When Jean and I entered premarital counseling, we were goo-goo-eyed and knew that we were meant for each other. We enjoyed most of the same things and were alike in almost every way.
When we finished our last session a week later, that had all changed. We were both thinking, “Wow, we are nothing alike,” and we were wondering, “Are we going to be okay?”
At some point, every couple begins to recognize their differences. And something strange happens when they do: The whole idea of “two becoming one” gets turned into, “My spouse should become more like me.”
How do couples manage their differences effectively?
To become one flesh, you’ve got to be able to embrace your mate’s differences, rather than fight against them. Healthy marriage is about discerning which hills are worth dying on and which ones ought to be let go in compromise.
A lot of friction in marriage is rooted in an unwillingness to have empathy. That’s a direct path to resenting your spouse and to starving your marriage until it’s so brittle that neither one of you wants to invest in it anymore. When that happens, you’ll end up in counseling or divorced.
When author and blogger Melanie Shankle realized how different she and her husband were, she had a revelation. She believed God would have her treat her husband’s differences with the same grace that she would her best girlfriend.
And grace is what it’s all about. No couple knows ahead of time what “in sickness and in health” means until one of you actually gets sick. You won’t know what “for better or for worse” means until your spouse does something unlovable, and you choose to stay committed to your marriage anyway.
If you and your spouse are getting stuck in your differences, get unstuck. Tune in to our radio broadcast “The Joys and Challenges of Marrying Your Opposite.” Melanie will be sharing some excellent advice and will give you a few laughs along the way. She’s fun, and I know you’ll enjoy our conversation.
And why don’t you take a few moments to try our free marriage assessment online tool that will help you quickly determine what’s working well in your relationship, and areas where you may need some improvement.
Look for Melanie’s books in our online store. I’d also like to offer you the one we’re talking about today, The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life: A Memoir, for a gift of any amount. Visit our website or give us a call at 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459).