WHEN OPPOSITES REPEL

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Just by being with each other, we change each other.

by Sheila Wray Gregoire

I bought my husband a new toy for his last birthday. My daughters named her Sylvia.

Sylvia is a no-nonsense gal who tells you where to go. You just enter in your desired address, and she tells you where to turn. Or, if you’re in a strange city and you have a hankering for Chinese, she’ll tell you where the closest buffet is. She’s really very smart.

Nevertheless, I sometimes question her gender. Sure Sylvia sounds like a woman, but she thinks like a man. When giving directions, she says something like this: “Continue for 12 kilometres, then turn right. Destination is on the left.” That’s how a man would do it.

A woman, on the other hand, would say, “Head past the IGA, and then just keep going. The road will wind a little bit, but don’t worry. You’ll pass the cutest little horse farm on your right hand side. Take the next right. You’ll pass three mailboxes—the last one is green with a little rooster on top—and we’re the next house on the left.”

Women give directions based on social landmarks. Men give it based on silly things like magnetic north. But Sylvia doesn’t know anything about roosters and mailboxes. She just knows geography.

That, of course, is something my husband believes I know nothing of. Early in our marriage, Keith swears that one time, when looking at a map, I said, “go straight on this red road until you come to the purple road,” but I don’t remember that. What I do remember is saying something like, “I think you take the next left,” and having Keith spit out, “Do you think, or do you know?” Spluttering, I replied, “I think I know.” It wasn’t a good scene.

Women give directions based on social landmarks. Men give it based on silly things like magnetic north.

When we first fall in love, it is often these differences that we find so endearing about each other. Yet after a few years of marriage and attempted map-reading, these things can just be downright annoying. While opposites may initially attract, it is often in those areas of difference that we later find our greatest conflicts.

And yet, perhaps those areas are also our greatest areas of potential growth. My husband and I will be celebrating 20 years together soon. Looking back on our marriage, it occurs to me not how different we are, but instead how alike we have become.

I tend to be on the shy side. 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 keep small talk going, are stressful. It’s not natural for me.

While opposites may initially attract, it is often in those areas of difference that we later find our greatest conflicts.

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 withdrawn.

I’ve always loved to travel, but my pre-marriage excursions were largely 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. 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.

I am not the same person who walked down that aisle, and he isn’t the same one who was waiting for me. Just by being with each other, we change each other.

Isn’t that how marriage is supposed to be? If marriage is supposed to reflect Christ’s relationship with the church, then it has to have an impact on us. After all, God predestined us to be transformed into Christ’s likeness (Romans 8:29). As we walk with Him, we should start to reflect Him. Shouldn’t that be what marriage does to us, too? As we walk together, we start to reflect each other.

But it should also be a warning to those of us thinking that there is that one perfect person waiting for us that God made especially to complete you. That’s not a Christian view of marriage. It’s selfish, saying that marriage is all about getting what I need, not that marriage is all about God making me into the person He wants me to be.

It says that if you have differences, the other person should change to accommodate you, not that God may be using those differences to refine both of you. Just like Michelangelo chipped away at the stone to create the masterpiece “David,” so God uses these things to chip away at our pride, or selfishness or bitterness. It may be difficult, but the end result is much more beautiful.

Just like Michelangelo chipped away at the stone to create the masterpiece “David,” so God uses these things to chip away at our pride, or selfishness or bitterness.

That’s why I don’t think marriage is a matter of finding the perfect person as much as it is becoming the perfect couple. And the more time you spend together, the more you just might find that you’re becoming made for each other, after all.

Sheila Wray Gregoire is a popular marriage conference speaker and author of seven books and counting. Focusing mostly on marriage, her books include To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. Sheila is a featured author in this year’s Valentine’s Day devotional, The Marriage Renovation.
 

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THE ARTICLE ABOVE WAS FEATURED IN THE NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2011 ISSUE OF SEVEN MAGAZINE. GET SEVEN FREE