Many times couples come to me expressing great concern because of the many struggles they are encountering within their marriages. They wonder why they seem to have so many differences between them. I find that the first thing I must do is to calm their fears by explaining to them several things.
First, I remind them that all married couples will have differences within their marriages simply because of the fact that we are each an individual. We have all grown up in different families under various parenting styles with different spiritual and moral values. Then there are the dramatic differences between men and women physically, emotionally, and hormonally. In addition, our geographical or cultural backgrounds can influence us, thereby forming us into individuals with different likes and dislikes that are not always apparent when we first begin to date. However, these distinctions become very apparent when we live together, interacting within the daily routine of a marriage relationship. Consequently, these many differences are the reason why we struggle so often in our desire to become united in a one flesh relationship.
Now you may be thinking, With all these differences how can any two people be compatible and live in harmony with someone of the opposite sex? Is it possible to ever find someone that you are truly compatible with? Is it reasonable to think that two people could ever become like-minded?
What is compatibility?
The most common view of compatibility today is that if you have many things in common with your spouse, then you are considered a compatible match and you are expected to get along well with your mate. I used to believe that until I counseled several couples who seemingly had everything in common while their marriages ended in divorce. At the same time I was also counseling several couples whose partners had little in common yet turned their marriages around by reconciling their differences. Through these circumstances I came to realize that my definition of who was truly compatible was wrong.
What is my definition of compatibility today? Compatibility is not measured by how many things you have in common, but is gauged by how you resolve the things that you don’t have in common. In other words, the real question is: how willing are you to work at solving your differences? This is what will make you compatible with your mate.
What should you do about your differences?
1. Make a choice. Your choice is the first step to dealing with your differences and where true compatibility begins. So often, the couples that I counsel are simply fighting a battle of wills. I see people sit in the chair with their arms folded across their chest, scowling and declaring by their very body language, I will not budge from my position. These individuals then reveal by their words that they have decided that their way is the only way. This is a choice of the heart.
The Scripture makes it absolutely clear that the most important things in life boil down to a series of choices. Joshua exhorted, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15). Solomon warned his son not to envy an evil man and “choose none of his ways” (Prov. 3:31). God also warned His people, “choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant” (Is. 56:4). These are all choices we must make regularly if we are to experience God’s best in our lives.
Similarly, you must decide whether or not you are willing to choose what pleases God as it relates to the struggles you are having with your spouse. You are either willing to do what God requires of you or you are not. Which is it? You need to decide right now, because unless you are willing to fully obey God’s Word, knowing the rest of the principles that I am about to discuss will profit you little. Therefore, what will you do? Will you choose what is right and do whatever is biblically required of you? Or, will you decide to continue living your own way and trying to solve your differences by your own strength?
2. Deal with your selfishness. At this point in our discussion I would like you to take a moment and do an exercise with me that I usually have couples do when they come for counseling. Take out a piece of paper and write down all of the major differences you have with your spouse and put them in the order of severity and frequency. Then, write next to each difference how you are acting selfishly with regard to that conflict. By doing this exercise you have just identified precisely why this difference has become such an intense point of disagreement in your relationship.
In addition, I tell couples, when they finish this exercise, that they now know exactly what to do about each contentious issue. I usually get a puzzled look at this statement. I explain that all they have to do is adopt the opposite attitude or action and the problem will cease to be a point of contention. This does not mean that the difference evaporates into thin air. It still exists, but the selfishness that intensified it is gone. Remember, the opposite of selfishness is love. Paul said that love “does not seek its own” (1 Cor. 13:5).
Therefore, are you willing to look honestly at your own selfishness and make a U-turn? This is critical to resolving issues and making real headway in finding solutions to the conflicts that divide you.
For more information on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, go to Covenant Keepers.
Want more of Pastor Steve? Check out his latest series How Can Prayer Build Your Marriage?