For better or worse…. That’s what we agreed to. I had no idea that many of Jon’s endearing and quirky differences I once appreciated while we were dating would become the same things that drive me crazy. I’m sure he feels the same about me 😉
Recently in preparation for the couples group we lead, Jon and I sat down to discuss and listed out some of the ways we are different. Too often, differences can tear a marriage apart but sometimes they can actually bring couples closer together! We’ve come to realize that while frustrating at time our differences are the very thing that keeps our marriage exciting and well balanced.
|Carefree||Organized & Structured|
|Night Owl||Early to bed|
|Lives to eat||Eats to live|
|Avoids conflict||More direct|
|OK not doing anything||Looks for what needs to be done|
|Views movies as an escape & relaxation||Movies are a waste of time|
|Get things done when they need to be done||List maker and multi-tasker|
|Record keeping not as important||Record keeping very important|
|Shops for what he likes = higher end items usually.||Shops for bargains|
|Enjoys the snow & skiing. Not a big fan of sand.||Enjoys the beach, sun & water sports. Not a fan of the cold.|
|Humorous & light hearted||Much more serious|
|Reads for entertainment||Reads to grow|
|He’s an ENFP – “An Inspirer”||She’s an ESFJ – “A Caregiver”|
|Physical touch is his #1 primary love language.||Physical touch is her lowest love language.|
|Appreciates nice, fast cars||Appreciates safe, mom mini-vans|
We are all probably familiar with the old concept and expression “opposites attract.” Research by Columbia University says, “couples who agree with each other all the time may find they are actually too close for comfort.”
After being together for almost thirty years we’ve come to realize that most marriages tend to go through stages in regards to differences. Starting with the first date, then through engagement and being newly married, couples tend to be enchanted with one another. However, after several years of togetherness, those same differences that were once admired in each other often became irritants that annoy. Therefore, we must allow God to change us so we can see and appreciate the valuable traits we each bring to the marriage relationship.
If we see our differences as gifts verses hindrances, we are drawn towards greater acceptance of each other. As I reflected on many past upsets, I realized I was often judging Jon’s behavior as annoying, ridiculous, or a waste of time rather that trying to understand his perspective. I also know it’s not my job to change my husband; I’ve tried without much success. I can only change myself and how I choose to view these annoying behaviors. We’ve learned that it’s best to communicate annoyances so they don’t escalate.
So if you and your spouse are struggling because of annoying differences, here are 10 suggestions to stay on the same team:
- Focus on the irritating behavior and not your spouse as you can’t change people.
- Find time to communicate about the problem calmly rather than getting upset and stonewalling. Change can’t take place without both of you sharing and listening.
- Carefully choose the best time to share. I have learned that it’s best not to share in the moment especially if you are upset. Once words are spoken they can’t be taken back. Also consider what your spouse has going on.
- Sandwich your concerns by first finding something positive to share about your spouse. Then calmly explain the issue. Finish up on a positive note.
- Don’t use the words “always” or “never” as your spouse will probably feel attacked and get defensive and discount what you are sharing because of the one time your statement wasn’t true.
- Discuss ways to bring about change or share benefits of changing.
- Acknowledge any growth and cheer your spouse on.
- Be patient as change takes time.
- Find 2-3 positive traits to balance out each negative one. Consider memorizing Philippians 4:8 then practice it.
- Pray for your spouse and ask God to give you grace to be more accepting.
Back in the 90’s Focus on the Family’s published the insightful video, Vive La Difference. Actors Paul and Nicole Johnson present a humorous yet poignant skit that illustrates a couple going through the metamorphosis of recognizing their differences. As you watch the video clip identify the various differences that annoy them. Notice how she tries to get her husbands attention when she wants to talk. Notice how he chooses the wrong time to communicate.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER after watching the video.
- What are some of the differences that first attracted you to your spouse? Why do you feel you were attracted to those qualities?
- How do you view these differences today? Are they still attractive or do many of them drive you crazy? Is you perspective helping or harming you relationship?
- The couple struggle in four areas: in-laws, finances, flexibility, and communication. Which of these areas do you tend to struggle the most with? Maybe there is another area of contention between you. If so, what is it? How can you work through these issues?
- When there is a disagreement about an issue (family, finances, work) that each of you views as important, how do you find a compromise?
- As a couple, how do you handle conflicts when it comes to your differences? Do you discuss them calmly, argue about them or ignore them? Which method do you think is the healthiest emotionally? Why?
- Read 1 Corinthians 12 What does the passage tell us? Do you think the same applies to our marriage relationships? We should work together; emphasizing the various gifts that each of has to contribute to the good of the marriage. Has your goal as a couple been to find sameness or oneness? How can you work to find oneness by allowing your differences to complement your relationship rather than destroy it?
- How about you? Have you learned to allow God to change you by helping you to see and appreciate the valuable traits your spouse brings to the marriage?