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Irreconcilable Differences—So?

Why you don't need to see things the same way.
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It didn't take long into my marriage to discover how incompatible my wife and I were. One reason I was attracted to Barbara in the first place was her apparent interest in theology. We'd spent many happy hours in college taking Bible and religion classes together; we even co-wrote a mediocre paper on the Reformation! Few people have my nutty interest in theology, so I felt especially blessed to have discovered an eligible woman who shared that interest. I proposed as quickly as I could, and I was ready to live happily ever after.

Some days into the marriage I was shocked to discover the truth about Barb. I'd just finished some weighty tome—such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Creation and Fall—and encouraged her to read it. She said she wasn't interested. When over the next week I suggested another theology book, and then another, and was turned down repeatedly, I asked what was going on.

"I really don't like theology all that much."

"But what about … ?" I stammered.

"Once in awhile it's okay. But most of the time I find it too dry."

I was floored. Here was the woman of my dreams telling me she wasn't really the woman of my dreams.

That was the first of many shocking revelations. As the years unfolded and we each matured in our own way, the differences became more marked. She liked to get up early; I liked to stay up late—so when exactly were we supposed to have sex? She stayed politically liberal as I became more conservative. She enjoyed being laid back; I liked to plan way in advance. She's energized by a room full of people; I'm drained. She thought the kids should be given a break for being kids; I thought they should be disciplined more. And we couldn't even argue on the same page—I liked to get things out in the open; she liked to do anything but that.

Years ago, we compared our Myers-Briggs personality scores. The literature that interpreted the results was fairly pessimistic about our future.

But surely after 30 years of marriage, things have gotten better, no? I recently took an online marital compatibility test to see whether time has made a difference. We scored a 60 percent. The test maker said, "If you're less than 70 percent compatible you may have to struggle hard to maintain a long-term relationship."

It appears that Barbara and I are simply not compatible. Some would say we have irreconcilable differences. But there's a mystery here: though we're as incompatible as ever these days, we find ourselves happier than ever, as well.

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Mark Galli

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Related Topics:Conflict; Differences; Marriage

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July 26, 2014  4:59pm

Good article Mark, but I was hoping you may divulge a little more on your spiritual compatibility...i.e whether there is a intimacy of seeking God together in prayer and sharing of God's word together in your lives. I am considering marriage to a man who has never prayed with me (it's always me initiating or praying) and he thinks that God doesn't intervene these days!I I cannot share my heart and what God is saying as he is cautious about "God speaking to people". I know he has issues from his past which make him closed off to these things and see why the way he is but unfortunately if there is no intimacy spiritually I feel disconnected from him. Any advice?

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December 31, 2013  8:08am

Thanks for this very sincere and compelling article on incompatibility and the need for endurance and fidelity to the marriage commitment. I am in a similar situation with a wife who does not share my interests and makes little or no compromises. I give up so much for unity and peace but she gives very little. Your article has encouraged me to continue the struggle.

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Hubert Baquel

February 20, 2012  8:52am

I am just married about five years soon apart from her. This is absolutely true. If God is always be the center in the marriage of a Christian couple; then all things will be accomplished victoriously.Despite of the many trials, God is still glorified.

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