couple facing opposite
Photo courtesy of Corbis

Before you read any further – the foundation for this post is that marriage is designed as a place to grow up. If you don’t agree with this idea, it’s probably best if you head on to the other blogs in your reader.

If you are a regular reader of blogs like Simple Mom or Zen Habits, or even Simple Marriage (sorry, shameless plug), then it’s likely you are interested in ways to simplify or improve life, family, marriage, and work.

Tsh just finished a great series on Spring Cleaning, and you can also find great information about saving money, being more organized, and getting things done. But what happens when you come across something that hits home with you, you want to take the necessary steps to implement the tips, and your spouse wants no part of it?

This is actually pretty common in marriage. One of you has an idea, shares it with the other, who responds reluctantly or flat out defensively. Most of this boils down one word we all dread – change.

This can be a major dilemma in marriage. Even to the point of the differences becoming a deal breaker in the relationship.

So how do you approach theses times that are inevitable in marriage?

1. With respect.

One of the main things I see in couples on the verge of marital collapse is a lack of respect.

Respect is defined as not trying directly or indirectly to change anyone. ~ Thomas Fogarty

It’s interesting that we will treat common strangers with more respect than those in our home. One of the key factors to a successful marriage is respect. Respect for those around you, and respect for yourself.

2. With a clear definition of self.

This involves an awareness and understanding of your beliefs, wants, needs and desires. Marriage is a great place to clarify these things in your life. You are living with another person who has their own view of the way things should be, just like you. In your family of origin, tables may serve as great places to store piles of mail, magazines, and kid’s artwork. At the same time, your spouse’s family of origin believes tables are great places to eat dinner together, so they need to be free of clutter.

Neither way is necessarily “right,” just different. You are allowed to live life the way you choose, but so is your spouse. Author Rob Bell refers to marriage as “thousands of little conversations about how two people are going to do life together.”

Defining yourself involves discovering and solidifying the limits of yourself and the relationship. It’s exploring the question “what will I or won’t I do for the sake of the relationship?”

It’s true that relationships require sacrifice – but they do not require martyrdom.

3. Understand the idea of over-functioning and under-functioning.

In every relationship, there will be one who over-functions while the other under-functions. It’s a reality of relationships.

Over-functioning and under-functioning are positions that we occupy in response to how we do life. None of us is all one way all the time – we over-function in some areas of life and under-function in others. One thing to keep in mind,  is that if you’re over-functioning for someone, by definition you are under-functioning for yourself.

When you are faced with something you want to change, and have a spouse that isn’t on the same page, it’s best to initiate a discussion about the change. Share your thoughts; openly listen to theirs. It’s likely that together, you will be able to come up with a solution. Now, this solution may require you to carry out the change, but if you know this going in, you’ll limit the amount of frustration between you and your spouse.

How do you and your spouse handle being on different pages?