Those many, many differences that you start to see in your spouse after you marry, can be extremely frustrating! How could he or she be so different from the person you thought he or she was before the wedding? Are those differences good, bad, or just different?
Dr Emerson Eggerichs, author of the bestselling book, Love & Respect —who also conducts marriage seminars on the same subject, writes and speaks about this same issue. He believes (and so do we) that our differences do not fall into the category of being right or wrong. These perspectives are just different!
In his book, CRACKING THE COMMUNICATION CODE, Emerson makes some interesting points.
On Being Just Different, Dr Eggerichs writes:
“As one husband pointed out, he and his wife are ‘wired differently.’ That different wiring usually causes husband and wife to be interested in different things. And these different interests can sometimes lead to miscommunication that results in tension.
“A wife wants to talk and connect emotionally. But her husband says, ‘I’m tired.’ Is he reporting the facts, or is he rejecting her? Because a wife usually requests to talk more than her husband requests to talk (she feels this need in her femaleness), his words are interpreted as rejection. Yet, to him the day has been exhausting. He wants to disengage by watching TV.
“On the other side of the equation, is a wife reporting the facts or rejecting her husband when a husband wants to be sexually intimate but his wife says, ‘I’m tired?’ Because a husband usually pushes for sexual intimacy more than his wife pushes for sexual intimacy (he feels this need in his maleness), her words are interpreted as rejection. Yet, to her the day has been very tiring, and she wants to bathe, wash her hair, and go to bed early.
“Not wrong; just different! Yet these differences between wives and husbands negatively affect communication and sometimes cause one spouse to accuse the other of being wrong when he or she is just different.”
Rising to the Surface
Before we marry, our differences may not have seemed to have seemed so pronounced. We may have seen more similarities, rather than differences. But it’s quite common for differences to rise to the surface eventually. And truly, it only makes sense that they would arise, and even cause disappointments.
Joshua Pease gives some insight into this:
“Marital disappointments are unavoidable because marriage is the collision of two different perspectives and ways of living. You brought into the union your own family background and traditions, but your spouse came with a different set.
“…Your marriage is also a blend—and in some cases a clash — of two different personalities. One of you may be the quiet, stay-at-home type while the other is an outgoing party animal. Somebody will have to deal with disappointment just about every weekend and holiday.
“You also came to the altar with two different sets of values and philosophies. You may be fairly compatible on most issues, but it’s unlikely that you grew up in the same denomination and political party, or if you did, that you share identical views on every issue. Here’s hoping you have found a good deal of common ground in your beliefs, moral code, and practices of behavior. But there is plenty of room in these categories for shades of differences and the accompanying disappointments.
“Finally, you brought with you into marriage a truckload of expectations that may differ from those of your spouse. You always dreamed of having four or five kids, but your spouse wants two—tops. You would like to live close to your respective parents, but your spouse’s idea of happiness is living at least 1,000 miles from either set of parents. You expect a lot more romance out of marriage; your spouse expects a lot more sex.” (From the Thrivingmarriages.com article, 3 Ways to Dissolve Disappointments in Marriage)
The Clash of Perspectives and Backgrounds
Given all of this, it isn’t surprising that your differences rise to the surface of your relationship eventually. And sometimes they clash. But try to keep it all in perspective. You came from one background and your spouse came from another. Your perspectives will naturally be different in many ways. But that doesn’t make them right or wrong; just different!
It’s like what Emerson Eggerichs wrote:
“If you want to understand your spouse better, and if you want to communicate more effectively, hold firm to the fact: neither of you is wrong. You are just very different —as different as Pink and Blue.”
So, you approach life from different angles and perspectives. How do you bridge those differences so they don’t cause a permanent problem in your relationship? After-all, being married is all about partnership. Here are a few quotes from some marriage experts that might give you insight:
Dr Gary Chapman, in his book “Covenant Marriage” gives the following for us to consider:
“Why do you suppose Jesus chose 12 men with different personalities to serve as his disciples? I believe it was because he did not desire uniformity but, rather, unity —where each complemented the other as they worked together as a team to accomplish God’s purposes. Likewise, in marriage there is a vast difference between unity and uniformity. It is God’s purpose that we become one, but it is not God’s desire that we become [completely] alike.
