I met the woman of my dreams about 14 years ago. I saw her for the first time at church and told myself I was going to marry her. Thats pretty shallow of me I know…but that’s the truth. Hey…I was 21. What can I say?
As we hung out…I wanted to marry her even more. She was smart, and funny, and spiritual and she had a great family.
So one day we sat down with an older gentleman unrelated to us in any way who wanted to give us some marriage advice. My wife…being infinitely more humble than I am listened eagerly to this old codger as he gave us what he considered “the best marriage advice” he could ever give. I sat there like the know-it-all 21 year old guy that I was and just “endured it” without giving it much thought.
How could I have imagined how true his words would be? And yet here I am these 14 years later calling it “the best piece of marriage advice I ever received.”
So here it is:
“When you get married…don’t try to turn the other person into you”
People have a natural tendency to think that everyone should see things the way they do. We’re amazed and bewildered when someone disagrees with us. We think the person that disagrees with us must be crazy. We do this the most with the person that we marry.
Many times we can’t understand why the other person doesn’t like the same things we do or “understand our point of view” on certain matters.
The other day I asked my wife if she’d like to go on a walk when it was cold and rainy. I personally love the rain so I figured that she’d like walking in the rain as well. Nope. Not at all. When it’s rainy…she likes to stay inside and get bundled up. But to me…wind, rain, and cold are fun. I gave her a hard time for it because I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to go. I figured that if I liked it…then why wouldn’t she like it also.
Because she’s not me!
It’s alright to not like the same things all of the time. It’s alright that your wife doesn’t enjoy the notoriously boring game of golf. It’s ok that your husband doesn’t enjoy hanging out with your annoying friend. Let each other be.
Instead…we say things like “why do you want to waste time playing that dumb boring game” or “how can you stand to hang out with that [annoying friend]”?
Regardless of how perfectly matched you think you are…there will always be disagreement. People are different. Men and women…are especially different. Accept that and embrace it. Turn it into a positive.
A wise man by the name of Spencer Kimball gave the same advice when describing his own marriage. He used an oblong Venn Diagram to describe his prescription for marital happiness. In the venn diagram he showed how there was plenty of overlap. These are things that Spencer and Camilla agreed about and enjoyed together. This overlapping section was the source of the greatest happiness. However…there were spaces on that diagram where Spencer and Camilla didn’t go. They learned not to even try to go there. There are inevitably going to be places in a marriage where the two of you just won’t overlap…like ever. That’s ok! It’s even healthy. You’re different people, with different upbringings, from different cultures, with unique personalities. You’d probably hate life if you married someone identical to yourself because most of the time the things that irritate you most about other people are things that you would inwardly recognize as your own flaws and weaknesses.
Here’s the key. Support each other in whatever endeavors the other person enjoys. Don’t try to force the other person to enjoy what you enjoy. Do that…and neither of you will enjoy anything. You’ll spend your time trying to change the other person and hitting your head against a block wall. It’s painful.
People never change because someone else wants them to. In fact…coercive change often causes revolt. People only change because of an inward desire to change.
That old guy was right all those many years ago. “Don’t try to turn the other person into you.” Let them be them…and you be you…and then revel in the time you spend in the middle.