HELP FOR THE FAMILY | MARRIAGE
Dealing With Differences
You enjoy sports; your spouse would rather read. You are meticulous and efficient; your spouse is quite disorganized. You love to socialize; your spouse prefers privacy.
‘We just aren’t compatible!’ you tell yourself. ‘Why didn’t we notice that when we were dating?’
Likely you did notice it, at least to a degree. But back then you were probably quicker to make concessions
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Some differences are serious. A big part of dating is determining compatibility. Hence, when serious differences are discovered while dating, many couples break up rather than unwisely entering into a polarized marriage. But what about less serious differences
No two people are completely alike. Therefore, it is normal for spouses to have differences in one or more of the following areas:
Interests. “Outdoor activities have never appealed to me,” says a wife named Anna, * “but my husband grew up climbing snowy mountains and trekking for days through the bush.”
Habits. “My wife can stay up late at night and still jump up at 5:00 a.m., but I need seven to eight hours of sleep or else I get grumpy,” says a husband named Brian.
Traits. You might be reserved, while your spouse is expressive. “I grew up not talking about my personal problems,” says a husband named David, “but my wife came from a family where everything was discussed openly.”
Differences can be beneficial. “My way might be good, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way,” says a wife named Helena.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Be supportive. A husband named Adam says: “My wife Karen has zero interest in sports. But she has come with me to several games and has even cheered along with me. On the other hand, Karen loves art museums, so I go with her, and we spend as much time there as she wants. I do my best to show an interest in art because it’s important to her.”
Expand your view. Your spouse’s outlook on things is not necessarily wrong just because it is different from yours. That is a lesson that a husband named Alex learned. “I always felt that a straight line is the shortest way from point A to point B and that any other choice would be deficient,” he says. “But being married has helped me to realize that there are many ways to get from A to B and that each method is effective in its own way.”
Be realistic. Being compatible does not mean being identical. So do not conclude that your marriage was a mistake simply because a few differences have become evident. “Lots of people fall back on ‘I was blinded by love,’” says the book The Case Against Divorce. However, “every day you spent together happy,” continues the book, “shows that despite whatever innate differences you have, you can love each other.” Try to “continue putting up with one another . . . even if anyone has a cause for complaint.”
Try this: Write down what you like, love, and find compatible about your spouse. Then write down the things that you find incompatible. You may find that your differences are less serious than you think. The list will also reveal where you can be more tolerant or supportive of your spouse. “I appreciate it when my wife adjusts to me, and I know she appreciates it when I adjust to her,” says a husband named Kenneth. “Even if it means a sacrifice on my part, seeing her happy makes me happy.”
^ par. 10 Some names in this article have been changed.