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Making Individual Differences A Strength In Marriage

Im constantly amazed by how easy it is to overlook one of the more obvious facts
about men and women: Theyre different! Feminists and others in the recent past
have worked to blur the distinctions between the sexes. But this effort is ultimately
doomed because God created us male and femaledifferent.
When this Ozark country boy married the refined city girl, our differences came out
in dozens of ways. For instance, Barbara believed that grass and flowers were
meant to be tamed and made to grow beautifully inside a freshly painted white
picket fence. I had a philosophy I learned from my dad, who discipled me in the fine
art of avoiding yard work. He would let the yard die a slow death in July, so he didnt
have to mow it the rest of the summer. In turn, I believed that if God had intended
for leaves to be collected, He would have had them fall in plastic bags to begin with.
Barbara and I have worked through many of our differences. Some were funny, but
others werent. And its no coincidence that our present home sits back on a heavily
forested hillside that overlooks a beautiful lake. We enjoy the sunsets, but you wont
find much of a lawn. Im trying to change, though. One summer, the children and I
surprised Barbara by hauling tons of rocks to outline a trail and some flower beds.
All of us know that men and women are separated by more than basic, biological
nuances. But just how different are we? After considerable research, an author
named Cris Evatt developed a general summary of male and female personality
traits. Of course, these are generalizations that may only apply in degrees to any
particular person, and some items on the list probably relate more to social
conditioning than real personality differences. But you will enjoy reviewing and
discussing the list with your spouse.

More self-focused
Needs less intimacy
Fears engulfment
Needs less approval
More independent
Often detached
An attention-getter
Highly competitive
Strong drive for power/money
Respect very important
Often obsessed with sports
Talks mostly about things
Less talkative in public
Takes things literally
Language more direct
Less responsive listener
Decisions made quicker
Gossips less
Engages in put-downs
Focuses more on solutions
Less apologetic
Tells more jokes/stories
Less willing to seek help
Boasts about performance
Nags less often
Often intimidates others
Issues orders
Often seeks conflict
Likes to be adored
Fearful of commitment
Sexually jealous of mate
Accepts others more
Thrives on receiving
More polygamous
More sadistic
More sex-oriented
Has fewer close friends
Likes group activities
Worries less about others
More sensitive to stress
Less trusting
More aggressive
Initiates war
Posture leans back more
Cooler/seductive sexiness
Has more testosterone
Less into dieting
Less concerned about health
Worries less about appearance

More other focused
Needs more intimacy
Fears abandonment
Needs more approval
Less independent
Often emotional
An attention-giver
Less competitive
Less important drive for power/money
Respect less important
Sports less important
Talks mostly about people
Less talkative in private
Looks for hidden meanings
Language more indirect
More responsive listener
Takes more time to decide
Gossips more
Engages in backbiting
Likes to discuss problems
More apologetic
Tells fewer jokes/stories
Seeks help readily
Boasts less frequently
Nags more often
Seldom intimidates others
Makes suggestions
Tends to avoid conflict
Likes to adore others
Eager for commitment
Emotionally jealous of mate
Tries to change others more
Thrives on giving
More monogamous
More masochistic
More love-oriented
Has many close friends
Prefers intimate encounters
Worries more about others
Less sensitive to stress
Often too trusting
Less aggressive
Doesnt make war
Posture leans forward more
Warmer/animated sexiness
Has more estrogen
More into dieting
More concerned about health
Worries more about appearance

Whew! A list like that makes it clear why combining two people with different
qualities and approaches to life into a marriage is a challenging task. And to
complicate things more, sometimes a quality that attracted you to your mate
Hes so funny!can frustrate you after marriage: Why cant he be serious once
in a while?
Thats why you should often remind each other, You are Gods perfect gift for me.
Marriage Missions Editors Note: Do you find that difficult to do, when your
differences are so glaring and irritating so much of the time to think, You are
Gods perfect gift for me? If so, below you will find a bit more on this subject,
written by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, that may help you make wiser choices than
you may have made up to this point, as to how to handle your differences. Keep in
mind that the above differences can be turned around as far as which spouse has
which trait, but the advice given below would apply, just the same:
Like tiny black gnats at a summer picnic, differences can buzz in your ears,
threatening to rob your relationship of its peaceful, accepting love. As Sam
Levenson said, Love at first sight is easy to understand; its when two people have
been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle! Someone else
has said, Love is blind, but marriage is an eye-opener.
As you move past the honeymoon, all those differences, those littleeye-openers,
begin to affect your marriage. Ironically, differences are those wonderful qualities
that attracted you to each other when dating. He was outgoing, she was shy; he
was a big spender, which made her feel special because she was a tightwad; he was
a hard worker, she was impulsive and fun-loving. Opposites attract. It works like
But when the honeymoon fades and reality sets in, those attractive uniquenesses
often become aggravating differences or weaknesses. The very things that initially
attracted you to your mate now repel or frustrate you.
As a result, youre faced with several decisions. First and foremost, you must ask
yourself, Will I continue to accept my mate in this particular area of difference, or
will I withdraw a portion of my acceptance, thereby driving a sliver of rejection
between us? You cannot ignore the question, because the differences wont go
away. If you cant accept that quality, youre rejecting (silently or verbally) your
mate, and his self-image will suffer. Your only 2 options are to accept him or reject
If you choose acceptance, then another question arises: How do I live with this
difference? The answer is multiple choice, with more than one, or possibly all, of
the choices being correct in any given situation.
1. Pray for yourself. Begin by praying for yourself. Ask God to make you content
with your mate as he is. Pray, too, that God will show you the positive side of your
mates apparently negative quality.
In our relationship, Dennis and I (Barbara) are extreme opposites on the
impulsive/disciplined scale. When we were first married his impulsiveness tended to

