By Bev & Phil Haas
My husband and I are so different. At times it seems we have very little in common. What can we do to keep our differences from driving us apart?
It’s good you’ve taken the first step by admitting that you and your spouse are different. According to the Bible, that is a good thing. In Genesis we learn that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female, he created them” (Genesis 1:27). When God divided humanity into male and female, he called his two creations very good (v. 31). The differences between male and female were intended to bring completeness rather than conflict. Unfortunately, with the fall into sin, the blessings of the different sexes became more of a battle between the sexes.
To recapture what has been lost, we must reconcile the differences that make each of us special and unique. How you do that as a couple involves first understanding your differences and then accepting them. The problem is not that you’re different but that you’re having trouble accepting the differences.
Understanding Your Differences
When Bev and I first met, we were attracted to each other because we were so different. For us it was true that opposites attract. We met at Shively Christian Church where Bev attended since she was a little girl. When I showed up it was one of the few times I had ever been in a church service. Bev was attending Bellarmine University on a full scholarship, while I had already dropped out of three colleges. Bev’s parents were celebrating 25 years of marriage but mine were calling it quits.
People attracted to those who are different inevitably discover that those intriguing differences can also rub you the wrong way. When that happens, it doesn’t mean you’ve married the wrong person. It means you’ve got work to do in order to experience what the Bible refers to as oneness. Oneness is about closeness, not sameness.
To best understand your differences you need to be specific. In what ways are you different? For example, Bev is an extrovert who is energized by being around groups of people. I’m the introvert who prefers to avoid large crowds. When making decisions, Bev goes with her feelings, while I prefer the facts. If you are like the rest of us, you will be tempted to try to fix your husband and he will probably have a go at fixing you too. After all, if our spouse can become more like us, marriage will work better, right? Wrong!
What we easily forget is that God designed us to be different, and those differences are good for us. Think about it: if you married someone just like you, then you wouldn’t have to grow, you wouldn’t have to get out of your comfort zone, and you wouldn’t have to enter into someone else’s world. Instead, differences are precisely what you need to become the person God created you to be. Your differences can be your biggest strength as a couple—if you learn how to make them work for your marriage and not against it.
Accepting Your Differences
It’s not enough to understand your differences and then file away what you’ve learned. You must accept them. When we vacation at the beach, Bev loves to sit at the ocean and read; she’s an avid reader and has been since her childhood. I can do that for a while, but then I have to get up and do something. Over the years, I’ve learned to love reading because of Bev’s influence. In high school I read only two books (both about basketball). Now I read a half a day at the beach with Bev instead of half an hour. When we learn from others and respect our similarities and our differences, we grow instead of stagnating.
Write down what you love about your spouse. Then write down the things that seem irreconcilable. You may find that your differences are less serious than you think. The list will also reveal where you can be challenged by your spouse to grow.
Differences are not deficiencies. It’s inevitable to have differences due to God’s design for marriage. What draws us closer or drives us apart is how we manage those differences. Our closing word of encouragement is to embrace your differences and the exciting possibilities they can bring to your marriage instead of trying to eliminate them.
Bev and Phil Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have two children and four grandkids. Send your questions about family life to Bev and Phil Haas in care of The Lookout (firstname.lastname@example.org). We regret that personal replies are not always possible.