The Ox and the Butterfly

By Greg Baer M.D.

June 24, 2016

Kirsten and James were living together, planning to get married, and also running a joint business. They spent a lot of time together, which tended to highlight their differences. James is a tightly organized man, who can schedule his day in exact 15-minute blocks from early morning to late at night. Kirsten is not that regimented, but she is creative and has significant capacities for leadership and networking.

James has a need for an ordered, predictable world, which is not a problem unless there is fear involved. But problems arose when he insisted in a wide variety of “small” ways that Kirsten do things more like he did them—that essentially she become more like him. Her less-organized methods disrupted the neat rows and time slots that gave him a feeling of comfort and productivity.

Although it was mostly unintentional, they were both trying diligently to change the other, and it was causing a lot of conflict.

“James,” I said, “you two are beautifully suited to create a great relationship, but not because you’re alike. You’re actually quite different. You’re an ox, and Kirsten is a butterfly.”

I could see in James’s face that he didn’t especially enjoy the comparison, so I continued. “You like to get things done, like an ox pulling a plow. You like to make your rows straight and to follow a detailed schedule of how the day will go. You’re methodical and productive, like an ox. Not bad qualities at all.”

“And Kirsten?” he asked.

“Kirsten is a butterfly. She’s beautiful—even darling—and after floating like a leaf on the wind, she alights ever so gently on your hand or face. She does not fly in a straight line—anything but. She can’t pull a plow. So what could she possibly contribute in a partnership with an ox? Oh, many things. First, an ox tends to spend all day looking straight ahead at the row to be plowed, the grass to be eaten, and the road to be traveled as he pulls the wagon. The butterfly dances around the head of the ox, enriching his life with beauty and movement. The butterfly also sits next to the ox’s ear, whispering her experiences of the day. She makes the ox’s world more beautiful. She can even fly ahead and spot rocks in the field, so the ox doesn’t stumble on them.”

“And what can an ox do for a butterfly?” James asked.

“The ox steps on fruit lying on the ground and exposes the juices that the butterfly drinks. He provides his head and back for the butterfly to ride for long distances that otherwise would be exhausting. And as she talks in his ear, he listens and makes her feel important and loved.”

An ox and a butterfly as perfect partners. Who would have thought it possible?

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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