“If I say something that can be interpreted in two ways, and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, I meant the other way.” – Bill and Pam Farrel

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function ...” – Bible

Sam and Sally were having dinner with their good friends Tim and Terri, and they were describing their current struggles as a married couple. Sam was primarily a social animal. He had lots of friends, maybe not real close, but he enjoyed going places and doing things with the whole bunch of them.

Sally preferred to curl up at home with a good book. She had fewer friends but they were much closer and their conversations would often get quite deep. In fact, Sally wished she communicated with her husband in the same open and intimate way, but it just didn’t happen.

They had lived together for a few years before marriage and thought they had each other figured out. After marriage things changed.

After a quick silent prayer, Tim suggested to Sam and Sally that they had two problems they needed to recognize. One they could do something about; the other they couldn’t.

Since they had been friends for a long time Tim felt he could be honest with them. He noted that although the time of living together before marriage couldn’t be changed, they needed to recognize its impact on their current relationship.

He pointed out an obvious fact: Sam and Sally are very different in personality and interests. Not bad different. Just different. In fact, we are all different. God made us that way. None of us have all that is necessary to survive in this world. God designed us to live together as couples and in a family to complement one another: male and female, extrovert, introvert, good with numbers, clueless with numbers, etc.

While they were living together outside marriage neither of them, and especially not Sam, felt a real commitment and hence didn’t see the need to make any permanent changes to their own life styles. They bent to accommodate the interests of the other, but there was no permanent change. Kind of like a rubber band that stretches but when released goes back to its original shape. Unless it is stretched too far; then it breaks.

Cohabitation stretched them but actually made life a little more exciting because of the challenge and the uncertainty – and the knowledge that they could easily get out if things became too uncomfortable. Marriage and a deeper commitment to their relationship were stretching them into the pain zone.

Sam and Sally couldn’t change the past although some healing might be needed; their cohabitation was a fact. They could learn to deal with their differences, however.

The first step in dealing with differences is to recognize that they exist and not just react in a negative fashion when a difference raises its strange head. Tim suggested that Sam and Sally use some of the readily available assessment tools to help them determine more clearly their personality types and interests.

Determining their differences was actually the easy part. During their cohabitation, they had learned how to ignore the differences or work around them. If they wanted their marriage to succeed they must now spend serious time together learning how to communicate and discussing the differences and what each of them needed to change.

The change wouldn’t necessarily be in their personalities, which don’t usually change, or even in their interests, which we can choose to change. What Sam and Sally needed to do was change the way they related to each other.

They would have to begin to focus more on their spouse and bringing God into the relationship. When the two become one in God’s eyes God has a way of bringing them together such that the change is more in learning how to complement and love one another unconditionally.

The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director of FAMCO, 640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com, www.aikenfamco.com.