See Your Spouse as Unique - Not Annoying!
- Cindi and Hugh McMenamin Co-authors of When Couples Walk Together
- 2013 5 May
Admit it. You were once enamored with how your husband or wife is different from you. He or she was unique, one-of-a-kind. And the differences between the two of you added to the flame of attraction, mystery and fascination you shared for each other.
But today it's easier to call those differences "annoying," isn't it?
It's been said a woman marries a man hoping to change him and a man marries a woman hoping she’ll never change. Truth is, people rarely change. But our perspectives do.
We tend to marry someone we claim we have a lot in common with. But as it turns out, we are mostly attracted to someone very different from ourselves. We subconsciously balance each other out by marrying someone who has strengths where we are weak and vice versa. But eventually we become annoyed at the differences in our spouse, rather than appreciative of how they balance us out. You and your spouse are uniquely different. And this not only okay, it is good.
When Hugh and I married, our friend, Tom - the pastor who introduced us and married us - suggested that when we take our individual candles and light the unity candle that stood in between our two lit candles, we not blow out our individual candles. Yes, the two will become one, as signified when the unity candle is lit, but the two don’t cease being the individuals that they are. I thought it was a beautiful idea when Pastor Tom first explained it to us, and then we did just that in our wedding ceremony.
But about a year into our marriage, I found myself silently cursing Pastor Tom because when I would beg Hugh to turn down his music or drive a little slower or do things a little differently, for the sake of unity in our marriage, he would respond by saying “Remember how we didn’t blow out our individual candles?”
It is a reminder to us today, after 25 years together, that we are still unique individuals with unique personalities, unique to God and to each other. And thus, the goal of our marriage continues to be oneness, togetherness, and unity in spite of our differences. That, in essence, is the beauty of marriage. And that is what we will continue to strive for this side of Heaven.
Ladies, (Hugh here), there are many ways that your husband is uniquely different than you, simply because he is a man. Most men enjoy some level of competition because we keenly feel the role to be the protector of the ones we love. We don’t always enjoy work, but we sense deep down in our souls that God has designed us to be the provider for those under our care. We make friends by learning who can we trust, who has got our back and who will not betray our loyalty. One of the strongest needs men have is to be respected by others. And we don’t take failure very well. It too often makes us feel vulnerable and strikes a blow at the core of the Protector/Provider DNA that’s been hard-wired into our psyches.
And, men (Cindi here), there are many ways that your wife is different than you simply because she is a woman. She will always be a little weaker, physically, but in some ways stronger, physiologically. (Women make better long-distance runners than men because of their level of endurance and ability to pace themselves.) Women tend to have less body mass than men so they will get cold when you want the window open and – depending on their season of life – hot and sweaty when you feel the room is comfortable! (I can’t explain that one, and don’t make me try.) They will readily read instructions or ask for directions rather than trying to prove themselves at something, and women have a much more acute sense of hearing and smell, which is why we prefer you turn down your music a bit and throw that shirt in the laundry even if you "only wore it once." There are exceptions to those stereotypes, of course. But you get the idea. Men and women are uniquely different from each other.
Lance and Pam, who have been married more than 30 years, used to get caught up in the pettiness and irritations of living with a person who is different from themselves. But now, Pam says, “it’s about understanding who the other person is.”
“When we first came into our marriage, we tried to change one another,” she said. “Thirty two years later, we forgive easier, we don’t keep score and we’re finally on the same team.”
Two unique individuals working on the same team. That is marriage.
“It’s not so much that you lose who you are, but that you respect each other’s differences and you are not being selfish,” Pam added.
Judy said she and her husband, Monte, are very different, but they balance each other well.
“We are really different, but together we complement each other with the different gifts we have," Judy said. “Over the years we've learned to back off and let the other shine at what he or she does well.
"I enjoy decorating when Monte doesn't think it needs to be done. But he lets me do my thing and he ends up liking it. I’m weak in the area of talking to our boys but Monte just shines. That’s an area in which I just back off and let him handle it.”
Can you start respecting and even celebrating your uniqueness? Can you start seeing your differences as strengths for the other’s weakness or vice versa? Your husband’s even keel may be what saves your marriage one day. Your wife’s ability to forgive quickly may be what saves you years of heart ache. His inability to throw his clothes in the hamper may be a sign of his tunnel vision focus in another area that is ultimately helping your marriage and family.
Appreciate and respect your differences. And to paraphrase King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:
When one of you falls, praise God the other isn't so similar that he or she falls, too. When one of you is cold, be grateful the other isn't so similar that he or she can't keep you warm. When one of you needs strength, the other is there, by the design of God, to be strong for you.
Celebrate that! And never snuff out that light.
Hugh and Cindi McMenamin are co-authors of When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection. They have served actively in ministry together for more than 20 years – he as a senior pastor and she as a director of women's ministries, national speaker and author of several books, including When Women Walk Alone, and When a Woman Inspires Her Husband. Hugh and Cindi live in Southern California and have a grown daughter, Dana. For more on their ministry or for resources to help strengthen your soul and marriage, see www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Publication date: May 29, 2013