Help! My spouse doesn’t understand me

Kristen and I are so different from each other. While we share the same spiritual convictions and values, our personalities and temperaments are very different. She’s a saver, I throw things out. She has 15,000 plus emails in her inbox, I try to keep less than 20. She’s tall and hot. I’m shorter and not so hot! We come from very different families. Sometimes our differences are attractive, other times they are honestly annoying and difficult.

One of the biggest challenges in relationships whether dating, engaged, or married is that we view our differences as something that drives a wedge between us. How can we see our differences in a way that draws us closer together rather than pushing us apart?

In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter tells the husband to live with his wife in an understanding way:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (ESV)

A few comments on this passage: A weaker vessel does not mean she is inferior, but rather means she is typically physically weaker (for example, think of a Thermos versus a Crystal glass). When husbands do not live with their wives in an understanding way, your prayers are hindered. Your spiritual life is directly connected with how well (or not well) you understand your wife. He has to live with her in an understanding way, because left to his own, he will not understand her. Same with the wife: apart from intentionality, she is not going to understand her husband.

We need to become a student of our spouse. Below are three ways we can learn how to live with each other in an understanding way:

1. Discover your differences

This simply takes time and effort, setting aside your desires in order to discover more about your significant other. It means you put aside your electronics, pursue each other, and communicate.

There are many ways and resources you can utilize in order to learn about yourself and your significant other: Love Languages, Meyers-Briggs, Love & RespectFor Men Only and For Women Only are a few examples. You must make some intentional efforts in order to discover how you are each wired differently. Discover your differences so that you can better serve one another.

2. Embrace your differences

Most of our differences are not ‘wrong’, and typically our differences are characteristics of who God made us to be. In What Did you Expect, Paul Tripp writes that when God finished creating us, He said, “It is finished,” and it was good! When you have issues with your spouse and the way they are made, your issues aren’t really with your significant other, but rather with the God who made them.

Look for the good in your differences. There is a reason why you were attracted to them in the first place. For instance, I am so thankful Kristen is a saver. If were up to me, I’d throw too much of it out and need to have to buy it all over again.

Sometimes it’s difficult to embrace our differences. If this is the case:

  • Seek to understand your differences (Proverbs 18:2).
  • Sometimes you overlook the differences (Proverbs 19:11) and move on.
  • Bring in community as needed.
  • On the premarried side, sometimes the differences are so big, that you break up, especially if the differences are spiritual differences.

3. Celebrate your differences

Celebrate your Maker for the ways you are created. Your differences don’t surprise God. Therefore, celebrate the ways you are different from one another. Encourage your significant other for ways that you are different, and thank God for those differences.

In addition, celebrate the fact that the Lord can use your differences to help make you more like Jesus. It is not good for man to be alone, and by design He chooses to use us to help shape each other to become more and more like Christ (see Ephesians 5:25-28, Romans 8:29).

On May 26, 2004, my wife gave birth to our twin boys, Duncan and Drew. Today they move from single digits to double digits. One of my favorite characteristics of our twins is how completely different they are from one another. Even though they were conceived at the same moment (or within a few moments since they are fraternal twins), they could not be much more different from each other.

One twin loves playing and watching sports (Go, Spurs, Go!), roughhousing, and doesn’t have much of an affinity for school. The other can’t stand sports, loves music, would choose to read all day long, and prefers to be by himself. I love how unique they are. They are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and before they were even formed in the womb, the Lord knew them (Jeremiah 1:5).

If twins, conceived and born moments apart are so different, how different do you think a man and a woman are when they come together in marriage? Fortunately, God’s Word gives us the solution.

Your turn.

Live with each other in an understanding way. Become a student of your significant other. Discover your differences, embrace your differences, and celebrate your differences. More than anything, celebrate the One who fearfully and wonderfully made and created you.

This post originally appeared on and was republished with permission.


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