When my alarm goes off in the morning, I walk to our home office, turn on the lights, sit down at my desk, and start reading my Bible and writing in my journal.
When Kristen gets up, she does her quiet time in bed, with minimal light from her cell phone to guide her in reading and writing.
I shower with the lights on. She showers in the pitch black and dries her hair with the lights completely off.
I think she’s a vampire, she thinks I’m weird.
You know you’re different from each other as well.
- You come from different families of origin.
- You (probably) grew up in different towns and high schools and maybe went to different colleges.
- Your personalities aren’t the same (maybe one of you is an introvert and the other an extrovert).
- One is a male and the other is a female (enough said!).
How do you handle and work through differences between you and your spouse? Obviously my examples above are small things that don’t matter much. But how do you handle the big and little differences in marriage?
When you bring two sinners together with different backgrounds and temperaments, you’re going to differ from each other in countless ways. Hopefully you’re aligned in the most important things (spiritual beliefs, values), but differences exist in many small ways.
Peter provides great guidance in how to handle our differences. In 1 Peter 3:7 he says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives…” (NIV). The ESV says it in a slightly different way: “…husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way.” The principle applies to both men and women, in that we are to live with our spouse in a way that shows we know and understand them.
In other words, love your quirky, unique spouse in a way that shows you understand your differences are normal. Then you adjust your life accordingly so that your unique traits do not cause problems.
Easier said than done.
How do you live with each in an understanding way?
1) Be a student of your spouse.
Ask them questions, spend time together, put your phones down, and communicate. Last week, Kristen and I had a great conversation about insecurities. I was feeling insecure in some realtionships with friends and we talked through it together as a couple. We asked each other questions, empathized, and asked each other for counsel. I was blessed by the ways she listened, cared, and lovingly rebuked me. I hope I do the same in the ways I listen and provide wisdom and counsel.
The process and opportunity to know your spouse never goes away. We change and there is so much we can learn from and about our spouse no longer how long we’ve been married.
To Do: What can you do today to become a better student of your spouse?
2) Seek to understand, not just talk.
Most of us like the sound of our own voice. In his song “I Wanna Talk About Me,” country singer Toby Keith says, “I want to talk about me, Want to talk about I, Want to talk about number one, Oh my me my.” Sure, sometimes we want to hear about others, but usually we want to talk about our favorite subject: ourselves.
I love Proverbs 18:2. It says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.” When we look for opportunities to listen instead of talking, we can learn more about our spouse. This doesn’t mean you always just shut your mouth and only open it to ask questions, but it does mean you have a dialogue instead of just running your mouth.
To Do: Ask your spouse if they think you talk or listen more? Don’t be defensive when they respond. Thank them for sharing with you, and don’t be the Proverbs 18:2 fool.
3) Acknowledge the fact your way might not be right. Or, even more so, your way is not the only way.
I’ve read studies that show you should start your day with the lights on. Instead of gradually raising the light level, turn them on all the way from the moment you get up. For some reason it’s better for you.
Or at least some studies show. Others say the opposite: slowly turn the lights on so you don’t overwhelm your cones and rods (#throwback to elementary school science).
So who’s right?
I don’t know which is better for you, but I do know that my wife hates the bright light in the morning. Isn’t it possible that we’re made different from each other and what’s good for me might not be good for my wife? Instead of assuming my way is correct and her way is strange, what if I lived with her in an understanding way and appreciated our differences? This way requires humility, and we know God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5). I’ll take all the grace I can get, and I sure don’t want to be opposed by God.
To Do: Ask your spouse if you tend to be prideful or humble. As above, don’t respond with defensiveness, but rather thank them for the feedback.
The key to living with each in an understanding way
I’d couch all the above in a verse I quote often on this site: Philippians 2:3-4. Paul writes:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Put the needs of the other (your spouse) before your own. Do not act like your way is always right and is the only way. Rather, in humility, live with your spouse in a way that shows you care for them and understand them.
I started this post by talking about a minor difference between me and Kristen. I know many of you wish your differences just amounted to differing lightbulb and shower preferences. Whatever your differences, the principles apply to your big differences as much as the minor ones. If you have trouble working through your differences, you may want to consider checking out re|engage, which is a marriage ministry designed to help couples just like you reconnect, reignite, or resurrect your marriage.
Either way, learn to live with each other in an understanding way. After all, you might be the quirky one!
What is one step you can take from this post?
Which of the three ways to live with your spouse in an understanding way can best help you grow your marriage?