What attracted you more to your mate – the way in which they were similar to you or the way in which they were different?
Most of us had a picture of what we were looking for in a mate. What was your picture? What were the most important qualities you were seeking in a mate? Perhaps you were looking for someone who was ambitious enough to provide a stable financial future. Perhaps you wanted a person who would share your spirituality, your love for adventure, your value of family. You may have sought a person who was thoughtful and kind or gregarious and social. But the truth is, no matter how well suited you might seem, you and your mate are not completely compatible.
There is no such thing as two truly compatible people. That might be a jarring statement for you. Yes, two people can enjoy shared interests and preferences, but all of us have our own histories, experiences, biases, gender-based differences and physiologies. All individuals are uniquely different. When we seek out a life-partner, we may seek someone who is not very different from us but, in truth, they will be very different from us. There will be incompatibilities.
As a matter of fact, research shows that we are often attracted to our mate because they are different from us. We may have even thought our mate ‘completes’ us in the sense that the ways in which they are different are a compliment to our uniqueness. Over time, however, these very things we valued and were drawn to begin to annoy us. His teasing, once considered playful, is now experienced as disrespectful. Her frequent contact with her mother, which initially demonstrated a sweet family closeness, now feels intrusive.
So what do you do when these incompatibilities surface? You learn to talk about them in a way that is respectful. Respectful talk does not take a right or wrong stance but focuses on the differing needs or desires as just that — different. When differences emerge you won’t try to squeeze your mate into your mold. You will seek to understand their needs and convey yours in a non-demanding way. If you believe the sole purpose of marriage is to make you happy then you will be focused on your mates deficiencies and miss the very thing which will create long-term joy in your marriage. Here’s the exciting news: as God has designed marriage, it is those very ways in which you are incompatible that create the greatest potential for intimacy. It is through your differences and the challenge they pose to selfishness, in your mate and in yourself, that God shapes you into the people he has designed you to become. So embrace your incompatibilities! It won’t be the first time God uses something which appears difficult to reveal something glorious… the manger and the cross come to mind.
In what ways have you been thinking about yourself as incompatible with your mate? In what way could God possibly be using this difference to develop a new quality in you? To transform you into someone who more brilliantly reflects Himself?