Turning Differences Into Opportunities
God did a wonderful thing when He created man and woman so differently. The differences between man as male and woman as female were intended to usher in many special blessings (Genesis 1:28). Unfortunately, because of the fall, the blessings of the sexes became the battle between the sexes. The unique qualities with which God endowed each, now give rise to misunderstanding and conflict rather than completion and harmony.
When Sue and I started dating it was our differences that attracted us to one another. But not long after we got married and the honeymoon was over, we noticed that those same differences began to irritate us. That’s what usually happens. Before marriage, opposites attract. After marriage, opposites attack. Every couple eventually has to deal with the many ways they are different from each other. The problem is, many of us spend the duration of our marriages resisting or trying to change our spouses, rather than understanding and valuing the ways God created him or her differently.
After we marry, our perspective changes. That’s how it was in our marriage. When Sue fell in love with me, she fell in love with a man of vision and direction, later she realized that she married a man who pays little attention to detail. I fell in love with a woman who could take care of all the details. Later I realized that I married a woman who gets stressed out over any last-minute attempts to alter her schedule. See how our perspectives change?
Differences are often the crux of our marriage frustrations: different genders, different priorities, differing personalities and different ways of communicating. We are truly different from each other, and if we don’t understand those differences, and learn how to let our differences complement one another, they can pull us apart.
Each of us needs to value the way God wired us, differences included. Sometimes careful planning is needed to keep us Milams on schedule. In those times, I’ve learned to trust Sue’s detailed planning tendencies. At other times, she realizes that I may be looking at the big picture and future needs. When that happens, she makes an effort to trust my intuitions rather than discount them simply because they seem far out. She and I are made differently, yet our differences — used together — actually can make us stronger, if we understand those differences and leverage them to our advantage.
In order to leverage our “differentness” and create teamwork in our marriage, we need to stop resisting our spouse’s differences and begin to celebrate them! We find joy in our relationship when we can truly say, “Thank you God for giving me a husband/wife who has strengths that make my life richer!”
One thing that really helped us in this area was taking the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), personality profile. Sue and I had been resisting our differences when we needed to be embracing them. As we came to better understand the differences in how God created us, we began to accept and appreciate one another and experienced more closeness and intimacy in our marriage, than ever before.
I remember when we first discovered this I began repeating to myself, “She’s not wrong, she’s just different.” I would remind myself several times throughout the day. In fact, she probably heard me saying it under my breath sometimes with clenched teeth. But the truth is, this shifted my thinking. I let go of pride and judgment. And I realized there is more than one way to process decisions, expresslove, and meetsomeone else’s needs.
God made each one of us unique. A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when two imperfect people learn to enjoy their differences. But first, we have to understand how God has created us differently. Then we can step into our spouse’s world instead of staying isolated in our own.
When we make choices to live together in an understanding way, it is an investment that is sure to pay high relational dividends. That’s what our upcoming Marriage Renewal Weekend is about. Come join us and experience more harmony and closeness in your marriage, than you ever dreamed possible.
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