The other day my husband and I were watching the TV show, “Little People, Big World.” It’s a type of reality show with the Roloff family, with some of them being little people, and some not.
I haven’t been watching the program as much lately because the husband (Matt) and his wife (Amy) have been pretty contentious with each other. It’s sure awkward for those who observe people getting after one another —especially a husband and wife.
Anyway, we thought we’d peek in and see what was happening in their lives. Unfortunately, there was a lot of tension going on between Matt and Amy. They’ve been setting up their farm to make it possible for couples to get married there in a more relaxed setting. Ironic, isn’t it, when you think about the tension going on in their own marriage?
What’s even more ironic is that as Matt and Amy were grumbling to each other about different things, Matt made the statement that he would like to give the bride and groom-to-be some advice on marriage. Steve and I just looked at each other and said, “What?” Who would want marital relationship advice from someone who obviously is having problems and doesn’t seem to be learning from those problems? Not me, not us!
And then the kicker was when Amy started talking about the different ways in which they could have done better in their marriage, in being more understanding and helpful to each other. And she was right.
She has been VERY negative towards him, verbally bashing him, dismissing him, etc. And he has been ignoring her, doing his own thing, and the list goes on and on in the ways he has contributed to the tension. They BOTH have contributed to the problems that are going on in their marriage (just as it is in most marriages where they are experiencing problems).
But then Matt said something that I’ve heard both of them say over and over again… not in good ways, but in separating ways. He didn’t even acknowledge that Amy might be right in what she said to him, and instead looked away and made the statement, “it’s just that we’re now very different people.” And they are. And WE are. But that’s not the point, if he would really wake up.
I wanted to scream at that moment, and Steve said that he wanted to shake some sense into him, before it’s too late. The problem isn’t as much the differences; the problem is what you DO with the differences. Where is his focus? If his focus is on the differences, as if they are an ever-widening crater, separating them more and more, then so be it… his words are a prophecy of what is and what will be. But if his focus is on HOW they can bridge their differences, THEN there is hope and actually, the differences can work for them.
I like Matt and Amy (as much as I’ve seen of them). They both have great strengths, and are very likable. And just as with any other human being, they both have weaknesses —blaring ones (at least to those of us on the outside looking in). But their “weaknesses” aren’t such that they can’t be worked on and helped through —especially if they look to each other to help them do so.
I’m reminded of the scripture in Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12, as an example of what they should realize. As we’re told,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him —a threefold cord is not quickly broken.“
There is power in the strength of two, but even more power —SUPER power, when God is in it, as a “threefold cord” (or a “cord of three strands“). If they (and we) would just quit focusing on our differences and what we consider to be the other person’s weaknesses, it could be AMAZING what married couples could do.
There are so many times, as I’ve watched what is going on between Matt and Amy, where I’ve wanted to scream out to them and say, “Quit talking AT each other, and instead talk TO each other and LISTEN to what is being said and not being said by your marriage ‘partner.’” Common ground CAN be found, if they would work together instead of focusing on their different ways.
This is what Steve and I found out the hard way. We were focusing in on how different we were, thinking our own approach to this and that was the “right” way and the other was “wrong.” How wrong that was, we eventually came to discover! Unless it’s a moral or abuse issue, there isn’t usually one right way and one wrong way to do things. It’s a matter of personal preference. When Steve and I realized that (and we still discover it from time-to-time) it’s AMAZING how differently we were able to approach matters and resolve them. Then it becomes a matter of how to work through these matters, in respectful, God-honoring ways. The focus no longer becomes about how “different” we are, but how we can make those differences work for us, rather than against us, concerning the issue at hand.
I could go on and on, but I won’t because we have so much of this posted in other parts of the web site. You just have to seek it out (if you truly want to know). Instead, I just want to make the point —where is your focus? Are you truly trying to work as a team, instead of two individuals fighting each other?
I realize that you can’t MAKE your spouse join you in this mission. But what you CAN do is make sure that YOU aren’t the one who is throwing forth the roadblocks. You might want to pray what we’re taught in Psalm 139:24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” (That has sure helped me many, many times.)
And make sure you aren’t “right-fighting” where you’re so bent on thinking that you are so “right” that you overlook the whole point. It’s not a matter of WHO’S right, but WHAT is right —what is the right thing to do, concerning this matter. Is it worth the battle that is ensuing? Will this truly matter in a hundred years or so (or even a month or so later)?
Also, make sure you listen to what your spouse is saying —with your ears, your mind, and your heart. And after you have listened, if you have anything more that you’d like to say, make sure you say it in a respectful way, as God would have you.
See if there is any way you can combine talents. I found that instead of trying to make my husband Steve into a detail person, to relax a bit and combine talents. It’s not that he can’t work through detailed situations, but it’s not really what works out best. When cleaning the house or garage (when we both need to do so), Steve and I have worked it out where I’m the one who does the picky, little organizing things, and Steve is better at the general, bigger things. Since discovering that “secret” that works for us, we make a great team on most household things. For you and your spouse, a different approach might work out best.
Again, don’t focus on how “different” you are, as if it’s a disease that will kill you (it may, if you let it). Instead, look to see what can be done to de-emphasize the differences and instead work on what can be done to bridge your differences so they work FOR your marital partnership.
The following is a link to a great blog that my friend Debi Walter wrote and posted on The Romantic Vineyard web site (one you’ll want to look around and see what romantic tip you can use in your marriage). Debi makes additional points to consider in this issue of “differences.”
I want to close this blog with a statement from Paul Tripp’s book, What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage. I’m hoping that you will think about what I’ve written and what Paul has written, and then read the scripture he refers to, asking God to help you to better deal with the “uncomfortable grace” that you sometimes experience in your marriage. And may your focus be, as God would ordain for you!
“When you are tired and uncomfortable because you have been called to live with someone who is not like you, what you tell yourself about what you are going through is very important. It is in this moment that you must preach to yourself the theology of uncomfortable grace (See Romans 5; James 1; and 1 Peter 1), because when you do, you begin to be less resistant and more appreciative, and you are on your way to forging a marriage of unity, understanding, and love.”
This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.
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