Respect for Differences

Respecting each other as different

Some thoughts:

Marriage is a life-long relationship between two very different people. One temptation is to want the other person to be the same as you or, even worse, to think that s/he is the same as you! Couples sometimes say things like ‘we feel the same way about everything; we think the same way about everything’. This is totally impossible and when it is being said, someone is not telling the truth! The truth is that the two people in a couple are different in many ways. And one of the secrets of happiness is to acknowledge these differences and to manage them positively for the sake of the growing relationship.

  1. The two people in a marriage are different from each other. They are different first of all as woman and man. Tension in marriage is often because of these particular differences in perceiving and living life. There is a song in an old musical that has the line ‘why can’t a woman be more like a man?’ and that is often the longing in the hearts of married people. It goes both ways, as a woman can also long that her man would be more like her. A major task of marriage is to know what it is like to be this man, this woman, and to respect that.
  2. The two people in a marriage are also different from each other in personality. One could be outgoing while the other is shy and withdrawn. One could be very spontaneous, the other cautious. One could be relaxed, the other intense, and so on. When one tries to change the other to become more like her/him all kinds of trouble happens.
  3. A person’s wife or husband is also different from other significant people in her/his life. Unconsciously – or sometimes even consciously! – comparisons can be made that lead to criticism that is unfair. A man may hold up his mother as the ideal woman in how she cared for him and see his wife as somehow less because she is different. Or a woman may make comparisons between her husband and the husbands of friends of hers and he often comes out negatively. Comparisons are always odious. The task of marriage is to love this woman/man as s/he is.
  4. In the course of the journey of marriage each one changes in so many ways. ‘He/she is not the person I married’ can be a sentence heard from married people when they are disillusioned with their present marriage. The task is to enter into the present and know that s/he is not the same as when they met, fell in love, got married. That doesn’t just mean that s/he is worse than then. It also means that s/he is better in many other ways as well. It is so important to leave room in a couple’s relationship for change in each person and then to work at making those changes part of the journey of marriage.


  1. What were some of the qualities that attracted you to your wife/husband?
  2. In what ways did you see s/he was different from you and from others in your life?
  3. What are some of the issues you argue of fight about in your relationship?
  4. How do you personally deal with these issues?
  5. How do you see your wife/husband deals with these issues?

Answer these questions individually first (at least 10 mins) and then share your answers with one another (at least 30 mins)