When You're Not on the Same Page
In the world inside my head, my spouse and closest friends and family are always reading from the same script as I am, and we are always on the exact same page, and probably even reading lines with the same intonation. The show of our lives is fluid, seamless and harmonious. And really, really boring. (I would gladly trade excitement for what appears to be perfect harmony.)
But God in His loving kindness knew that boredom via sameness rarely produces growth, and I would be much better off married to a man who was often reading from a different script than I was, and if perchance we happened to land in the same book we would never, ever be on the same page. So what’s a conflict-hating girl (see last week’s blog post) to do? Work those compromise muscles! Learn what’s important and what’s not. Those skills keep our day-to-day living experience much more zen. But that’s not what this blog is about.
This blog is about when the difference of opinion is over a deeply held desire or conviction. When you hear your soul say something that your spouse is diametrically opposed to. In ten years of marriage, Paul and I have landed in more than a couple of these conversations, and we hear them frequently from clients.
Maybe you want another baby, but your spouse feels like it would be a risky financial decision what with needing to purchase a bigger car to accommodate more car seats. Or conversely, you don’t want any babies right now, but your spouse has a moral issue with contraceptives. You might feel God calling you distinctly toward the mission field, and your wife is not on board at all. Or you might see the wisdom in letting your widowed mother move in with you, and your husband feels like it would be detrimental to your 3 children since your autistic child just started a new school and needs a lot of extra support right now.
Date night, sex, silly water fights in the back yard, laughing at a funny movie, and a good glass of wine can often help us over the simpler compromise hurdles, but what do you do when the person you love most has an opinion or makes a decision that leaves you feeling on opposite sides of a battlefield? I’d like to suggest two principles that will help close the distance when you’re on different pages, or maybe reading in different books. These aren’t a to-do list to make all your problems go away, but, like we discussed last week, conflict is a naturally occurring part of life, and we might as well gather some tools to help us meet it in a constructive, healthy way.
ORDER THE CHAOS.
There’s a theory that the Hebrew word “shalom” (that we translate “peace”) could be translated based on the meanings of the individual letters that make up the word. Taking the meanings of the four Hebrew characters comprising “shalom,” it translates: “destroy the authority attached to the chaos.” Now, I’m not a Hebrew scholar, but I’ve checked this theory with a couple, and they both concur - whether or not this is the way the biblical writers intended we interpret the word (via character meaning and not overall word meaning), this definition holds up with the biblical meaning of peace.
I resonate so strongly with this idea because conflict in relationship feels like complete chaos to me. Sin breeds chaos and destruction, and Jesus brought His peace to solve this. It wasn’t the meek, door mat version of peace us conflict-haters like to hold up as the answer to life’s problems: “Just don’t rock the boat and everything’ll be fine!” It was a fierce peace. The Bible tells us that Jesus conquered sin and death. There was a fight, and Jesus came out the victor. At the cross He destroyed sin’s reign of confusion, destruction, and chaos, and He instituted a new rule of peace, of shalom, when He stepped out of the tomb 3 days later. A peace which His followers would carry forward into the world, righting wrongs, restoring order, banishing chaos.
Now let’s apply that little Bible lesson. There’s a sign in our kitchen that says “Order the chaos” and it’s my reminder that when I perceive chaos in my world, the chaos is not in control; I have authority over it. There are lots of practical ways to apply that, but relationally, it means that Paul and I vow to not let the emotional chaos surrounding differences of opinion to divide us. God made us unique on purpose; whatever conversation we are having, He wants us to bring our different thought patterns, experiences, perceptions of His will, and opinions to the table. Those differences aren’t wrong or sinful, and they are not intended to be chaotic. But hurt feelings and emotional pain, while not sinful, are the results of a broken world, and therefore they are chaotic.
So how do we separate the chaos from the conversation? We decide from the outset that our relational intimacy is more important than the problem at hand. We commit to continuing the discussion in constructive ways, and taking breaks when emotions get too high. We choose to value the differences in each other instead of seeing them as threats (full disclosure - this is the hardest one for me). And this is all made possible by principle number two…
YOUR TIMELINE IS RARELY AS SHORT AS YOU THINK IT IS.
No one wants to be at odds with their spouse. We tend to want what we want when we want it. Our world is fast-paced and most decisions feel pressing.
But, what if the issue you’re trying to resolve didn’t have to be figured out right this very moment? How would you approach it if you could both take time to just hear the other’s perspective, break to pray on it for a few days, then come back together to discuss what the Spirit told you in prayer?
If you’ve decided from the outset that this issue is not going to create chaos between you, you can sit on it a bit. Gather more information. Ask for trusted opinions. Pray. Listen to Jesus more. Search Scripture. When you’re both working the problem instead of working on convincing the other one you’re right, waiting to make a decision does not have to be disruptive to your relationship. In fact, it can increase intimacy as you choose to trust and respect each other during the waiting process.
This is counter-cultural in so many ways for us. But it’s also biblical (James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” Proverbs 15:28, “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.”) and relationship saving. See past the issue to the person, love sacrificially, and enjoy the perspective in your spouse’s script, even if it’s different than yours.
Thanks so much for reading! We’ll keep these coming every week. You can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, & Pinterest with the buttons at the top of the page, or post this article to the platform of your choice with the buttons below. Also, please feel free to leave a comment! We’d love to hear your questions or receive any feedback you’d like to offer! Finally, if you’ve found this information helpful at all, you should know that we get to sit in person with couples like you every week and help them through their relationships. We’d love it and be so grateful if you would consider making a donation to support our work so that we can keep serving couples in our community and all over the world! Thank you!