Admission: We’re not compatible.
Marriage is one of those things where you absolutely need compatibility, right? You need to live together, work through the toughest of issues together.
In the technology world, we often have to check software- is this program compatible with this program? Which means, can they work together to accomplish a goal? It can feel sometimes that I’m Windows software trying to running on Joe’s Mac. All we get are “error” messages. Please re-install and try again.
One: We have different interests and things that light us up. I like a little bit of noise and new things and busyness, Joe likes quiet and less hullabaloo. So many times those different desires or interests cause conflict and frustration. Why would you want to spend your day doing that?
Two: We have different ways of looking at life. Joe has a more serious, sad side to him. Part of this is due to his past, never really being able to enjoy life, never having that innocent childhood. There’s a weight he carries from having seen so much suffering. I’m way less serious, would rather laugh, and can jump from one thing to the next. I don’t feel things quite as deeply as he does no matter how hard I try. Sometimes it makes it difficult to get along.
Three: We have different ways of working and managing tasks. Joe works slowly and throughly and is good about catching the smallest of details. I move fast, skip steps, and prefer to look at the big picture. This reminds me of when Joe and I goofed around with the Myers Briggs personality test and scored opposite in every factor. Okay, so that explains a lot 😉
But he’s still my favorite person and very best friend. We still love each other so deeply. We still have a ton of fun together and laugh together and learn from each other. Because it’s how we look at those incompatibilities.
It’s how we look at the purpose of our marriage.
The world has sold us a lie that our spouse should be our soulmate, whatever that is. This image of perfect compatibility, who just *knows* you. Who *gets* you. Sometimes we have that experience in our marriage, but that’s not the point of marriage.
According to the Bible, the purpose of marriage includes becoming one flesh:
So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of his body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
We are not always one flesh, but we are to become one flesh. One flesh is not “getting along” or some kind of e-harmony match but of oneness. And that oneness is acheived through selfless love, loving someone else as much as you love your own flesh. Being unified, even in our differences.
It’s a process that we refine throughout our marriage. How do we lay down our own life for our spouse? How do we become one? How do we in the midst of the incompatibility display a reflection of Christ and the church?
I read recently how the issue of compatibility shows up among couples who are unhappy or seeking a divorce. John Gottman calls it the “facade of compatibility“. But when they look at marriages that were strong, the reason was never “because we’re compatible”. They had made a commitment to each other. In spite of the obstacles, they chose to love.
As GK Chesterton put it,
“I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.”