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Marriage: Dealing with differences

When we marry, very often we marry someone different to us. That’s what attracts us in the first place. That’s what makes them seem exciting—they see and do things differently.

But the difference between interesting and irritating is often just a matter of time. Too soon what intrigued us can become annoying—her planning starts to cramp your ‘go with the flow’ attitude, his high flying work life clashes with your plans for a warm family life. Tensions build around these differences, and we become ingrained into thinking that our way of seeing life is right, and that the other person needs to wise up and come around to our way of thinking. All the while they think the same, if only we would see life their way, then all would be great.

There are differences that are issues of right/wrong—moral issues—that need to be dealt with rather than accommodated. But there issues of background, culture, personality—these differences are not an issue of wrong or right, they are just differences of preference.

How do we respond to these so that they do not become irritating? We have two choices. We can either embrace the differences that God has brought to our marriage. Or, we can try to be God, trying to change our spouse into our image.

Paul Tripp in his book on marriage that we have been dipping into over these last few weeks suggests five God-pleasing ways to respond to these differences:

Celebrate your Creator. The more you acknowledge and appreciate the fact that God made your spouse exactly as you need them to be, the more you will tend to esteem and appreciate them.

Refuse to see the differences as right or wrong. When you begin to think and act as though your hardwiring makes you better, more mature, or more righteous than your spouse, you will act and respond in ways that are dismissive and disrespectful.

Determine to respond to your differences with appreciation and respect. We are used to being impatient or irritated in the face of differences, used to doing what we need to get our own way. Those responses are more about your relationship with God than about your husband or wife. You disagree with how God made your wife or your husband. Marriage is about two people creating something stronger together than they are apart—that means there are two sets of strengths, and both need to be appreciated.

Learn where your differences create difficulty and work together at these areas. Do we see our differences as an opportunity for developing deeper unity and harmony or an opportunity to fight? Will we learn to work to each other’s strengths, anticipating the conflicts of interest and working around them?

Admit where these differences challenge you to grow. God uses the differences in our spouses to expose our own flaws, pride, impatience and many other sinful traits. Too often we are so busy looking at the other half with a critical eye that we don’t see where we need to grow ourselves.

Marriage is not easy. We can either attempt to muddle through on our own strength or we can look to Jesus Christ who gives strength, help and hope for broken marriages in a broken world.