“The differences are there so that we complement each other and strengthen our effectiveness in serving Christ. Differences are part of our humanity. There will never be a married couple with no differences. They key is to make our differences an asset rather than a liability.”
Here’s a tip from Robert H. Lauer, Ph.D., and Jeanette C. Lauer, Ph.D.:
“Avoid the words “good” and “bad.” When individual differences were driving us apart, it was hard not to categorize everything as “good” or “bad.” But since it was clear that God didn’t intend us to be clones, we started by agreeing that we have legitimate differences.
“One of the most obvious is how we operate in social situations. Bob tends to be quiet and somewhat withdrawn when he is surrounded by people. But nothing energizes me (Jeanette) like being part of a large group. I quickly become fully, and often noisily, engaged with others. When Bob was quiet at parties, I viewed him as being unfriendly and rude. But it was really just his preferred mode of behavior. Once we began regarding our differing tendencies as ‘preferred’ and ‘not preferred’—rather than ‘good” and “bad’—we made tremendous progress. Once we accepted that it’s OK to be different, we could begin to recognize the validity of each other’s natural tendencies. Building on that understanding, we found a way to make our differences work together to enrich our marriage.” (From the Marriage Partnership Magazine article, “Good, Bad or Just Different”)
Here’s a tip from Mike Genung:
“Realize that your differences are blessings. I’m an introvert who loves to write and spend time alone with God; Michelle is an extrovert who’s great with people. My weaknesses are counterbalanced by Michelle’s strengths, and vise-versa. God put us together for a specific purpose. It took me a long time to figure out that our differences are not points of division, but how God fits us together. I appreciate my wife’s strengths, as she does mine.
“The trick is to learn how to work together so you’re not beating each other up for your weaknesses. Humility is the key. I am the spiritual leader of my family, but I’m also a broken sinner in daily need of the grace of God. The Lord uses us to help each other. We both need God; at times one of us needs the other to (gently) remind us how God would have us live. There are times when I submit to a direction Michelle thinks we should take, as there are times when she submits to me. I don’t have all the answers, and neither does she. With God’s help, when we’re able to lay down our pride, listen to what the other says, and work through an issue, the answer is usually fleshed out.” (From the Blazinggrace.org article, Christian Marriage Tips for Husbands and Wives)
Michael Hyatt, from his web site article, How Differences With Your Spouse Can Make Your Marriage Stronger makes the following point.
He writes that it’s important to:
“Acknowledge your differences. It’s not enough to identify your differences and then file away what you’ve observed. No, you must acknowledge these—and celebrate them—in real time.
Let me give you a practical example. As an extravert (again, the Myers-Briggs spelling), Gail draws her energy from being with people. As an introvert, people wear me out. I prefer being alone.
“But because we love one another, we make sure that help the other person get what they need. Tonight we are going to a dinner party. I would prefer to stay home and read. But I know Gail needs to connect with others to remain emotionally healthy. (I need it too; I just don’t always recognize the need.)
“On the other hand, she knows I can’t be with people every night or I will burnout. So, because she loves me, she sometimes chooses to stay home so I can re-charge. (She also needs this; she just doesn’t always recognize it.)”
Michael also gives the advice to:
“Leverage your differences. Differences are not something to be resented. They are something to celebrate and use. Think of it this way: If Gail and I were exactly the same on the Myers-Briggs results, we would only have four tools at our disposal. But since we are completely opposite, we have eight. It’s as if we have more colors on our palette with which to paint the canvas of our lives!
“The real test of this is in making decisions. As a ‘J,’ I like an orderly, structured world. I want to make decisions quickly and get them behind me. Gail is just the opposite. She doesn’t have the same need for structure. She wants to explore all the options. Gail prefers to have her decisions in front of her. Left to myself, I can be impulsive, making decisions I later regret. Left to herself, Gail can procrastinate, missing opportunities she later regrets. Together, we ensure that we explore all our options but then make a decision.”
