When Cindy and I (Steve) got married we didn’t think our “differences” would matter much. We truly felt that we got along pretty good, and upon marrying, we would only grow closer—not separated by differences. But a year later those differences started to rear their ugly heads. Eventually they nearly tore us apart.
What saved us was when we realized that we needed to “marry” our differences in partnership. And to this day, we are still marrying our differences. That’s because new situations arise every day and we’re still very different in the ways we approach them. So it’s an ongoing mission for us to find ways to come to agreement so both of us is satisfied.
Marrying Our Differences From This Day Forward
If you think you are SO DIFFERENT from one another, you’re right. Do you think God made a mistake when He created us to be different from each other? Or do you think He had a purpose for it? God doesn’t do things hap-hazard, so we can be certain that He has a plan in all of this.
We believe that part of the reason He created us to be different is so that we can unite to make our differences work for us, rather than against us. God wants us to work together. Ultimately, that would result in His having another reason for creating us to be so different. In big and small ways God wants us to be more dependent upon Him for His help.
God also wants to help us to use our differences so we are more united with Him and with each other. Paul David Tripp put it this way (and we agree):
“One way God establishes beauty is by putting things that are different next to each other. Isn’t this exactly what God does in marriage? He puts very different people next to each other. This is how he establishes the beauty of a marriage. The moon would not be so striking if it hung in a white sky; in the same way, the striking beauty of a marriage is when two very different people learn to celebrate and benefit from their differences and to be protected from their weaknesses by being sheltered by the other’s strength.” (From his book, “What Did You Expect? Redeeming The Realities Of Marriage”)
This goes along with something that Dr Gary Chapman wrote concerning how:
God Uses Our Differences
“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.”
There’s no doubt that we need God’s help, wisdom, empowerment, and reconciling, uniting ways. Additionally, there is no doubt that God wants to help us in MARRYING our differences for another good reason. It is so that as we do so, we can be a powerful testimony of His love to the world.
As Cindy and I remind you almost every week—marriage was never intended to be easy. It’s like what Ron R Lee said:
“People believe if they marry the person God intended, they’ll get the relationship they desire. They begin their marriage thinking their bond will remain strong from then on. The law of entropy (deterioration) says that won’t happen. Without the investment of new energy, any marriage will disintegrate. To prevent that, you need to adapt in some way—choose to change and do whatever you can to meet your mate’s needs.” (From his article, “Can You Have It All?”)
Investing in Marrying
There are two key points Ron gave we need to focus on. The first is, “Without the investment of new energy, any marriage will disintegrate.” And the second is, “To prevent that, you need to adapt in some way—choose to change and do whatever you can to meet your mate’s needs.”
That’s important because we need to also remember that the enemy of our faith will take the smallest differences and blow them up to try and divide us. That’s what he has tried to do with Cindy and me; and I’m sure he has/or is doing that in your marriage too. One of the lies he got me to believe was that marriage was a 50/50 proposition. As Dave Willis says,
“Marriage is not 50/50; divorce is 50/50. Marriage has to be 100/100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got.”
Yes, if we’re going to marry our differences in our marriages we must give it all we’ve got. But in reality we can rarely both operate at 100 per cent all the time. Cindy and I also have learned a principle that Dr. Laura Schlesinger points out:
“A strong marriage doesn’t always have two strong people at the same time. It’s a husband and wife who take turns being strong for each other in moments when the other feels weak.”
Adapting to, Changing, and Choosing Each Other
That leads me back to Ron Lee’s two points of needing to invest new energy so your marriage won’t disintegrate. Plus, we need to learn to adapt, choose to change and do whatever we can to meet our mate’s needs. To illustrate these points I want to share some tips from Marcus and Ashley Kusi. I can’t imagine that I could say it any better than they have. As you read the points they make figure out how you can apply them. We’ll add some comments to what they give, too.
Marrying Your Differences
“These simple tips can help you to combine your marriage differences to build a great marriage.
1) Have a conversation and verbalize the differences you each see. Talk, talk, and discuss how you differ from each other. And don’t think you are the same as him or her, you are unique individuals.
“Imagine being married to someone just like you (same eyes, ears, habits, etc.)? What kind of marriage will you have today?
[This is a great exercise. But don’t try to build an exhaustive list. Start small so you don’t become overwhelmed. Once you find it’s “safe” to do this, it’s easy to build upon it.
For example, Cindy sees every little thing that is out of place. I, on the other hand, am fortunate if I would see a boulder if it was in the middle of the living room.
Here’s the way we marry these differences: I continually pray that God will help me to be more “aware” and to pick up after myself. I truly try to be intentional in looking around and being more aware. On the other hand, Cindy has learned to overlook what she can and give me more grace if I miss something.]
2) Make a list of your similarities and differences. By doing this you will be able to communicate them better to each, and see how you compliment each other.
