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Secret To A Great Relationship Part 4: Embrace Your Differences

This is the fourth of an 8-part series from Jimmy Evans at MarriageToday from his book, Our Secret ParadiseSeven Steps for Building a Secure and Satisfying Marriage. This series focuses on the 4th secret—Friendship. Even before marriage, these keys will help you become the kind of person you want to date and the kind of person to look for in a potential mate.
Secret to a great marriage
Photo courtesy of carynnoel.com

God has made each of us unique. Best friends tend to celebrate each other’s differences. Enemies, on the other hand, use differences as a reason to reject. Do you realize that if you are prejudiced and judgmental toward another person, you can’t be that person’s friend? That’s why the devil loves prejudiced and judgmental people.

Every time we judge someone or act prejudicially toward him or her, we have, in effect, excluded that person from our circle of friends. Yet this is precisely how many people act toward their spouses (and then wonder why there is no sense of friendship in the relationship). Whether through sexism, chauvinism, intellectualism or any other “ism” in which they consider themselves superior, they exclude their spouses from their circle of friends and allow an emotional barrier to be built in the home.

Recently, I counseled a man who, in more than 30 years of marriage, had never experienced an ounce of intimacy in the relationship. After he and his wife had finally begun to work on the problem and make real progress, this is what he told me:

We’ve gone to three levels in our relationship. At the first level, we totally rejected each other’s differences. When we got married, I thought my wife was weird because she preferred to go to bed at a different time than I did, and because she differed from me in what she liked and didn’t like. I thought it was my job to change her to be like me. After 10 or 15 years of marriage and total rejection of each other’s differences, we got in a huge fight and I realized that was wrong.

The for about 15 years, we tolerated each other’s differences. I decided that God had made her the way she was and it was wrong for me to persecute her and try to change her. She was different from me. So I would just live on my side of the house, she could live on her side of the house, and we would share what we could share.

Recently, I’ve come to understand that we can celebrate each other’s differences. I am ashamed to say that it has taken me 30 years of marriage to learn this. Because of it, we have never had the intimacy we’ve desired in our relationship. We don’t want to live the rest of our lives this way. Finally, I have come to the place where I can look at her and say, “Thank God for the differences in my wife.”

Friends celebrate their differences. They enjoy the fact that each has a gift or a skill that the other doesn’t have, or that one person sees things from a different perspective. Our differences can be either dangerous or dynamic in our relationships, depending on how we choose to respond to them and express our feelings about them to our spouses.

If you are going to be best friends with your spouse, there can be no judgment of your mate that says, “There is clearly something wrong with the way God made you, and it’s my job to change it. I reject the fact that you’re more (or less) sexual. I reject the fact that you’re more (or less) emotional. I choose to see your difference from me as a character flaw. Be normal like me.”

Enemies say, “I hate those differences in you that don’t completely match up with the way that I am.” Best friends, however, look at each other appreciatively and say, “Don’t we make a great team! We fill in each other’s gaps. Look at how we complement one another!”

That’s the way best friends think.

Be sure to read the rest of the series.

This excerpt is from chapter 10 of Jimmy Evans’ book, Our Secret Paradise published by Regal Books. Used with permission from MarriageToday.

About MarriageToday with Jimmy Evans

Since founding MarriageToday in 1994, Jimmy and Karen Evans have encouraged and coached countless couples in building rewarding marriages and healthy homes. With more than 50% of unions in America ending in divorce, the Evans are committed to sharing proven truths that can make the most troubled marriage good, and any good marriage great. They bring more than 25 years experience equipping and teaching couples to MarriageToday’s mission to restore the dream of marriage in America. Jimmy and Karen divide their time between Amarillo, Texas, where Jimmy serves as Head Elder of Trinity Fellowship, and Dallas, the location of MarriageToday’s headquarters. He and Karen have two grown children and four grandchildren.
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