Spouses are often different for a reasonWritten by John Trent
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"I just don’t get her."
"I don’t understand him."
"Why aren’t we ever on the same page?"
During my 25 years of counselling with couples, I’ve heard these words spoken numerous times from incredibly frustrated people. And to be honest, I’ve sometimes said or thought those things about my own marriage. In exasperation, I’ve cried out to God:
I want a good marriage. Why can’t You make things more clear? Why does it seem so hard for my wife and me to understand Your will or Your purposes or to find the solution to this issue we’re stuck on?
And if I’m really honest, there’s the question, God, why did You make us so different?
You’ve probably experienced a similar confusion about your husband or wife. Most of us do shake our heads at times because we see things so differently from our spouse. We’re often overwhelmed by the differences.
I’m right-handed, and my wife, Cindy, is left-handed. I’m a night person; she’s a morning person. I’m more of a spender; she, thankfully, is more of a saver. It’s important to Cindy that the toilet paper come off the top of the roll; either way is fine with me. How could a loving God put such a deep desire for connection between a man and a woman, yet keep us so far apart with all those differences? Is this some kind of divine practical joke?
After years of wrestling with these questions, here’s what I have come to realize: Though it may often seem otherwise, God has created our differences for our own good. The confusion that often comes from these differences can actually be a path to greater intimacy.
Does this sound like a ridiculous notion? Before you toss this aside because you can’t believe that confusion in your marriage could be useful, let me explain.
Just as pain signals that something is wrong with our bodies, so confusion sends a similar message about the condition of our marriages. But what problem could this confusion be pointing to? Usually, we assume the confusion is the clash of our differences. However, for a glimpse of what might be happening, consider this:
The more we sense someone is committed to our best interest, the more we will share our thoughts and fears, which helps build unity and trust. But the opposite is true as well. The less we feel another person’s commitment to us, the more we will withdraw and the less we will share our heart.
How are we doing?
So whenever I’m confused or frustrated about my marriage, I need to get alone, bow my head and ask, Lord, how are Cindy and I doing . . . really? Am I devoted to her in ways that show her my commitment, so that she feels free to open up and share? Or is my rush to find a solution sending her the message that I don’t really care? Is my impatience causing the frustration we’re experiencing?
As I pray this, I often realize that the confusion comes whenever I try to force something or someone to change. I’m saying, in effect, "Can we get to the point, so I can solve the problem and move on to the next challenge?" When that’s my approach, I’m not really interested in understanding Cindy’s heart or the value of her uniqueness. I’m not focused on doing the things that show her I’m committed.
But when I start seeking Cindy, really seeking to know her heart, it’s amazing how often we move away from confusion and how quickly we find ourselves on the same page with our differences set aside.
So maybe the confusion isn’t such a bad thing. In it I see a plan for drawing us closer together and giving us the humility to seek God and to strengthen our commitment.
Being so different in how we look at things is a challenge, but our differences really can be a call to a deeper concern for one another.
John Trent is a co-founder of Insights International, a ministry that helps couples, families and teams learn how to lead with their strengths.
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