drive my disciplined nature crazy. I felt that we had no order, no schedule, no

budget, and no regular devotions.
I remember praying diligently for God to change all these things I didnt like. Then I
realized what really needed to be changed was my attitude. God did change my
perspective and in time I began to see how much I needed Dennis impulsiveness to
balance my discipline.
Ask God to examine your attitudes and your motives, and to give you a greater
capacity to understand and accept your mates differences. This step my be
necessary before God can use you to elevate your mates self-image.
2. Talk about it with your mate. Ask for the privilege of being heard. Tell him
youre not rejecting him in this area of difference and that you remain committed.
Assure him that hes loved no matter what. One thing weve learned in our marriage
is that at some moments were teachable and at others learning is unlikely. Unless it
is obvious, we determine whether the time is opportune by asking.
If you find its not the time to talk, leave the subject alone. Dont try to force an
issue with which your mate isnt emotionally ready to deal.
You also may discover that the territory youre about to encroach upon is marked
NO TRESPASSING. It may be off limits at this point in his life. If so, be satisfied
with exploring small bits of land at a time. Dont hope to cover the whole country in
one evening. Go slowly.
If your mate is willing to talk about the difference thats bothering you, share your
feelings without accusing him and pointing the finger of blame. Dont be critical. Let
him know youre not perfect and that you understand him, or want to understand
him, in this area. Realize, too, that we all have weaknesses or tendencies that well
never completely conquer. Because of our fallen nature, perfection will never be
ours until we reach heaven.
If your mate considers the difference a weakness, ask if you can help. Then, at the
end of your discussion, remind your mate again of your commitment and
acceptance. We call this the bookend principle. Just as bookends are used to prop up
books that contain truth, so your reminders of complete acceptance at both ends of
the discussion will support the truth of what you have said. And it makes the truth
easier to hear.
3. Tutor you mate with his permission. As a couple, we continue to assist one
another with many areas, such as punctuality, patience with children, planning,
feelings of discouragement and depression, one partners tendency to be impulsive
and the others tendency to be too controlled. Weve found that many opposites
that attracted us when we dated, which became repellents after we married, are the
very things that have balanced us. Our differences have made us more effective as
a couple than we ever could have been alone.
One area which I (Barbara) have assisted Dennis is his public speaking. Early in our
marriage, I noticed he was making some obvious grammatical errors as he spoke. I
felt free to offer help because, on more than one occasion, I had told him honestly
that he communicated well.

So, one evening after he had spoken, I asked Dennis if I could make a suggestion
that might make him more effective as a speaker. He said, Yes. Although my
critique was a little threatening, he confessed he didnt do well in English in school,
and he said he welcomed my suggestions.
Several years later, on the way home from another speaking opportunity, Dennis
told me, I still want you to help me with my speaking, but Id like you to wait a little
while before you tell me the cold, hard truth.
I realized my technique of helping him needed refining. I had become truthful too
quickly. My Help became a discouragement because it wasnt seasoned with
enough praise or separated far enough from the actual event. Had I not modified
my recommendations, I would have crossed the fine line separating acceptance
from rejection.
If your mate has granted you permission to help, ask God for wisdom in how to help.
Offer your assistance in such a way that your mate experiences your acceptance
and in no way senses rejection.
4. Ignore them. Some of the differences that annoy you may not be weaknesses in
your mate. Commit those differences to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to give you
peace and contentment to live with them, even if your mate never changes. Its
important to accept him as is, without pressure to change. Choose to ignore the
differences that are off limits and seemingly beyond change, and rejoice over the
many benefits you enjoy because of your partners strengths and your relationship