The Compatibility Crisis

By Pastor John Crotts

            Do you know people with compatibility issues? This could be a couple, dating or married, that have extremely different personalities, styles, likes or dislikes, hobbies and interests, or even approaches to the checkbook. It’s been said that if two people in a marriage always agree about everything, one of them is unnecessary! But shouldn’t couples be pretty much alike? 

You might warn a good friend in such a relationship that because they are so different than their boyfriend or girlfriend, they might have troubles later in a marriage. While opposites can be interesting and attractive for a while, marriage is about becoming one flesh. But what if they are already married?

            Usually, such couples figure it out, kill each other, or head to divorce court. According to many, not being able to get along easily is reason enough for divorce. “God wants me to be happy, right?” Not necessarily. God wants you holy much more than he wants you happy. Ultimately, our holiness and our happiness ought to be the same thing.

            The Bible forbids all divorce except on the grounds of sexual immorality or desertion by an unbelieving spouse (see Matthew 19:1-9 and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Clearly incompatibility or merely one’s personal happiness do not make God’s list or acceptable reasons for separation or divorce. But the good news is, in Christ there is wonderful hope for “incompatible couples.”

            Being together in Christ helps couples keep the main things the main things. All of a sudden you realize you have many wonderful things in common—the most important things. Not just the fact that your sins are forgiven—even the sins you’ve committed against each other—but also, in Christ there are many other wonderful things you share.

            In Christ, you both have the ultimate goal of bring Jesus honor and glory. In Christ, you are both committed to his Word. The Bible, not only provides the standards for living, but also gives us the tools to live as Jesus wants us to and promises to encourage us along the way (2 Timothy 3:16-17 is comprehensive).

            A Christian couple also enjoys the benefits of the indwelling Holy Spirit. All of the character qualities that we need to get along together are being continually born in our hearts through his work. Essential marital glue like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all included in the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

            One of the specifics that God’s Word gives us is God’s pattern for marriage. Whether or not your personalities mesh, you can both be committed to the roles that God has established—the husband as the loving leader and the wife as the submissive helper (see Ephesians 5:22-25). 

            Though one’s personality and preferences play a big part in how those roles are carried out in a home, the road map is clearly laid out in Scripture. A Christian couple is committed to running on those roads, whatever their cars may look like.

Another huge help to an “incompatible” Christian couple is being part of a solid church. A church family provides positive instructions and examples, as well as accountability and practical help for our homes. 

            Even with all of these assets in Christ, all couples some couples still sin against each other. Some couples are so extreme in their differences; they still struggle hard at living out their married relationship. There are many practical ideas to cultivate closeness.

First, make time for each other. Despite rival commitments for time and attention (even wonderful rivals like children), couples need to create time for each other. Your overall relationship is helped by cutting through life’s clutter and sharing an evening together. Important family decisions are also best set in the context of quality time.

            Even though spouses are designed by God to have differing roles, both are very important and have valuable input into the direction and details of the home. Yes, the husband is the leader, with overall responsibility before God for the home, but he is also to be a Christ-like loving leader. He is to treat his wife as a priceless piece of china, not a paper plate (1 Peter 3:7). His wife has been given to him by God as a helper.

            Times of interactive give-and-take will go a long way to both the husband and wife getting on the same page in the family direction as well as how that direction will be implemented. Any husband is thrilled to know that he can trust his wife to carry out his heart’s desires for the home, even when he is off at work. Any wife is thrilled to know that she is precious to her husband. Her input was carefully received and included in the final decision. She knows she always has an open door to her husband’s heart.

            In a fallen world we will always have differences. We will always be tempted to sin over these differences. But in Christ, there is gracious forgiveness and tremendous hope even for supposedly incompatible couples. As Jesus Christ put our interests before his and humbly laid down for us, we must treat each other as better than ourselves and be self-sacrificial in our love. As we do, the world will take notice of the power of Christ to change lives and homes.