attract—and often stick. I know. For the past thirty-five years my
husband, Mark, and I have attracted, distracted, and counteracted each
We don’t like the same things.
He likes roller coasters . . . the drop of the escalator at the mall is
thrill enough for me. He likes hot weather. . . I don’t do
summer. He likes movies with car chases and special effects. I prefer
boy-girl chases and romantic finesse.
While we were dating, we had no
idea our tastes were so diverse. Adhering to proper dating etiquette,
we molded our individual preferences to the other’s desires. I
pretended to like baseball and Mark teased me into thinking he craved
doing the Hustle like John Travolta. With innocent accommodation, I
tried smothered steak and he tried creamed tuna on toast. I tried to
watch golf (it was a good chance to nap) and he tried to watch figure
skating (he did like the short skirts).
It was done with the best of
intentions but with mixed results—I learned to like smothered steak and
he learned to tolerate creamed tuna on toast. Kind of. When we became
engaged, we let a few of our true opinions loose. But not a lot. Our
main goal was to please each other.
With marriage came reality.
Relentlessly it pushed gaga love off its pedestal and peppered it with
utility bills and shared chores. Reality let Mark discover that my hair
has a natural tendency to turn out when it’s supposed to turn in.
Reality let me witness his favorite jeans in all their hole-i-ness.
Reality let us realize that on our budget, macaroni and cheese was not
a side dish but an entrée.
As the newlywed manners wore
off, self-pity moved in like a pesky relative. We made valiant efforts
to kick it out, only to have it sneak in the backdoor, lugging with it
doubt and frustration. For all Mark’s good qualities—and there were
many—I wondered why God hadn’t matched me with a man who yearned to
dance the night away as he crooned Johnny Mathis tunes in my ear. And
Mark had to wonder why he hadn’t been paired with a woman who came
alive in the scorching heat of summer at a baseball game that went
Occasionally, logic seized
control, making us see the advantages of our differences. I never had
to worry about Mark snarfing down the rocky road ice cream, and he
never had to worry about me taking a single bite of his vanilla unless
it was drowning in hot fudge. He could never accuse me of losing his
Garth Brooks album, and my John Denver cassette was entirely my own.
Yet through the years, as ego
matched ego, we clung to the underlying vibration that “my way is
better than yours.” We held on to the belief that the characteristics
that made ourselves unique were our “identities” while the
characteristics that made our spouse unique were merely “quirks.” Big
heads and large shoulder chips prevailed. We chose to forget what
Scripture thought of such matters: “‘Let him who boasts boast in the
Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but
the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Cor. 10:17–18).
When our three children were
little, they were the objects of our tug-of-war. You will
like softball. No, ballet! We’ll spend our vacation at the lake. No,
the mountains! Poor babies. No wonder they have such long
arms. Yet it was their influence that helped us bury our egos in an
When the kids got old enough to
have an opinion (when they were much, much too young), we discovered
that Emily loved the stomach wrenchings of roller coasters, Carson
thrilled to the crack of ball against bat, and Laurel didn’t move
across a room without marking a beat. Emily liked angel food, Carson
and Laurel liked broccoli (a true individualist). But
instead of being “wrong,” we found these vast differences in our
children refreshing. Exciting.
we accepted the differences in our children, why couldn’t we accept the
differences in each other? The apostle Peter said, “Love each
other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (I Peter
4:8). The sins we had. But what about the depth of our love? Was there
a way to find sweet fruit in our sour grapes?
The first step was to put away
our weapons: our egos. When we stopped fighting the ways we were
different, we suddenly saw how our varied interests added to the
diversity of our lives. Because of me, Mark experienced Mozart,
Sondheim, and Gershwin. And because of him, I learned the nuances of a
curve ball, a bunt, and cotton candy. I Corinthians 12:4–6 says: “There
are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different
kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of
working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” Neither talent
nor interest was better than the other. God could use both of us in a
unique way. And He did. Because Mark and I have
different talents and
interests, our children enjoyed a vast breadth of experience.
In addition, when we kept our
egos in check, we noticed how our strengths balanced each other’s
weaknesses; our pros offset each other’s cons. My energy balanced
Mark’s procrastination. His deliberate ways balanced my gusts of
impulsiveness. His stubbornness . . . matched mine.
It’s all a matter of
perspective, of copping the right attitude. The key is to move beyond
the natural inclination to compete and remember we’re on the same team.
We don’t sweat the differences
anymore, although I still prefer "Sense and Sensibility" to
"Avatar". We know these differences exist for a purpose. Along
with our love, God has given us unique gifts, identities, and qualities
to share. It would be shameful not to use them, appreciate them. With
time we’ve learned to “Be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50).
Our differences don’t take away
from our life together; they add to it. The sum of our lives makes a
better whole. A whole marriage.
So in this month of love, set
aside your ego and take a look at how you love and are loved. Then make
“And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (I Cor.