My husband and I weren’t always so different.
When we were first dating, we of course talked about The Big Stuff, you know, all those things you’re supposed to cover pre-engagement that could potentially be deal-breakers or trouble spots later on in marriage. Thoughts on political issues, ethics, religion, how to raise children, expectations of what marriage means, etc. Maybe it was just our youth or life-inexperience, but we were rather ambivalent and middle-of-the-road on most things back then. So at that time, we seemed like a good fit for each other and with no major deal-breakers. We entered into marriage thinking our life together would be fine and dandy.
But years pass and people change and grow and develop new thoughts, and unfortunately your spouse doesn’t necessarily change and grow in the same direction that you change and grow. So years down the road in your marriage, you suddenly realize that you and your spouse now disagree on some of those Big Issues…What do you do?
When you’re dating or even while engaged, you have the luxury of maintaining “deal-breakers” when considering your potential life partner. This is a good thing. For example, if your boyfriend/girlfriend/finance considers divorce a possible future option if your marriage becomes too hard, that difference of opinion alone could be the make-it-or-break it point of a future marriage and it would be wise to consider it as a deal-breaker. But what about all those other Big Issues? Which things should spouses see eye-to-eye on in order to have a successful marriage?
Choosing a lifelong marriage partner is not an easy task and should never be taken lightly. However, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll ever find someone who aligns perfectly to all your checkboxes of desirable traits and opinions. The best you can do is to base your decision on the parts of the other’s personality and core beliefs that are unlikely to ever change, and not on the checkboxes that could someday change as they grow and develop new life experiences.
So what happens when you unexpectedly find yourself years into a marriage only to realize that you have very different beliefs than your spouse on one of The Big Issues?
You find a way to work it out.
I know that sounds too easy. It’s not easy. Not at all. But it’s possible.
You may have to let go of your ideal expectations of your perfect marriage partner and perfect marriage. Not settle below your expectations, but adapt your expectations appropriately to a realistically obtainable level. Talk with your spouse. A lot. Be open-minded about what they have to say and why they believe what they do. Embrace your differences; use them as a way to more thoroughly flesh out your own personal beliefs. Find places where you overlap in your beliefs; focus on those shared beliefs and work to present a united front in spite of your differences.
My husband and I might disagree – and disagree strongly – on several of the ‘big Issues’’ in politics and life, but we’ve found a way to still respect the other in spite of our differences. We love each other and believe in marriage and that the commitment to making a marriage work is a far more important thing than whose political opinion is “right”.