[Again, it’s good to start small so you don’t flood your less communicative spouse. You also want to keep the conversation and the points as positive as possible. The attitude Cindy and I have adopted is: “Our differences aren’t necessarily wrong; they’re just different.” This has helped us tremendously over the years in marrying our differences.
Cindy actually wrote a blog where she wrote about a portion of our list of differences in our approach to life. We encourage you to read it. Here’s the link to the blog: BEING DIFFERENT TOGETHER. You may find it to be comical. Plus, it may give you hope in marrying and bridging your differences.]
3) Talk about how you can find a compromise. If one of you is an introvert and the other an extrovert, talk about how many events you would both be willing to attend together, and individually in a month.
[It’s important to note that when the introvert agrees to go outside of their comfort zone for their spouse, they get something in return.]
4) Do not try to guilt your spouse into doing anything your way. You may not even realize you are doing this. Be aware of the words you choose to plead your case.
[This is where we apply the truth of Proverbs 18:21: “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”]
5) Respect their answers, and their right to say no. Yes, they can say No to you!
[We agree with Ashley and Marcus that we can say “no.” But do so with discretion. You can’t use this as your default. We must both be open to change. Change can hurt for a while, but it’s also good.]
6) Find a way to have fun with your differences. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Add some fun.
[In the beginning it may be hard to have “fun” with this. We can relate. Today, though, Cindy and I often can smile, if not laugh, over our differences. And sometimes we even do this right in the middle of an argument. We’re able to this because we’ve worked hard at marrying our differences in partnership. We also greatly value the healing balm of humor. It’s difficult to stay angry at someone that you laugh with. Laughter is “good medicine” and it is a great (and fun) glue that helps you to stick together.]
Concerning marrying your differences Marcus and Ashley Kusi go on to say…
“If you happen to fight over your differences, stop doing it. Sit down and work together with your husband or wife to figure out how you can harmoniously use your differences to improve your marriage.
“If you do not handle your marriage differences well, it would add stress and unwanted fights or arguments to your marriage. Now, go celebrate your differences!” (From the Ourpeacefulfamily.com article, Differences in Marriage”)
Additional Important Marrying Consideration
Marcus and Ashley said it so well! But there is another important step to remember given by Dr. Steve Stephens:
“Working together as a team sometimes involves stepping out and kneeling beside your teammate. A marriage is hard work. But it’s work done together as the two of you remember that you’re both on the same team. You are to cover each other’s back, helping each other, and sometimes even kneeling at each other’s side.”
Stephens brings up an important point on this subject of marrying our differences in partnership. That’s the word, “Team.” It’s a word picture that’s easy to grasp. That’s because the ultimate goal of any team is to win. And no team can win if any member of that team feels like a loser. How do you feel about your marital team? Consider this:
“Remind yourselves that you’re already teammates. You’re joined together in the common goal and purpose of marriage, even if you’re not yet connected on the specific issue. As teammates, you must bring to mind, over and over again, that in order to either win—and thus for the team to win—you both must feel good about where you end up.
“Commit to finding an alternative you both like. You’ll find that defenses start dropping once you don’t have to watch your back or worry about being strong-armed or sold on an idea. Take comfort in knowing that being on of the team’s key members mean you won’t accept a solution unless it works for you too.” (Dr. Robert S. Paul)
If either of you feel that you’re not winning by marrying your differences in partnership, NOW IS THE TIME TO CHANGE! Here’s what we suggest you do to start turning things around.
Find a quiet place and kneel next to each other. Then pray and ask God to help you to grow together as a couple. Ask Him to remind you daily that you are on the same team and that you’ve got each other’s backs. Then, pray for God to show you how to marry your differences—for the rest of your marriage. Don’t worry, He knows exactly what you need and will help you as you move forward.
Use Marcus and Ashley’s six discussion points to start changing what you’re doing.
If you really want to grow deeper more quickly we recommend that you use a couple’s devotional. There are many to choose from. We really like:
• Devotions for a Sacred Marriage: A Year of Weekly Devotions for Couples written by Gary Thomas.
In addition, there is
• The Love Dare Day by Day: A Year of Devotions for Couples written by Stephen and Alex Kendrick
• The One Year Love Talk Devotional for Couples written by Drs Les and Leslie Parrott
And there is:
• The One Year Love Language Minute Devotional written by Dr Gary Chapman
What couple can’t commit a minute a day to strengthen their marriage?
One last word of encouragement in marrying your differences:
Don’t get discouraged or give up. If you make two steps forward and then one step back you’re normal. Using the team analogy again, winning teams win because they practice, practice, practice; and then practice some more. Even championship teams don’t win ALL of the games they play. Some even go through major losing streaks before they rebound. What makes them winners is they NEVER QUIT TRYING.
Everything we offer on our web site is designed to help you win in your marriage. With well over a thousand articles and another thousand resource suggestions you’re ready to marry your differences in partnership.
Steve and Cindy Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
We give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below to do so:
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