Different By Design, Part 2: Incompatibility

Incompatibility: a Powerful Basis for a Great Marriage

Incompatibility is cited as the cause for divorce in more than half American marital breakups.

couple talking

Image: Communication Skills for Couples

But what if differences between a husband and wife are not a threat in their marriage … but rather can be the most significant factor pulling them together?

That is the truth that slowly dawned on Roger and Darlene. You’ll recall this couple had committed to attending a marriage conference at their church, but each did so filled with doubts (Different By Design, Part 1.) Roger struggled to understand why his wife needed order and explanations whenever the couple was faced with a decision or a challenge. Meanwhile, Darlene was intimidated – and often irritated – by Roger’s spontaneous, carefree ability to meet people and make connections. Couldn’t he take more time getting to know people before trusting them?

As Roger and Darlene settled into their seats at the conference, a similar thought crossed both of their minds: I’m not compatible with my spouse.

The Danger in Being Two

A danger that couples face in marriage, Jesus pointed out, is seeing yourself as two people.

“At the beginning of creation God made them male and female.” Jesus said. “’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.” (Mark 10:6-8, NIV)

God’s marriage plan is simple: He created two different beings. Each of those two leaves their families of origin and comes together to create one new unit.

But if God’s marriage plan is so simple, why can marriage be so complex?

One answer is plain math. Complexity arises when we live not as one, but rather two.

Becoming one with your spouse does not mean losing your individuality, but rather embracing it – but also taking the step to combine forces. What happens in many marriages instead is a false sense of independence. Couples stubbornly choose to live as separate entities, each buying into the lie that their ways are better than the other’s ways … the other spouse needs to change … or worse, God made some mistakes in creating the other spouse the way He did.

That is a risky line of thinking.

In God’s marriage economy, one is better than two. “God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’” (Genesis 2:18, NIV). In other words, the differences between you and your spouse are a good thing. In fact they are one of the very reasons God brought the two of you together.

Since it was God’s idea that you and your spouse should be so different, then He must allow for a way for those differences to be compatible.

The Danger in Not Understanding

The biggest danger, as Roger and Darlene discovered, was not their differences, but in how they viewed them. Like so many couples, Roger and Darlene had mistakenly bought into the lie that they needed to remake the other to be like themselves.

Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (ESV). Do you keep speaking your own mind or do you seek to understand the other?The choice to express only your own opinion, views, or ways of doing things is tantamount to devaluing your spouse. Perhaps you view this approach as being strong, but the Bible calls it foolish.

On the other hand, do you rely on your spouse to meet all your needs? Is your opinion of yourself so low that you cannot acknowledge the strengths God gave you? Each person contributes to a marriage. The strengths God has given were bestowed for you to use to serve your spouse – not to hide them or deny them.

God meant for differences to be a powerful asset in marriage, not a liability. A wise spouse is one who applies himself to understanding his own strengths and his spouse strengths – and valuing both (Proverbs 2:1- 5, NIV). While incompatibility indicates an inconsistency between two people – differences so great that they set a stark contrast to one another – those differences are God’s design. By making the choice to understand your spouse’s differences, you begin to place your marriage in line to be blessed by God

Why Incompatibility Is a Unifier

As Roger and Darlene listen to the presenter describe the strengths in differences, they could not help wonder if he is speaking directly to them.

Roger recalled the times his fun-loving nature brought out the playful side of his wife. Darlene thought back over Roger’s approval – even relieved gratitude – when she showed him their months of balanced budgets and growing savings accounts.

They had been fighting their differences, but perhaps they should embrace them. Maybe their incompatibilities were actually compatible after all.

What about yours?

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 1: Surprised By Differences With Your Spouse

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: Making a Plan  to Use From This Day Forward