Conflict is as much a part of married life as breathing is to our physical bodies. In marriage we usually underestimate how different we really are from each other. In these lessons you will learn that our differences are massive but never hopeless. Each husband and wife brings the same kinds of issues to the marriage; some marriages end badly while others become stronger. It is not the absence of conflict that makes the difference. It is how we handle the differences between us that is the key to letting conflicts build us up rather than tear us apart.

We have different family backgrounds

Each person in the marriage comes to the relationship from a family of origin where they learned most of their original set of coping skills. For a more in-depth discussion of these built- in coping mechanisms, refer to the lesson on the “Parent” part of our personality found on our website. These are “caught skills” that were more picked up by watching our family members interact during our childhood, than formal lessons such as this one. They cannot be removed, but they can be changed.

We come with different personalities

When we select our partners for life, it is often done with a clearly defined attempt to find someone who brings the other half of what we need to be whole. The old expression that “opposites attract” is not only true, it is necessary. When Judy and I started dating she was so quiet that she spent that first summer going with me on different dates and only shared three sentences with me the entire summer. I was more than happy to fill up all those quiet hours with stories and monologues. How could someone so quiet find someone so mouthy attractive? It is simple; she needed someone like me. I needed her qualities just as much. It was a “match made in heaven” for at least a little while. And then, as it always happens, the differences became one of our most insurmountable problems. There will almost always be a person in the marriage that loves to save money and the other will almost always love to spend it as fast as it comes in. All of these differences will be the source of many, many years of discussions and dialogues. We had better learn to handle them wisely or they will damage the love and trust that make a strong and solid marriage.

We come in two different sexes

Many years have been invested within our society trying to bring equality between males and females. In the effort we have overlooked the simple facts that make us different.

As just one example: Men have a gland in the brain called the hypothalamus buried deep in the center near the stem of the brain. This powerful gland creates a hormone that surges out in big bursts that flow directly into the blood stream every two hours. This is like a clock ticking inside his body. If doctors want to find out if his body is working as it was designed, they bring him into a sleep lab and wire him up in all kinds of weird places. When he goes to sleep, they watch their instruments to find out if he becomes sexually aroused on the two hour schedule throughout the night. He is created this way to be constantly pushed into producing the sperm that will become the next generation. During waking hours there are many distractions that take our minds away from what is happening inside our bodies. But even then, the men will find that on rather regular intervals they will find themselves thinking about sexual fantasies. This often comes from the “hit” their system has just taken from their two hour injection.

The women have the same gland but it works somewhat differently for her. It is just as powerful and hits her body with just as much impact! But, it works on a 28 day cycle for most women. It is designed to create the one fertile egg that may be her next child.

Now think about that situation for a few moments. One is being hit with surges of desire every two hours while the other is oblivious to this kind of event. I have to believe that Almighty God smiled when he put that thing together and thought to Himself, “This is going to give them MANY HOURS of interesting discussions.”

The list of differences really can get very lengthy

The list can include lifestyle issues that define where we will live and what we feel comfortable calling home. One may want everything in perfect order while the other wants things to feel “lived in”. One may want to fill the house with pets and livestock while the other wants “peace and quiet” (and doesn’t want to put the dog out every half hour). One parent will discipline the children differently from the other. One of the spouses will want to go “out and play” when the work-week is finished, but they will find they have married a person who likes sitting at home and reading a book instead of going out.

In our Pre-Marital Package (coming soon) we have a long questionnaire that gives each person the chance to review how they feel about many different issues. I love to take those two long response sheets and compare how the groom responds differently than his bride. In fact, I use that questionnaire to open (sometimes for the very first time) the discussions that will be a part of their lives for years to come! Couples have an instinct that predicts where they will have potential conflicts, so they avoid talking about them for fear of offending their intended spouse. I believe that it is important to set the tone for each one of those topics before they say their vows. Then they can smile the first time one of those issues come up (usually during the first week of their marriage since now it is “safe”) and remind each other of how they had handled that topic in our sessions. There was only one couple who had such dangerous issues that I pleaded with them to at least postpone the marriage for a little while. They refused and were divorced shortly after their marriage began.

In these Pre-Marital Training Sessions, I remind the couple that there is no way a man and a woman can live for very long without conflict. Some handle it badly and damage their marriage. Repair work takes longer than learning how to have conflict without doing damage in the first place. I hope the training you are getting from MarriageHelp.com will teach you to be more loving as you deal with the differences between you.

For more information on fundamental differences between men and women, please go to the Greatest Fears of Women and the Greatest Fears of Men on our website.

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon licensed under Creative Commons

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Filed under: Conflict Management

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