From Barbara Rainey in the Familylife.com article, “When Opposites Attract in Marriage”:
“Ignore certain differences. Some of the annoying differences in your spouse may not be weaknesses. Commit those differences to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to give you peace and contentment to live with them, even if your spouse never changes. It is important to accept him as he is, without pressuring him to change. Choose to ignore the differences that are off-limits and seemingly beyond change, and rejoice over the many benefits you enjoy because of your spouse’s strengths.”
And then lastly, pray together about your differences. Ask God to help you to bridge your differences, rather than build up walls of resentment. Remember that it’s not about being right or wrong; you’re just different. Put your mind to working those differences out in ways that you both can live with.
“So what do you do with the disappointments—great or small—that accompany the many differences you have discovered in your relationship? Where does persevering love kick into action? The apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:2 are the key to dealing with differences and disappointments. Ideally, both of you will adopt these ‘be-attitudes’ in the power of the Holy Spirit and take turns cutting each other plenty of slack.” (Joshua Pease)
Actually, as you read all of Ephesians 4 and Ephesians 5 you will gain great insight into dealing with your differences. Additionally, here’s an article that might give you some insight into the issue of being just different:
• GENDER DIFFERENCES CAN BUILD A STRONGER MARRIAGE
One last thought from Emerson Eggerichs on being just different:
“Scripture is very clear that God views us as equal: ‘there is neither male of female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus‘ (Galatians 3:28). But this verse does not do away with gender differences. Anatomy alone proves that. But what this verse does say is that, in the eyes of God, we are equal in value.
…”Not wrong, just different because ‘He created them male and female‘ (Genesis 5:2).”
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International compiled this article.
If you have additional tips you can share to help others, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.
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3 responses to “Good, Bad Or Just Different?”
(UNITED STATES) Hi there, Any advice or articles available that may help me?
I married my first love who has children from a previous relationship which he has custody of, and they have lived with us everyday since we’ve been married (3 years). There is not much help from my step kid’s natural Mom. I did not live with my husband before we were married. I went right from my parents home to our home and was instantly a wife and Mom.
After 3 years and a bunch of confused feelings/resentment/jealousy/anger/guilt/damaged self-esteem/physical abuse and feelings of being worthless, I’m almost ready for divorce. I’m hesitant because we also have a year old baby together whom he is really attached to, as well as the other 2 kids. Any help?
(UGANDA) I feel with Joan for the situation she in. Naturally when we fall in love, we disregard some factors standing in the way of our marriage. In Joan’s case, she knew this man had children and definitely, they occupied a place in this man’s heart.
Reality catches us up when we are already in the marriage and the best we have to do is talk about what causes discomfort and together find a solution. Joan has not told us what actually brings confused feelings /resentment /jealousy /anger /guilt/damaged self-esteem /physical abuse and feelings of being worthless. Is it the kids, their mother or her husband?
If it is the kids mother, then Joan has to trash it and concentrate on building up her marriage. The fact that by the time she married the husband this lady was out of picture, she should not even think to spoil a marriage she has no stake in. If it is the husband causing her terrible feelings, Joan needs to get him in a good mood and cause a discussion to address what she is going through. If it the kids, I have a feelings that since they are still young, they can be transformed and she needs to determine to help them change.
Finally, let Joan look inside herself and do a self examination test to see where she has contributed to the situation she in and address it. In most cases transformation begins with us. If she is almost ready for divorce, that is not a solution, because she may feel more bad after the divorce, and it may be worse for the baby. In Christian marriages, we are encouraged to practice patience, forgiveness, and faithfulness. I encourage her to hang on and pray for a positive change in her marriage. I encourage her to open up with her husband and the issues objectively.
My husband and I are going through a very difficult time because of our differences. As we grow older in our marriage we seem to be drifting apart. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour 7 years ago. He hasn’t accepted Christ, but started going to church about 3 years ago….a different church from my church. This is causing quarrels between us as he is trying to strong-arm me to join his church. I love Christ and I’ve established a solid relationship with Him over the years, and I can’t imagine my life outside Christ. But at the same time I want things to go well again at home…without me compromising on the relationship with Jesus Christ. How shall I handle the situation?