Marriage Blog: 2 Thoughts about Navigating Through Your Differences

I’m a proponent of dating before and after marriage. Dating, in my opinion, is a very good thing on both sides of marriage. What you used to win a heart before marriage helps you keep a heart after you’ve married.  But if you’re not careful, you can get deceived by the pre-marriage dating process.

Let me explain.

Please know that this blog isn’t about people purposefully lying in order to get anything out of the other. But there is an unanticipated deception that takes place in the dating process. I’ll describe it this way, back in bible college, twice a year we’d have a weekend called, “College Days.” They were strategic weekends when high school students were invited to the campus.  They got to experience everything the college had to offer. We students affectionately called these weekends, “Deception Days.” Why? We lived here every day and the food, the chapels, the decor, well, everything that was presented during “College Days” was not the real life on an average day at Central Bible College. Thus, students were committing to a place they haven’t really, truly, seen.

Thus, when we date, there is more of a deception in the dating process than we will realize. You both are putting your best foot forward (as you should). You both are looking to see the best the other can bring (in terms of their manners and demeanor). Maybe we can say it this way: Dating is a showing of, not where someone is, but the potential someone possesses. It’s not really who they are but glimpses of who they really can be.

It’s for this reason I am very much a proponent of dating. I think dating is good and, if approached in a healthy way, is a phenomenal tool to prepare you for marriage. Why? As I said before: What you used to win a heart before marriage helps you keep a heart after you’ve married. (I probably should do a blog on my dating philosophy as “courting-only” peeps are ready to send me letters.)

Now back to our marriage thought…

What I find happening with couples is this: You already see that you are different based upon your genders, but when the “Honeymoon Stage” is done (whenever that is), the reality sets in of who or what you married. You realize that “College Days” experiences are not the “every day” experiences. We’ve all been there. I remember when Anne and I started realizing that we married someone different from we dated.

  • Anne doesn’t really like Stryper. She just tolerated it on our dates.
  • Dave is not as organized/clean as Anne anticipated.
  • Anne tolerated my sports fandom. She actually hates football.
  • Dave may be with Anne, but his workaholic mind is anywhere but with Anne.
  • For Dave, going with the flow is best
  • For Anne, a precise plan is best.

It is usually at this point I get couples writing or calling me about the “disconnect” they are experiencing. I hear things like “we’ve just become so different” or “we are drifting apart.” I submit to you this: Neither are true. You haven’t “become” or “drifted”; you’re recognizing how different you are.  And this can be a very good thing. Your differences can be the place upon which your marriage takes that “next level growth” approach. How?

Your differences become a place to appreciate your spouse.
So often, we use differences to attack one another. What if you stopped and realized that your differences are not what you use to compete with each other but the way you complete each other? If you both are the exact same person,  then one of you is no longer necessary. Scripture says we are created “…wonderfully complex.” And when you see your spouse through that lens, you can stop attacking and start understanding. I find many marital fights are less about “being different” and more about differences are not being valued.  Stop trying to change your spouse. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Your job: Love your spouse the way Jesus loves you.

Your differences become a place to invite God in.
You can approach your differences from one of two ways. First, they can be your excuse of why you can’t get along. But if you do, then that better be your excuse of never having a friend because there’s always going to be characteristics in others that are not going to be “like you.” Or two, you can see the differences you possess as invitations for God to work.  I love the words of the Apostle Paul who said that God’s “…power works best in weakness.” It’s not that your differences, themselves are weak, but where you are different can have the potential to be weak areas if they’re not handled correctly. So when you see some differences rise up, approach it in this way,

“Lord I need you. Shape my heart and change my attitude. Before I expect to see a change in her/him, please change me. I invite you in this moment and ask you to give me wisdom to know how to navigate through this. Help the character of Jesus to be developed in me.”

Being different isn’t an excuse to stay the same. Differences are our starting place to get the real marital work done. Marriage is work, but I think it’s fun work. As I so often say, marriages that fail are not those that had to work at it but those that stop working at it. So don’t stop because you are discovering differences. Start pushing ahead together as you discover differences.

When you are willing to work through your difference, you’ll discover a greater and healthier relationship than you’ve ever imagined.

Go out on a date. Spend some time talking and showing value for each other’s distinctness.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

 

Passive Aggression…and it’s killing your marriage.

