Finding Happily Ever After in the Common Ground

After 34 years and a whole lot of life my hubby and I have come to understand that marriage is truly one of the most difficult yet rewarding journeys we will ever embark on! But you and I both know that the best things in life don’t come without a good bit of hard work and a whole lot of sacrifice. Marriage is no different, it’s one of the best hardest things we’ll ever do.

True, there are those couples who seem to effortlessly glide through life without any difficulty or strife. But we need to be honest with ourselves and remember that we are only seeing the outside. We rarely see the struggle and constant work that takes place behind the scenes. Even the couples who appear to have it all together from the outside, are most likely living out their own version of the marriage drama.

Few of us really understand what we are getting into when we say “I do”. It’s not until the reality of our differences hits us that we begin to understand. Two different people coming together with different temperaments and personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, and coming from two different families with two different upbringings is hard enough! But I have noticed that there are some bad habits that we married folk can fall into if we are not careful, and they can make marriage even harder!

Focusing on differences and comparing our marriage to others are two of the destructive habits that can threaten the very life of our marriage. If fed and entertained, these habits most definitely have the power to destroy a marriage.

When asked about the secret to their 50 year marriage, Billy Graham responded, “My wife and I are both happily incompatible.”

It’s the differences in our beloved that attracted us to them in the first place. But, once we are in the thick of things those differences can begin to rub us the wrong way, and left unchecked, can develop into full blown resentment. The statement, “We don’t have anything in common” is a sure sign that differences are the main focus. If all we do is focus on the differences, then it will most certainly appear that we don’t have anything in common!

What if we stop focusing on what we don’t have in common and start focusing on what we do? What beautiful, nourishing conversations are we missing by focusing on the lack of common interest? What experiences or memories have we missed because we failed to recognize the interests we do have in common? What if, instead of listing all of the things we don’t have in common, we make a list of things we do have in common? What if we spend the same amount of time we have been spending on bemoaning the lack of commonality, on studying and nurturing the areas we have in common?

Try it! Make a list of common interests, ideas, habits, and hobbies. Make sure you include shared faith, shared responsibilities, and shared historical moments, shared confidence, and shared fears. Each spouse can make their list independent of the other and then come together to share.

Focusing on the differences is dangerous because it can cause us to look outside of our own marriage for examples of what we think a good marriage should look like. We begin to seek out those marriages that exemplify the qualities we think our marriage or our spouse lacks, to prove to ourselves that our marriage isn’t what it should be. We compare our marriage to the marriages of friends, family or even more dangerous, acquaintances.

Comparing is dangerous no matter what, but especially comparing what we have to acquaintances who we “think” we know, based on what we see from the outside. The trouble with comparing our marriages with those of others, is that we can never make an “apples to apples” comparison.

Each marriage is as unique as the man and woman in it. The diverse ingredients we each bring to our individual marriages are gifts from God. Our temperaments, personalities, gifts, limitations, strengths, and weaknesses blend together to create a one of a kind marriage.

It takes this variety of combinations to bring about Gods will here on earth. What would it be like if each marriage was identical to the next? How boring! And how limited. Different combinations of temperaments, likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and desires are what we need to reach the maximum number of souls for Christ. We need to cooperate with God and embrace the qualities that make our marriages unique. We glorify God in as much as we embrace the uniqueness of our union. We need to appreciate the differences and work with them, not against them.

There is not one template for how a marriage should look. It may not look like your best friend’s. That’s great, because it’s not supposed to! We need to stop looking at other couples to determine what is best for our marriage. It’s time to own the marriage we are in. Work with what we have! Stop trying to look for the perfect marriage template. It doesn’t exist. Perfect is what you make out of YOUR marriage. NOT what you force on it from some outside ideal.

Maybe if we stop focusing on the differences and start looking at common ground, the differences will fade into the back ground and the shared interests and common viewpoints will take center stage.

Imagine what we could do if we embrace our differences and stop comparing our marriages with those whom we think have the perfect marriage. We could grow in and nurture our understanding of, our unique set of qualities and circumstances and build the marriage that is right for US! All for the glory of God.

Happily ever after is possible if we focus on the common ground and stop comparing our marriage to some idea of perfection we think we see in other couples.