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This post on marriage is sponsored by Regain.us. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Marriage is not a nice ride in the park. It’s much more like a roller-coaster ride with a wind advisory. You go up and down, and your body wants to move one way, while the inertia pushes you in another. Add in a little unexpected wind gusts, and sometimes you might find yourself feeling pretty sick.
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Mark and I met late one February, and by the first week in April were engaged with a wedding date set for late July. At the time, we were head over heels in love, and felt we knew each other as well as one could.
Turns out, we hardly knew each other at all. That may sound like the beginning to a bad story, but it’s not at all. Our story hasn’t ended yet, and we plan for it to last through the eternities. In order for that to happen, though, we’ve had to learn and grow quite a bit.
I recall very shortly after marrying Mark visiting his parents. A sibling was there and put out the question “So what quirks bother you about each other.” Mark was pretty quick with an answer about how I slept funny and took up a fair portion of the bed, while my mind drew a blank. I’d never looked for anything that bothered me about Mark.
Unfortunately, that question which was probably meant to cause no harm, changed my mind set. I did start looking for the differences, and what bothered me. Surely there was something right? I probably did this out of feeling embarrassed listening to my sleep described, but mostly I think it became a subconscious thing.
It’s been 13 years, and I have only just begun to come full circle back to that oh so innocent question. One that I didn’t realize but had tainted my marriage. It’s a question I vow never to ask a newly married couple, or even a long time married couple. We all have differences and they will come up in your marriage. It’s what you do with those differences though, that will keep your story going or not.
Keys to Loving your Marriage despite differences
Acknowledge that you have differences.
I believe early on we had formulated this idea that we thought the same, and any difference was some sort of fault in the other person. How could people so different have found each other and fallen in love?
Listen without judgement.
Once you have acknowledged that you are different people with different experiences the judging starts to take a backseat. Learning to listen to your spouse’s difference in opinion will actually strengthen you beyond marriage. You will become a more compassionate person able to understand many others your walk in life comes across.
Accept yourself the way you are.
It’s hard for a spouse to love their partner, if their partner doesn’t love themselves. Mark and I both came into our marriage with a lot of self-defeat. We thought we were both just passive pleasers, but it was much deeper than that. We didn’t love ourselves, and that made it really hard to love each others differences.
Find common ground.
Finding the differences in a married couple is quite easy. Now it’s time to find common ground. Find things you both enjoy, and then build off of those. Mark and I love watching movies together, so we make that a regular time spent together – even if it means giving something else up (often for us it’s a little bit of extra sleep).
Don’t let differences become ammunition.
By following the steps above, when you do have an argument – or disagreement – you won’t use those differences as ammunition to tear down your spouse because you understand them. When our differences are used as ammunition, we will inevitably regret our words later.
Disagreements will pass.
Funny enough, just last week I found myself really mad at Mark – today I can remember the feeling, but I couldn’t tell you what in the world I was mad about. I’d like to believe that part of that is because I knew deep down inside that the reason was a silly one. Whatever it was didn’t mesh with “my ideas”, but it didn’t mean I was right. The best way to let disagreements pass, is to not talk about them with others. As soon as you pull in outside “reinforcements”, you’re going to stay in the cycle of anger longer.
Counseling can Help
If you find your differences are just too big to manage on your own, it’s OK to seek professional help. While Mark and I have never gone to marriage counseling, it’s something I have considered greatly. A few years ago, when I was really struggling, I told Mark I was meeting with our local religious leader. I told him that he was welcome to come, but whether or not he did, I was going. He chose to come, and despite some hard struggles, we have been headed mostly uphill ever since.
Regain.us has a great article on the benefits of marriage counseling, and when you should seek it out. I particularly like that their point that we are all struggling with something, and marriage counseling can help us understand ourselves, as well as our spouse and their struggles. Because despite being married to someone, we often don’t want the person we love the most to know just how fragile we might really be.