As husbands and wives, we love one another, and we want to show that love, to nurture our marriage and to keep it strong and healthy.
One of the most powerful and far reaching strategies for showing love for our spouse is to acknowledge, validate, and respect their point of view — even if it differs significantly from our own.
Almost by definition, in a wide variety of areas, spouses will experience differences of opinion, and place different priorities on things. Spouses will likely exhibit different styles of parenting, experience different levels of sexual interest, have different preferences for managing and spending money, and prefer to spend time in different ways.
In a loving relationship, how can we build unity and consensus, when there are so many areas in which we differ?
1. Remember that those differences are a gift, not a curse
We don’t marry replicas of ourselves. Nothing would be more boring or pointless than spending life with a clone of yourself. The whole point of marriage is to expand your world — to have a partner who can complement and balance your strengths, and fill in your weaknesses, who can enrich your life experience, not replicate it.
It is true that in many ways we tend to be attracted to our opposite. Sadly,__those differences that create attraction in the beginning of a relationship are often the very same things that can spark conflict and pain for the duration of that marriage.__
But it doesn’t have to be that way
When we approach those differences with curiosity, fascination, and appreciation — rather than resentment — they can be a doorway to personal growth, expanded enjoyment, and broadened perspective for both partners.
2. Learn to use binocular thinking, not telescope thinking
We each naturally tend to see things the way we see them — as if through a telescope, a single narrow lens through which we view everything. There is much we can see through that lens, but there is also much that we miss.
Part of the fun of having a spouse is learning to see through their lens too. This isn’t something that comes naturally. But when we learn to recognize that their perspective — their lens is just as real and valid as our own — when we learn to see through their lens alongside our own, we will see much more comprehensively, and much more accurately.
And that expanded vision — both of us still seeing what we naturally see, but learning to also see what our partner sees — is the foundation of unity, conflict resolution, and joy in our marriage.
3. Intentionally educate yourself in your partner’s perspective
Seeing what you see doesn’t take any particular effort — you’ve been doing it your whole life. Seeing what your partner sees, understanding what your partner feels, being consciously aware of what your partner needs — this can take significant effort and unselfish, focused attention.
Carefully consider and study your partner’s observations. Listen to your partner intently, and ask questions to help you understand what they are experiencing. Read books about personality differences, gender differences, different parenting styles, etc. It is often easier to understand and put words to our differences first through an author’s descriptions.
4. Learn to think AND not OR
The most common fight in marriage, whether we’re discussing parenting, finances, in-laws, sex, or whatever, tends to be: “WHO’S RIGHT?”
We are naturally oriented to our own ways of viewing and judging the world. We may present evidence for our perspective, and try to discount or invalidate our partner’s view, hoping they will see the light and accept our idea instead of their own. This is rather unlikely, and just tends to generate conflict and pain in the relationship.
We naturally think, “Either I’m right, or you’re right — and I already know I’m right!” It can be a new idea to consider the possibility — “What if I’m right AND my partner is right, we’re just seeing different pieces of the puzzle?” We can solve our puzzles quicker and more effectively when we validate the importance of all the pieces, not just those within our own easy reach.
While we tend to naturally reject ideas that don’t fit within our personal worldview, we can replace that tendency with a willingness to learn and grow beyond the limits of our own perspective, our own personal comfort zone.
Our partner’s perspective can open to us a whole new world of possibilities and potential for growth. And in valuing our partner’s perspective, we learn to value and love them as our partners, our equals, our teachers. As one wise observer put it:
The goal in marriage is not to THINK ALIKE, but to THINK TOGETHER!