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A key ingredient in healthy relationships is about respecting and acknowledging differences. This list of three major differences are important to acknowledge in any relationship in order to better understand and relate to the other person.

I recall one prominent clinical psychologist saying that she just can’t imagine marriage. She is a single lady and seemingly plans to remain single for the rest of her life. “Imagine you have one person coming from so many different backgrounds, and another person coming with an entirely different background. Then you put them together and expect them to live together forever!”

How to: Acknowledge differences for a better relationship | Differences in culture | Stronger relationships | Good relationship

Having Differences and Being Happy Together is Possible

Of course, she did have a caveat. She said that it’s possible to stick to a person despite many differences. Many successful married couples show that it could be possible to live with people who are different and be happy. Need more convincing? Here’s a thought experiment:would you rather live with an exact clone of yourself?

How Different Are We?

Just how much can two people differ? Below are three major experiences that can greatly influence a person’s opinion and viewpoint. It’s pretty important you get to know these things about your friends or partner to avoid surprises and major conflicts.

Socioeconomic Status

If you grew up in a low-income family and a friend of yours comes from a high-income family, it’s a common to reaction to say “you’re lucky you have everything handed to you.” But before you say this and spark the start of a civil war, think again. Income does not necessarily mean that a person is happy or has everything easier. Some of the wealthier people I know undergo major depression or anxieties because they have high conflict families or errant siblings. Some children I know born from wealthy parents suffer from extreme inferiority and anxiety since they compare themselves to their parents.

Conversely, a person from higher income family may also have some negative perceptions towards a person of lower income. Only to find out that their friends from low-income backgrounds are more resilient, optimistic, practical, and hardworking. So really, don’t stereotype. You will gain many life lessons from a diverse set of friends.

Good relationships (of all kinds) are built on solid foundations.  Effective personal boundaries are part of that foundation.  Check out our free e-course on personal boundaries!


The culture of a person can be affected by may things like country of origin or ethnic background. A cute picture book by Yang Liu captures a lot of the differences in culture between east and west, but even this book can’t be generalized to all eastern or western cultures. You might encounter major differences in cooking styles, tastes, or the way others treat elders. If you find something odd, ask your friend about it. Usually, these cultural differences have a deep meaningful background and a great story. So if you like stories, take some time to dive into your friend or partner’s culture.

Life Experiences

Major life experiences can have a profound influence with how a person would form their opinions. Some of these include parenting experiences, family experiences, or peer experiences. For example, I came from a family of separated parents, and this separation has really affected how I view relationships in general. However, my boyfriend comes from a happy family and it’s always such a wonder for me that I keep asking him about it. Likewise coming from a private school with all boys is also different from a school that promotes co-ed enrollment. A colleague of mine recalled that one classmate, who came from a private boys school, was so bewildered to enter a co-ed college. “He was so anxious and amazed that he could be near girls!”

So Let’s Talk About Differences with Respect

I noted above three major differences but can you recall a time when you actually talked about this with your friends, family, or loved ones? When you’re ready you can always open the topic in a non-invasive and respectful way. You could say, “Could you share with me what it was like growing up for you?” An interesting story will always follow. Just remember not to kill the conversation and listen empathically.

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