Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dealing with Differences in Marriage

     My husband and I are very similar, but where we differ, we differ drastically. In fact, we are either on the same page or reading two different books. Differences between a couple could spell disaster for the marriage if both individuals have yet to come to understand and implement means of dealing with their differences. 

      When describing our personalities we often make the joke of saying that I am Type A while my husband is Type M..R...W or some other distant place in the alphabet. I tend to be more uptight and a lover of schedules/routines, organization and planning/goals. My husband, on the other hand, can aptly be described in one phrase- "no worries." He has a very laid back personality. It took me a while after we were married to understand that although he didn't complete tasks when and how I would have done them, he did do them (and often times better than I would have). I came to see that repeatedly telling him what needed done actually undercut him by conveying doubt in him, his priorities and his abilities. Of course he would grow less willing to voluntarily tackle a task with me fussing (uh hem..nagging)! Eventually, I learned that it was better for me to not say anything once the task/topic was discussed and allow him to do what he does best which is to work in his own way. Guess what? It worked...on me! Slowly but surely I'm learning to let go and relax a bit. Yep, that "no worries" spirit has worked hard to rub off on me. Similarly, my structured and organized characteristics have rubbed off on him a bit. We're both still solid in who we are as individuals, but by being receptive to the other person's qualities we've permitted God to do a work in us and grow us to a greater extent than would have been possible had we stood firm in our own ways. 

     We also differ in preferences for movies, music, money, faith, and thrill/adventure-seeking. Again, we're opposite sides of the spectrum. He's a spender (not really, but just doesn't worry about money) and I'm a super saver. He likes adventure and I like security. He likes more contemporary approaches to church/faith matters and I tend to be a little more conservative. He likes drama, suspense, action etc. movies and I like comedies (and of course, romantic comedies). I have hair on my head and he..whoops, we'll leave that one alone ( hubby- *wink, wink*). The point is, we are so different, but these areas are inconsequential. At the core of who we are as a couple is an indescribable bond. We just connect with one another. That connection has only strengthened as we have journeyed   through our marriage because we have learned how to deal with differences that arise in marriage. 

A Few Things I've Learned About Dealing With Differences:

*Pick and choose your battles-
       Ask yourself: Will this issue hurt or help my relationship? Rarely is there a difference in perspective or preference that is worth damaging or breaking a relationship. 

*Do what you can-
       I’ve found that I can still satisfy my preferences without disrespecting my husband or the decision he’s made for us. For instance, I continue to set financial goals and set a monthly budget. I place my efforts in making sure I stay within these perimeters, but I will never tell him where he can spend money or how much. I simply do what I can with what is available. Money is a poor reason for allowing disrespect and selfishness into a relationship.
      The other big area of differing perspectives for us is in regard to church/faith. We come from different backgrounds, and although our core beliefs are the same our approaches are often opposing because of these backgrounds. Faith is also a poor reason for allowing a fracture in the relationship because it should do the opposite by bringing us together. I can, instead, respect my husband’s leading in this area and then supplement with the music and messages I prefer on my own time. (Not a bad way to fill a homemaking day, by the way!).

*Compromise to meet in the middle-
       Letting go of exclusive interest in your position to be concerned about the other person’s is called selflessness, and it will do your marriage well. Marriage is about sharing life together, and that’s hard to do if your grasp if firmly on you, your life, and your interests. Some times neither one of you will get his/her way. You will, instead, have to determine a middle ground and strive for that goal. Where ever you land, you will be there together as one unit and that’s the most important part.

*Allow God to work through differences-
       I believe that God uses marriage as a tool to sharpen and grow us as individuals. If I stood firm in a “my way, or no way” attitude, then I’m not allowing marriage to do the work that God intended. My husband was given to me not just for my happiness, but also for God’s glory. God has taught me so much through the example of my husband. I am a stronger person and Christ-follower because of my marriage. This would not be the case without this belief in the purpose of marriage.

       A turning point is reached when you can embrace each other’s differences, and even laugh at them (in a good way, of course). My husband cracks me up with his laid back approach to things. I admire those unique qualities in him (even if they remain a mystery to me!). I’m pretty sure he cracks up at my hyper-organization and other unique qualities. 
      This past Christmas we sponsored a child and went shopping for gifts for her. I selected classic, wooden, or otherwise educational toys, and my husband found every bright-light, plastic noise-maker on the shelf. It's hard not to laugh at our two differing approaches to the same task which was selecting toys for this little girl. 

   Learning to properly deal with differences in marriage is the work aspect of love. It builds the kind of love that has a firm foundation and lasts. Differences don't have to spell disaster for a marriage. When you come to see them function in a marriage as God does, then they are actually rather beautiful. I love my husband dearly, even the ways that he's different from me! 

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