your relationship.
What’s the Point of Differentiation?
Increasing differentiation in your personal life and relationship will help in more ways than you might realize. Raising it can help you discover who you truly are. You’ll better understand your most authentic self, and you can take that into your relationship(s). The more in tune you are with yourself, the easier it will be to express that in your relationships and be open and honest with your partner.
Increasing differentiation will also boost intimacy in your relationship. Both you and your partner will have an easier time adopting an accepting perspective. You’ll be able to love each other for who you are and feel closer because of that openness.
What Can You Do?
Maybe you’ve never heard of differentiation until now. Even if you have, is it really that easy to bring into your relationship? Thankfully, yes. Increasing differentiation is a choice. While there’s work involved, it’s something you decide to do.
If you’re not sure how to get started, the most important thing is to maintain a strong sense of self. Be comfortable with who you are in every circumstance—even the negative ones. When you have a firm understanding of your truest self, you’ll have an easier time showing vulnerability to your partner.
Second, stay grounded when your partner is emotional. Knowing who you are and what you stand for will make it easier to stand firm instead of feeling triggered by your partner’s emotions. If you keep quiet and open your heart, you’ll let your partner know they can do the same. That can lead to calmer conversations, more meaningful arguments, and a deeper connection than ever before.
Finally, be prepared for a journey of highs and lows. Even the healthiest relationships experience struggles. Preparing yourself for arguments, moments of love and adoration, and everything in between will make it easier to boost differentiation and feel closer to your partner.
Taking the first step toward differentiation isn’t always easy on your own. If you want to learn more about differentiation and become more authentic to yourself and your partner, don’t hesitate to contact Integrative Psychotherapy Group. Together, we’ll work through differentiation and develop the skills needed to bring it into your relationship.