The beginning of a new relationship is often fun and exciting. When you are just getting to know someone, everything is fresh and exciting. You tolerate each other and you may even enjoy hearing another point of view. You often notice how much you and the person have in common. You both seem so compatible, it's unreal.
However, as you settle into a long-term relationship, it's often surprising how quickly differences in our personalities seem to appear from nowhere. Or the very things that attracted us to the other person suddenly become annoying. Sometimes this can lead to conflict and resentment builds up in the relationship and we wonder how we were attracted to the person in the first place.
This was certainly true for my relationship with hubby. In the beginning, I was amazed at how much we had in common, how we would often agree on opinions and personal convictions, how our life goals seemed to match perfectly and so on. It was much later that I noticed that we are actually very different people in some areas, and the way we see things can also be very different too.
Fortunately, the differences in our personalities can be a good thing. I've realised that in marriage, we don't need a clone of ourselves, we need two different sides of the coin. Our relationships will become boring if the other person just agreed with everything we say and do all the time. Furthermore, since I am not perfect and I have flaws, it means I need someone who complements me so that he can help me with the areas I struggle with. That's why people say opposites attract - we instinctively get drawn to somebody who has the strengths where we have the weaknesses and vice-versa.
In order to deal with the differences between us, we first need to realise that we cannot change someone else, no matter what we do. We can nag, grumble, shout or complain all the time, but ultimately we can only change ourselves. In trying to get someone else to take your point of view, we risk missing the point. I have had to remind myself many times that hubby is not me, he will never be me and I cannot get him to change unless he really wants to.
I read this quote somewhere:
"A relationship will not work if we try to force someone into our way of thinking. Making a marriage work is not about resenting or tolerating your partner's differences. It's about treasuring them"
There are many areas where couples find that they have different personalities and views. For example: Spending vs Saving, Introvert vs Extrovert, Early Bird vs Night Owl, Prefer Going Out vs Prefer Staying In, Neat vs Messy, Logical vs Intuitive etc. This is by no means an exhaustive list since every one is different, so every relationship is unique.
I'll talk about three issues that I have realised the differences between hubby and I, but there are lots more. It's up to every couple to figure out what their differences are, and work out how to resolve them. As usual, communication is key, and it goes a long way in resolving many issues.
Money: I've heard so often that money is usually one of the main areas of conflict in marriages. This could stem from the different ways we approach money - do we spend it or save it? If one person is naturally a spender, it means they are better at buying things and allocating money to match their needs. If one person is naturally a saver, it means they are better at budgeting and saving for the future and they hesitate to spend money unless they really need to. Now in most marriages, each person will be one or the other. Conflicts can arise when one person assumes that their approach is better than the other's, when in truth, we need both approaches to get a better, and more balanced view of our money.
I'm more of a spender and hubby is a saver, and we used to have arguments about money, but after a while, we realised that both skills are equally useful. I'm better at shopping for groceries and things we need around the house, buying gifts for friends and family and planning our leisure times. Hubby is better at making an budget and balancing our spending versus savings. Utilising both skills means that we can embrace our strengths and work better together.
Structure: Naturally, I'm laid back while hubby is a planner. For example, he plans everything ahead of time, he knows what he will be doing everyday for the next few days, weeks and even months! I'm a go-with-the-flow person so I often don't have my exact days planned out according to a schedule. We used to have disagreements on this matter a lot, for example when we are planning a holiday. Because neither approach is perfect, we have had to adjust to each other. I used to resent it before, but now I realise he is helping me to be better organised, while I help him to be more flexible and adaptable if things don't go according to plan.
Leisure Time: When we are not working and want to take some time out of our routines, have a date, or chill out, we have to decide on what to do. I like going out while hubby prefers staying in. I might suggest we should see a movie, have dinner out, go for a walk, a concert or anything - as long as we get out of the house. Hubby might suggest that we should rent a movie instead, play a board game or have a romantic meal for two at home. Sometimes I find that I practically have to drag him out, but he ended up enjoying the outing. Or sometimes he convinces me that we should stay in and we ended up having a cosy evening at home. We both have to make allowances for each other's preferences so that we enjoy trying something new that we may never have considered doing.
As with most things in relationships, understanding each other requires tons of communication, patience and a willingness to coompromise. But the benefits are great: we complement each other instead of fighting, and we develop greater intimacy. That's well worth it!
As always, stay blessed and favoured!
~ Tolerance and celebration of individual differences is the fire that fuels lasting love ~ Tom Hannah