In Marriage Some Things Never Change
By Kevin A. Thompson
Marriage is the union of two imperfect people. While the union should lead to the betterment of both individuals, it perfects neither one. Couples wed when they are imperfect and they remain imperfect throughout the marriage.
Many of these imperfections come and go throughout the years. The early years of marriage should empower a couple toward maturity, removing some faults and flaws. Yet even as some areas are improved, new difficulties arise. Some of your greatest sources of struggle in marriage aren’t even known on your first, tenth or thirtieth anniversary. As seasons change, new challenges arise.
The development of new problems makes it imperative for a young couple to learn how to deal with differences in the early days. As a couple learns to navigate differences in styles of housekeeping or time management, it prepares them for later battles of how to raise children or how to handle grief.
The faster a couple learns to handle disagreements, the better off they will be.
But some things never change. (See: Why Some Relationships Succeed and Others Fail)
No matter how much effort, work, or attention a couple gives a specific problem, the underlying root issue will never change. The imperfection that was present on your first day as a couple will still be an issue on your last day.
Marriage is never perfect. And some issues will never be resolved.
Many issues cannot be resolved because there is neither right or wrong. A couple experiences tension in an area because they have differing personalities, viewpoints, and past experiences. They simply see the world differently. These differences in viewpoint are a great strength in a healthy marriage, but can wreak havoc in an unhealthy marriage. A couple should learn to appreciate their differences because it strengthens the relationship and one another. (See: Two Steps to Solving 90% of Relationship Problems)
Other issues will go unresolved because we are broken people. Try as we may, some of our faults cannot be overcome. We can learn to control them, compensate for them, and plan around them, but we cannot fix them. Deep wounds from our childhood or past relationships will play a part in our current relationships. Someone from a broken home might always struggle with trust. A spouse who grew up with an alcoholic parent may never be able to relax or have fun. If an individual suffered a major trauma, fear will always influence their relationships.
They Still Require Work
Just because an issue cannot be resolved, does not excuse the couple from working on the issue. Unresolvable issues might require more effort than others. A husband and wife will have to continually discuss the situation, renegotiate a common ground, and determine the best course of action. Yet one conversation will not forever settle the issue. It will have to be revisited time and time again.
While the amount of work does not diminish, the expectations from each spouse should be changed. On some issues we aren’t expecting to forever settle the dispute. We are simply seeking to find a common ground to help us through today, this year, or this season. (See: Work On Your Marriage)
This change in perspective doesn’t make the process easy, but it does lessen the burden on the couple. We don’t need a once and for all settlement, we just need to figure out a way to get through today.
Don’t Use This as an Excuse
Some flaws we simply have to accept–both in ourselves and our spouses. The difficulty is in determining which flaws we can accept and which flaws we should demand a change.
Knowing some things will never change is not a mantra to allow a spouse to repeatedly cheat or continually engage in destructive behavior. Some flaws must change in order for a marriage to survive. If a spouse’s behavior is damaging the family in significant ways, their behavior must be confronted.
But not all actions fall into that category. An active addiction cannot continue, but a repeated frustration because your spouse isn’t as expressive or family-minded or thoughtful as you desire may not change.
As long as the good outweighs the bad, the issues should be discussed and worked on, but they may not be radically different. No matter how much you wish your spouse was different in an area, there are some things they cannot change. Old wounds, repeated struggles, and personality flaws are part of marriage.
How Do We Respond?
Since some things will not change, we should respond in four ways:
1. Determine what is acceptable and what is not. It’s not an easy practice, but we must determine if something is an acceptable flaw or it if falls in the category as something we cannot tolerate.
2. Draw clear boundaries on the things which must change. If something is not acceptable, we must communicate our boundaries very clearly. For example, I would not live with an active addict. That’s a boundary. It gives the spouse a choice of how to deal with their addiction, but it does not hand over control of my life to them. They have their choices, I have my own.
3. Negotiate a common ground on things which can’t change. For most issues, we can deal with them but it will take a great deal of negotiation. If one spouse likes to be on time, but the other doesn’t mind being late, the couple must discuss their feelings. They can make plans to lessen the stress on each other. And ultimately, each spouse must consider the feelings of the other regarding the issue.
4. Mourn the areas you wish were different. Many couples forget this, but marriage is not supposed to be perfect. Your spouse is not designed to fulfill your every longing. When marriage is not perfect, we must grieve the imperfection. Recognize it, admit it, grieve it, but then appreciate the good aspects of the relationship. By mourning what we wish was different, we will better be prepared to appreciate what is good. (See: Blessed Are the Married Who Mourn)
In marriage, some things never change and that is okay. As long as we can find a way to manage life in the midst of what we wish were different, our relationships can still thrive despite the weaknesses.