The Myth of Compatibility

Dave and Anne diagonal

Men and women are different.  (Now that I’ve completely blown you away with that ground-breaking truth, I’ll continue.)

What I’ve discovered, and continue to discover in my own marriage, is how different we continue to be.  It seemed like during the whole courtship/dating process, we were so much more “compatible”.  The word “compatible” means, “Able to exist or occur together without conflict.” That describes our relationship before marriage.  We fooled each other. I was convinced she liked Stryper, my hairstyle, my teal suit, and sports.  She was convinced I liked shopping at the mall and Cindy Morgan music.

For two years of dating almost a year of engagement, life with Anne was “compatible.” We had never fought or had a disagreement in almost…until the dreaded day of days.  It was the day we registered for our wedding shower.  Target gives you a scanner to walk around and scan/pick the items you want on your registry. I should have seen it coming.  But how could I?  We were “compatible.” The event blew up in the kitchen aisle.  I wanted a specific toaster. I didn’t get the memo that I was with her for support and not as the advisory committee. She had in her mind what she wanted HER kitchen and how she wanted HER kitchen to look. I was hacked. I grabbed the scanner gun and made my stance in the snack aisle.  I scanned  a bag pretzels and a bottle of Coke. Then all hades broke loose.

(This is the reason I go to prayer every time I see a young couple walking around Target with their scanner.)

Compatibility is a myth that is causing so many people to want to call quits on their marriage.  It has suckered so many people into affairs because their new-found love is more compatible than their current spouse.  It’s not that you work better with that new person, it’s that you exist together without conflict.  The more you believe it the more you get addicted to the “feeling” of compatibility. So, what about all those happy couples that meet online? Aren’t they proof that “compatibility tests’ work? They might be proof that compatibility attracts, but that’s all. Unfortunately, compatibility is a fantasy that blinds us with rose-colored glasses.  If you don’t understand it, it can set you up for disaster.  A clip from Jerry Maguire came to mind.

We think our spouse will complete us. Compatibility is that ideal that we run after to make it happen.  In our minds, it means I have some strengths and she has some strengths and we work them together to make each other complete.  But there in lies the problem.  Genesis says, “the two become one.” The “I” and “her/him” mentality still sees the two of you as two individuals working together.  Marriage then becomes a 50/50 proposition; I give and my spouse gives and we’re all good. When that mentality is fostered, it’s easy to spot compatibility problems because you’re still thinking like TWO.  You need to be thinking like ONE.  “We have these strengths in our marriage.”  It comes a 100/100 proposition were you both are bringing everything that you are and all that you will be. Together, the two operate and think as one.

Here’s a few things I’d like to say on the subject of “compatibility”:

First, find your “completion” in Christ Jesus. You cannot find your completion in your spouse. Jesus is the only hope for two sinners to make it in marriage. Marriage is the coming together, through covenant, of two broken individuals. With Christ, you make a “cord that is not easily broken.”

Second, learn HEALTHY conflict resolution (notice I used the word “healthy”).  Don’t count on compatibility to get you through 60+ years of marriage. You’re going to disagree on stuff.  You’re human.  Your spouse is human.  At some point, the honeymoon glasses come off and you see things in ways you didn’t see  them while you were dating. Healthy conflict is good within a marriage.

I do want to say: There are some hills that are not worth dying on. Some people like to fight and live in the mindset of criticism. I don’t run from conflict. But I don’t go looking for it either.  I have learned over the past 15 years of marriage and 16 years of ministry, that some “hills” are not worth the battle.  Some battles will result in nothing but casualties with no ground won and no health attained. When healthy conflict approached in a balanced, productive way, the marriage is built up.  When it’s done selfishly, there isn’t one loser.  There are two people who lose.

Third, learn to laugh. Life is too serious not to learn to laugh at situations.  One time, I walked out of the shower and my wife started laughing. What happened was she had thought of something funny a split second before I opened up the shower curtain. So I will say, be careful WHEN you laugh (I took that moment pretty hard).  Couples that laugh together stay together.  Why don’t you laugh anymore?  Find out how to bring the laughter back and go after it.

Fourth, you have more control over your marriage than you think. A great marriage isn’t something that just happens, like the weather. It is something you create, day by day. Revelation 2:5 doesn’t deal with marriage but gives great advise.  It says, “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Again, the context is a very strong challenge to a church to get back to the basics of their first love. But there’s some truth we can cling to in our marriages. Consider how far you’ve gotten from the way you used to pursue your spouse.  Repent and do the things you did when you first started seeing them.

That’s all I have for this week.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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