by Barbara Rainey
What do you do when those things you thought were cute aren’t so cute anymore? He’s just irritating me! And now we both seem to be withdrawing, staking ground for ourselves rather than growing together. How do you embrace your differences instead of letting them pull you apart?
I think you’ll see I’ve been there too. First, a background story.
One of my early dates with my husband Dennis was on a warm Saturday afternoon in June in Dallas. He picked me up in his light blue Chevy Impala and drove us out in the country for fishing and a picnic. Our very first date was a proper lunch thankfully, for I had never been around smelly fish or bait in my life. He might have lost me had he begun there. But Dennis grew up with a fishing pole as an extension of his arm. It’s amazing what a girl will do when she is falling in love, right?
Fishing was just the beginning of many adventures in a whole new world that opened before me when I accepted this young man’s proposal of marriage. The new experiences after I said, “I do” kept me wide-eyed with wonder for many of those early years. I found myself waking up beneath trees; flying down snow-covered mountains on long, skinny things strapped to my boots; learning the names of fish that swam beneath the bubbling streams and would hopefully end on my husband’s fly rod. I even learned to help cook a fair number of dead fish over a fire at our many campsites.
Dennis wasn’t just different in his interests. His recipe for life was positively foreign. We were like oil and water, constantly separating in our jar. We still cannot be more different. (Note the present tense!)
I remember Dennis would get an idea and be off and running. I, on the other hand, was used to thinking through things and evaluating before acting. Often during our first year of marriage I felt left in the dust.
Dennis was expressive and always asking questions; I tended to be quiet and cautious, thinking about what I wanted to say before I said it. I felt overexposed.
And then there was money. Dennis wanted to spend money on fishing; I wanted to spend money on furniture. We had a combined income, but how did we determine who spent what? I felt it unfair that he freely spent what he wanted without consulting me. I felt confused.
It sounds like what you are facing is similar. Adjustments are awkward. And the early years of marriage are full of adjustments. As our family friend Lincoln discovered with her new husband who wanted to “debate” everything. He has a quick, active intellect and loved playing devil’s advocate to challenge her thinking. She felt defensive and on trial. Then he couldn’t understand why she couldn’t act fine and snuggle up on the couch after they finished “talking.”
The unique, fresh traits that attracted us to our spouses while dating will become tiresome or irritating after years, or even just months, of marriage. When I encounter these clashes, I have learned I have choices:
-Do I communicate disdain for a trait I feel is flawed?
– Will I withdraw to avoid dealing with it?
-Should I try to change him? Do we talk about it?
The challenge of mixing the ingredients of his personality and mine was just beginning in those early years.
When my daughter Rebecca went to culinary school, I was fascinated to learn the endless possibilities for creativity in cooking. When baking, salt balances the sweet ingredients and causes their flavors to come alive. Even the freshness of cream, butter, and Parmesan cheese is enhanced with salt. I had no idea.
It reminds me of Jesus saying, “You are the salt of the earth.” Which raises the questions: Does my husband’s life taste better with me in it? Is the salt of my life overpowering , or just enough to enhance the sweetness of our union? Will I allow his salt to bring out a better flavor in me?
Differences: the first and most lasting surprise in marriage. It was easy in the beginning—accepting and enjoying the differences that attracted us to each other. But now the everyday clash of those differences must be met with a decision to once again accept the other person as God’s gift to you.
You were confident when engaged that he was perfect for you, right? So now it’s time to ask God to help you see your husband as you once did. He will mellow over time, but until then, choose to believe that his differences are for your good. And yours are good for him, too.
-Each marriage brings unique ingredients unlike any other couple’s combination. Every union is a one of a kind creation.
-Differences are good and normal. Welcome them.
-Feeling surprised by them is normal too; relax in the process.
-How you respond is totally in your control.