Viva La Difference
Some thoughts on compatibility

Romantic Hollywood movies often portray the “match made in heaven.” Society tends to depict the ideal relationship as a union of “soul mates” where everything clicks, and the two go together like hand and glove, music and lyrics, peanut butter and chocolate.

I’m sure such relationships do exist. Some couples work together in amazing ways: Their interests and talents converge; they naturally tend to form a dynamic team. They help disadvantaged youths as principal and teacher at an inner city school. He runs a gourmet restaurant and she is the pastry chef. He writes songs that she sings. Those kinds of couples.

That is wonderful—but guess what? It’s not the norm. I want to give you a different perspective. Based on my experience.

My wife and I are pretty different from each other. I didn’t realize this when we first got married. After 15 years of marriage, I now realize far better how different we are than I did when we were courting. I thought we had more in common than we do. We went through marriage counseling, and I learned a lot from it, but I realize now that there are many things you simply don’t know about your potential mate until you are actually in a relationship and building a life together. Aspects of personality and temperament don’t emerge until experiences begin to accumulate.

Granted, some couples “click” when they marry, with very little adjustment period. I congratulate them. I believe Herbert W. Armstrong College graduates have a lot of advantages because they’ve seen each other in many different circumstances—under stress, putting events together and so on. I did not have that advantage when I was dating the woman who would become my wife.

Understand: In some ways, we actually had a fairly ideal circumstance in our dating. We were simply friends for a long time. Our families lived within a 15-minute drive of each other in Washington State and got together all the time. She is 5½ years younger than I am, and we developed an uncomplicated, platonic friendship. For years I never looked at her as a potential mate. Yet even with that foundation of friendship, there was still a lot about her that I didn’t know, or didn’t really consider.

To take just one example, the speed at which our activity engines naturally tend to run are not in sync. I have always been on the go, looking for what else to get involved in, running to the next activity—in many cases literally. One day I took a business trip to England, and I had one day to myself. I took a train into London and literally sprinted all over that city, trying to see as much as I possibly could in 10 hours. That’s basically the way I would live my life if I were by myself: sprinting everywhere. Maybe it shows God’s sense of humor in putting us together, but I did not marry a sprinter. For my wife, running is torture.

My wife and I are interested in quite different things. On occasion we have searched for more activities and interests we could share in common, but so far our success has been fairly limited. We’ve never had an “aha” moment where we discovered, for example, that we both love baking macaroons.

Honestly, I don’t think we really understood each other’s sense of humor for a long time. I have learned, literally in the last few years, that my wife is hilarious. For the longest time she was saying jokes that I just did not get.

Over time, my wife and I have learned to accept certain dissimilarities. In fact, more recently, we have learned to actually appreciate some of those differences, even to enjoy them. If nothing else, they give us source material for good in-jokes and high family comedy.

But here’s the thing: I love this woman dearly. And now, after 15 years of marriage, my love for her is greater than ever. I feel that what God has taught me and how He has blessed me through this marriage far exceeds what I had anticipated. We have had our rocky times—problems we’ve had to work through, areas where we had to work to meet minds. However, the process of learning how to be a team, how to make a marriage succeed, how to apply the instruction on making God’s family government work each day, has been the most awesome growth experience of my life.

Our apparent incompatibilities have helped both of us to grow tremendously. I have learned a lot from being married to someone different from me in some basic ways. I’ve grown to learn how to accommodate someone else, how to adapt, how to think about more than just myself.

It is easy to pick up the world’s thinking—that if you’re not “soul mates” it will never work, so hold out till you find “the one” with whom you are in perfect sync. But the truth is, it takes time to develop that kind of teamwork—and it’s a wonderful process.

One thing I regularly thank God for is the fact that my wife is a very converted woman. She works very hard to please God and to serve our family in so many ways. That quality—the fact that she allows God to guide her life, to change her and correct her—is the ingredient I need in a helpmeet. I thank God all the time that she has that quality.

I know that God brought us together. Several things about our situation make it very clear to me. That gives me a lot of security too. I don’t have to wonder if I made the right choice. I don’t feel I made the choice—I really did put it in God’s hands, and this is the marriage He created. So for us, it has been a matter of how to make it work and how to gain the very most benefit from the situation God placed us in.

We do complement each other in a lot of ways. Areas where I’m strong, she’s weak; her strengths shore up my weaknesses. We balance each other out in ways that we wouldn’t if we were a lot more similar. We both have pretty strong personalities, in different ways. If I were married to a sprinter, maybe our children wouldn’t be able to keep up with us!

Mrs. Cheryl Davis recently told me she remembers Mr. Armstrong giving a Bible study at Ambassador College where he said that any two converted people should be able to make a marriage work. Based on my experience, I believe that. When I see people struggling with marriage problems, I think, This is not a personality compatibility issue—this is a conversion issue.

A “match made in heaven” can end up being very different from how Hollywood might portray it! Don’t close yourself off to a potential relationship just because it doesn’t seem picture perfect. That’s not to say compatibility isn’t important—but complementarity is also something to consider. Every combination of two people is a unique chemistry experiment. If both are submissive to God, that relationship will help sharpen and benefit each of them in untold ways!