Passive aggressive behavior is all about one simple word: disconnect. It’s the “disconnect” between what is being said and what is being done.  Unfortunately, all around us, marriages are suffering from it.  There are many different ways in which passive aggressive behavior can be expressed in our marriage. What I’ve got written down here is a simple list, though not exhaustive, covers some of the most common examples.  I wonder if you can add anything? 

  1. Having a hostile attitude. Passive aggressive spouses tend to assume that something done that they didn’t approve of was an intended to be a shot at them. For example, you might assume your spouse know/understands how hard you’ve been working.  When your spouse asks something of you, you assume that he/she has something against you and is trying to use this as a dig against you.  It never occurs to you that your spouse simply may not understand the load/pressure that you’ve been under lately.  
  2. The silent treatment. Nothing highlights disconnect more than the famous silent treatment…and I’m quite skilled at it. There are three common forms: 
    • The Payback: Silence that make you look agreeable but you far from it. You may have lost an argument but this is a pathetic way to get a victory by leaving your spouse in wonderment by making them feel, even though the discussion is over, it’s far from over. 
    • The Cliffhanger: Silence that comes after the word “nothing.”  “What’s wrong?…Nothing” It’s just leaves something hanging out there in which you know that there is “something” wrong.
    • The Warning Shot: To answer any question with just one word followed by silence. This is intended to signal that there is a problem, without you having to say it.
  3. Building resentment. Passive aggressive peeps will view requests/demands/issues of others as unfair.  Instead of pouring out (expressing their feelings, they’ll bottle them up and resent the other person.  
  4. Withholding. In a marriage, it will manifest itself in three ways: 
    • Withholding intimacy.  Instead of the sexual act being a sacred and beautiful moment in a marriage, it’s used as a weapon. “Why give my spouse something I know he/she wants? This will teach them to do _______ to me.” 
    • Withholding praise.  Some people have a hard time with others, besides themselves, receiving praise.  In your mind, it’ll keep your spouse humble and/or in the place YOU want them. 
    • Withholding appreciation.  “Nobody thanks me so why do I need to thank him/her.” I also like this one, “Why thank her/him for something she/he should already be doing?”
  5. Acts of sabotage. These are deliberate acts designed to punish your spouse. 
    • Strategic Procrastination.  Consciously putting off what needs to be done. It’s usually used as a punishment toward your spouse. 
    • Intentional mistakes. Rather than saying “no” to your spouse’s request, you’ll perform the task poorly as to not be asked again.  
  6. Manipulative communication.  These will be manifested in: 
    • Criticism.  A passive aggressive spouse will use a manipulative tongue to criticize but make it appear as a joke or a complement.  You may not even catch it till you’ve left the room or the house. 
    • Complaining.  Everything in life is a personal attack on them.  Anything, and I mean ANYTHING, that doesn’t go his/her way is seen as unfair and it an injustice.  Every decision is made about him/her because life is all about how it impacts him/her.
    • Sarcasm. It seems that you can’t get a straight answer. Sarcastic words are simply indirect put downs to your spouse.
  7. The social media vent. Instead of facing your spouse, you’ll vent over the social media venue of your choice and use it to cut into your spouse. There are usually two reasons for doing this: 
    • First, there’s something therapeutic about writing something out.  I wouldn’t discourage journaling or writing your spouse a letter, but social media is public (thus the name).
    • Second, you’re most likely using the “venting” to rally your friends/followers to your aid.  You’re taking it public to get the “public” behind you.  You make think it’s a good think, but it really makes you AND your spouse look bad. 
  8. The final blow.  Passive aggressive spouses thrive on getting the last word in.  Even if the conflict is over, he/she will slip something in to leave his/her mark on the situation. It may be subtle, but it gives him/her a sense of victory. 

You’ve got to see passive aggression for what it is: Hostility.  Like any form of hostility, if you give into it, It will want to rule your life.  You and your spouse need to fix the disconnect by doing a few simple things: 

  1. Confront the issue by being specific. Don’t dance around it…that’s feeding it with more passive aggression.)
  2. Set expectations.  Don’t let them be wishy-washy expectations.  Use them as boundaries.  
  3. Rebuild your communication.  Practice assertiveness and active listening. 
  4. Repentance.  Nothing makes a marriage grow more than Christ-like humility. 
  5. Pray.  Pray for each other.  Pray with each other.  

I leave you with Romans 12:18

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Thanks for letting me ramble…