It is amazing to consider how it is that God made us to be so attracted to people who are different from us. In fact, most of our early attraction includes a decision to find people who are not like the parts of ourselves we least like. Back in the beginning of your relationship, the ways in which your spouse was different from you were interesting. You were curious and somewhat excited to discover why they are like that and to see how they are in other areas. You liked what was different than you in your future spouse.
Any two people living under the same roof will disagree!
But as you take the vows of matrimony in front of God and your family and friends and move in together, you soon find that there are a large number of differences. Any two people living under the same roof will disagree about where things should go, how they should be arranged and how everything should be kept. Personality differences that you curiously thought were cute now become major sticking points in arguments and disagreements.
She wants the toilet paper to roll from the top to the bottom and he does not think it should matter. He thinks dishes should be cleaned and put away right away and she thinks they can sit as long as everything is sanitary. She wants to save electricity by keeping doors closed, lights off and the AC/heat moderately chilly in the winter and warm in the summer to save on bills. He thinks living comfortably, including not always turning off lights and closing doors, is worth the extra costs. Her idea of fun is a room full of people sharing, laughing, dancing and playing together and his idea of fun is the two of them on a walk or better yet sitting near each other reading separate books. And on and on…
There are three ways most couples deal with these issues:
- My Way or The Highway. This approach is usually taken by one spouse as almost every issue becomes a potential relationship breaker. Control pops up as a major feature and the other spouse must leave or bend to accept the other person’s way of doing life. The old adage, “you can be right or you can be married” comes true when it has to be my way in our marriage. This approach is unhealthy, never works long term, and sometimes leads to a dangerous relationship.
- Change My Spouse. Early in the relationship it seems doable. One thinks their spouse is in love with me so much that they will make this one little change in their personality or in their way of thinking. But spending your time and energy trying to change and train your spouse rarely ends in fulfillment. Over the years, the frustration of your spouse not changing can lead to bitterness, un-forgiveness and even hatred. This approach is unhealthy are rarely successful.
- Accept My Spouse’s Differences. This approach is the healthiest and requires compromise and compassion. You must move from thinking about the issue as right and wrong or good and bad and begin to think of the issue as each of your preference for dealing with it. By taking this approach you begin to see the possibilities for a way together that includes joy and peace.
“Husbands live with your wives in an understanding way…” I Peter 3:7.
One of the best ways to accept your spouse’s differences in issues of home management, chores, budgeting, etc. is to have a courageous conversation about the pressing issue. During the discussion, decide between the two of you who should take the lead in one or more of the areas that cause friction. You will give your spouse freedom to do it their way in the areas that are most important to them and finding areas where your spouse gives you freedom to do it your way in the areas most important to you.
Through my personal transformation journey, I have grown to realize the most important person for me to focus on changing when there are disagreements in my marriage is me. I find support in scripture that, as the husband, I need to go first in stepping into my fear. When I value my marriage enough to have the courageous conversation it most needs, I begin to find freedom through our mutual acceptance.
By Roy Wooten
Roy completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2009 and has been the longtime leader of The Crucible Project community in Houston. Roy and his wife Devra have led over 175 of their Life Together Forever Couples Weekends and are the authors of The Secret to Lifetime Love: Speaking and Hearing Truth. He also authored Full Throttle Into Fatherhood and is the Executive Director of Shield Bearer Counseling Centers in Houston, Texas. Follow Roy at LifeTogetherForever.com.
Photo courtesy of Roy Wooten.