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Different By Design, Part 1: Marriage Is Not What You Expected

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Are You Surprised By Differences in Your Marriage?

“Are you paying the bills?” Roger asked his wife Darlene as he rushed into the kitchen on Saturday morning. He noticed Darlene sitting at the table with the checkbook, a pen, and a stack of envelopes. But as usual, Roger was running late. The couple was due at church for a marriage conference in less than 30 minutes.

couple legs onlyAs Darlene nodded absently, Roger poured a cup of coffee. “Go ahead and pay the renewal for my fishing magazine.”

Darlene paused with pen mid-air. “Is that a need or a want?” she asked.

Roger sighed in exasperation. “Just forget it,” he muttered. Why was his wife so logical? She needed facts and explanations for everything. Couldn’t she embrace spontaneity for once? It wasn’t enough that he’d given up a whole day of fishing with his buddies to go to the stupid conference with his wife, Roger thought as the couple headed out the door. Marriage was not what he expected.

Meanwhile, Darlene’s stomach was in knots. She and Roger had been invited to the daylong conference by a couple in their small group. But she was nervous in large groups of people, while Roger was sociable, outgoing, and a terrific conversationalist. He’d likely meet everyone in the room while she sat quietly in her chair. The two of them were so different. Marriage was not what she expected.

Roger and Darlene had no idea how surprised they would be in just a few hours.

The Surprise about Differences in Marriage

Roger and Darlene, like thousands of other couples, were unaware that their differences were actually strengths in disguise. Could it be that they viewed the tension between them as a problem, when it was actually placed there by God?

1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, all its many parts form one body” (NIV).

Here, God likens marriage (and other relationships) to the human body. Different parts of the body have different functions. Parts are put together to make a single unit. Figuratively speaking, just parts combine to make a human body, different people combine make up a unit – such as they do in a marriage, a family, or a team.

Why Parts – and People – are Different From Each Other

What is surprising is that each person is not created to be like other people. The differences between you and your spouse are not just a good thing, but also a God thing.

Your differences are unique.
The Greek word for “parts” in 1 Corinthians 12:12, melos, indicates diversity. None of the parts of the body are the same. They are not meant to be. Just as each body part is made from different kinds of cells and has a specific function, the same is true in marriage. Each spouse is distinct and unique, with a different personality, skills, and strengths.

Your differences contribute.
If one part of the body is cut out or minimized, that part dies. The remaining body is incomplete, because the missing part is not connected and is not functioning. Likewise, each spouse’s uniqueness fulfills an essential role, one that is not fulfilled in that person’s absence. Differences contribute to build a whole.

Your differences are equally valuable.
Spouses can be tempted to buy into a lie that one person in their marriage brings more to the relationship than the other. Put another way, one spouse may believe this his or her way of doing things is superior. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the human body, is a foot more valuable than a hand? No … each has a different function. Differences in marriage are not based on a ranking system. Each person’s uniqueness is equally valuable.

Marriage Is Not What You Expected

Could it be that the push and pull, the uneasiness of their conflicting ways of doing things – was a good thing in their marriage? As he listened, Roger reached over for Darlene’s hand. He was looking forward to learning about his differences, his wife’s differences … and what it meant for those two parts to complete each other, rather than compete with each other.

Over the next articles in this series, you’ll walk with Roger and Darlene as they begin to unlock those differences and discover a oneness that leads to an intimacy they have never experienced.

But for now, you may want to ask yourself this question: are you willing to embark on a journey of discovery about your strengths, your spouse’s strengths, and how those strengths can complete each other to build a unity you never dreamed possible?

You might find out, like Roger and Darlene, that marriage is not what you expected.

It’s even better.

Hundreds of couples have discovered their personal strengths, their spouse’s strengths, and have built stronger, more intimate marriages with the Different By Design curriculum. Learn more.

Marriage Series: Different By Design

Different By Design, Part 2: Incompatibility – a Powerful Basis for a Great Marriage

Different By Design, Part 3: Step In or Step Out? Problem Solving With Your Spouse

Different By Design, Part 4: Two Sets of Eyeglasses – Processing Information Together

Different By Design, Part 5: Starter or Finisher? Managing Change With Your Spouse

Different By Design, Part 6: Inside or Outside the Lines? Facing Risk With Your Spouse

Different By Design, Part 7: Make a Plan to Use From This Day Forward