We get married because we want to believe that we are “made for each other”.

Yet you and your husband are two very different people.

You have gender differences. You have personality differences. You have background differences. The problem with differences is that we usually assume that we’re right, because what we do seems natural to us–the way things should be done. When he does things differently, he seems wrong. And a few years of clashing over how things should be done, we wonder if we really are “made for each other” after all.

But what if those differences are tools that God can use to mold you into better people?

Let me tell you the story of my relationship with my husband, Keith. I told it first in a column I wrote back in 2007, but I think it speaks to this, and today, as part of our “Virtual Marriage Retreat” that we’re doing every Monday in September, I thought I’d look at the concept again.

Made for Each Other: Embracing our Differences Marriage Series

In my marriage, I tend to be the one who wrecks the cars. Keith wrecks the laundry, but that doesn’t cost nearly as much. For a while there I seemed to have a string of issues needing little bumper touch ups, and the mechanic helpfully suggested that he could install those little floaty-things that boats use to the outside of our car. Keith thought this was hilarious. I did not.

Of course, Keith recently backed into a tree and shattered our van’s windshield, but since this was his one and only infraction in our whole marriage, we viewed it as an aberration rather than a pattern. So when he went to buy a new car this fall, he bought a standard. I can’t drive a standard. So I can’t drive his car. I’m still trying to figure out if there’s some hidden meaning there.

Keith and I have other differences, too. Keith has the “all the lights in the house must be turned off if not needed” gene. I’m missing that one. His idea of a relaxing afternoon is to actually relax. I like taking energetic bike rides. He likes war movies. I like Jane Austen. We’re a strange pair.

And yet, after twenty-three years, what most often occurs to me is how alike we’ve become.

Who we are, I believe, is partly a function of who we grow to be as we walk, day to day, with those we love.

People who know me may be surprised by this, but I tend to be on the shy side. I didn’t speak outside of the house until I was seven. Today I make my living speaking at women’s events and retreats, often in front of large groups, which doesn’t bother me in the least. But parties, where I have to talk to one on one, are stressful. How do I keep the conversation going? I don’t find it natural at all.

It’s not natural for Keith, on the other hand, to shut up. And as we’ve been married, he’s taken me to so many parties that I’ve begun to open up. But he’s also started to quiet down. Had we not married, he might have been even more gregarious, and I may have become more introspective.

Or take food. I crave sweets, but not fat or salt. Keith, on the other hand, once drank a cup of bacon grease because someone dared him. I often have a craving for vegetables. Keith had to force himself to start eating them regularly. If Keith hadn’t married me, he’d likely be a lot heavier than he is right now. And I’d probably still never know wonderful real butter makes everything taste.

I’ve always loved to travel, and even before we were married I had seen a lot of the world, saving up my money from my jobs as a teen to tour around overseas. But my trips were confined to museums and tourist attractions. Keith, on the other hand, likes to get to know people. Over our years together we’ve ventured further abroad, most recently to Kenya. Within five minutes he knew our driver’s life story. The porter in our final hotel told him all about his education. Keith finds a way to draw out people I would never have normally talked to, and I’m gradually learning, too. If I had my initial instincts, we would have seen the world, but only from a distance. And if Keith had his, we never would have seen it at all.

Over the last twenty-three years we have changed. I am not the same person who walked down that aisle, and he isn’t the same one who was waiting for me. I loved him dearly then, but I love him much more deeply now. I think we make a mistake when we search for that soul mate, the one person who completes us. The more I think about it, the more I think that we become each other’s soul mate. Just by being with each other, we change each other.

It isn’t a matter of finding the perfect person as much as it is becoming the perfect couple.

Compromise. Spend time together. Stretch yourself. You just may find that you’re becoming made for each other, after all.

So often we think that when our marriages don’t work it means that we married the wrong person.

And yet, I don’t think there is a right person. I think you become the right person, the more you commit to each other and stick it out. You aren’t born “made for each other”. You become “made for each other” as you adjust to each other with grace.

Change happens gradually, but it will happen more dramatically when we decide to let God set the agenda in our marriages, and not us. When we say, “God, whatever you want from me, I’ll do it,” rather than “God, we’d get along so much better if only you would change him,” then our marriages will blossom. Instead of getting upset about your differences, see them as opportunities for growth.

Made for Each Other: What if marriage is less about marrying the right person, and more about becoming the right person?

Marriages don’t succeed because we marry the right person. They succeed when we become the right person. (click to tweet this!)

This post is part of The Virtual Marriage Retreat that six marriage bloggers are doing, every Monday in September.

So far I’ve talked about:

Embracing Grace
Embracing Change

And all the other bloggers have, too! Today, you can follow their links and see what they say about embracing the differences in your marriage. And here’s your challenge for this week:

Embrace Your Marriage Challenge: Don’t just tell your husband that you love him today. Tell him some of the reasons you love him.

Embrace Your Marriage Virtual Marriage Retreat

Courtney: Women Living Well
Ashleigh: Ashleigh Slater
Darlene: The Time Warp Wife
Lisa: Club 31 Women
Jennifer: Unveiled Wife

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