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A great marriage is not when the “perfect couple” comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.
– Dave Meurer
One of the most common reasons that couples have conflict is that they are frustrated that their spouse is so different from them. There are many reasons for this.
Sexes are different.
I remember my daughter calling me years ago to tell me the strangest thing she had observed that day.
Apparently my young grandson had spontaneously decided to pee on the fence rather than come inside and use the bathroom.
While she was surprised at his behavior and noted that she would never have done that, I wasn’t. I replied, “Well get used to that because boys are very different than girls in some areas!” Growing up in a household with only a sister hadn’t prepared her for the behaviors of a young boy.
Families are different.
What’s normal for us, is what we have experienced in life. Everything else seems weird.
That’s why your spouse and their family seem weird at times. It’s not necessarily them, but you.
Maybe they play only card games, recycle their floss, eat weird foods, only take vacations at the beach or have large argumentative discussions. All things that your family would never do. You are not in the twilight zone, you’ve just encountered another reality.
Personalities are different.
It doesn’t take much to see that God has designed human beings to have many different personalities and perspectives.
I like to believe that it is part of His creative imagination running wild. Rather than robotic beings with similar feelings He has instead created a race of humans who show all the aspects of His glory.
Hopefully your spouse has a much different personality than you. That is good because it will challenge you to grow and adapt, rather than living your “normal” way.
Sinfulness and Acceptance aren’t compatible.
However, acceptance is never about ignoring sinful or selfish behaviors in our relationship.
So are their limits to acceptance? Yes. Is everything my spouse does something I must accept? No.
We are all called to serve our spouses with love and respect. (Ephesians 5:20…)
We are not told to accept sinful behaviors or habits in our spouse. For example:
Making a mess and not cleaning up. Slothfulness. Angry outbursts. Being dismissive or rude or yelling. Investing lots of time in hobbies/work away from each other. Choosing to pursue sinful or questionable activities. Abusing others or ourselves with drugs, alcohol or other stimulants. Pornography. Narcissistic pursuits. Lack of courtesy. Devaluing one another. Lying and secrecy.
None of these sinful behaviors will contribute to a great marriage or express love and respect to our spouse.
So let’s not excuse our sin and call it a difference that our spouse needs to accept.
Here’s the Irony of our Differences
We were probably attracted to our spouse because of these very differences that now seem so irritating and unreasonable. What once attracted, now repels.
That cute shy guy now wants to live like a shut-in. That dramatic girl with the outgoing personality seems more like a drama queen now. That caring and sensitive guy is now busy caring for his family and relatives every weekend. That sweet girl who loves animals is looking more and more like the “cat lady”. That outdoorsy guy you met is always leaving on another adventure. That brilliant girl who could master any subject is now always working late.
We are all like this.
The combinations in marriage can be any of these.
Shy/bold, adventurous/secure, extrovert/introvert, risk/safety, short/tall, saver/spender, talker/silent type, spontaneous/planner, Emotional/Stoic, Leader/Supporter, Relaxed/Energetic, or Organized/Creative. Don’t get me started… 😉
So, how do we leverage our Differences?
Our best choice is to pursue the relationship, discuss, adapt, see the strengths of our differences and thank God that He will use them to make us more like Jesus (if we survive…).
So what do we do when differences continually frustrate us?
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
- Realize that differences are common in every marriage.
- Examine our heart and acknowledge our “weird” behaviors also exist.
- Consider what standards I am using in this situation, as I judge my spouse. Are they personal standards or biblical?
- Can I think of any strengths this “difference” offers to the relationship?
- Determine what the root issue is that creates the frustration for me.
- If this doesn’t change, what is the outcome I am concerned about.
- Determine what I would like the situation to be in the future.
- In a spirit of humility, take your thoughts and discuss the issue with your spouse.
- If there is no tangible progress after a reasonable period of time, agree to meet with others for counsel.
- Keep loving each other in the relationship.
Acceptance in Marriage extends to Others
Couples who accept their differences have a greater capacity to accept others in their families, co-workers and friends. There are few barriers to being friends with them. They love more freely.
They have an enlarged perspective that sees differences, differently.
They look for the value, the strength and the creative work of God in each person, without focusing just on externals.
The same God that created the myriad of plants and animals is working the same in humans. Go love them like Jesus did.
don’t separate us,
Discuss these Questions if you want to have a Great Marriage!
What are five differences we have noticed about ourselves?
What are two differences that have made our lives together stronger as we have accepted them?
When we consider what attracted us, what are several differences we see?
What do we need to discuss that still frustrates us and limits our intimacy?