Your Spouse will Never be You
I'm definitely in the thick of the "marriage season" in life. Though I was the first of my close friend group to get married, it seems like every day there is a new engagement, another bridal shower to plan, or a wedding invitation coming in the mail. More than anything, I, along with my other newlywed friends, constantly get asked by our single friends, "So, what do we need to know about being married?" I do not claim to be any sort of expert after my 1.5+ years of marriage. In fact, marriage has probably taught me how much I do not know about coexisting with another person day in and day out. However, there is one theme that I feel like consistently comes up in these discussions: personal growth.
Let's be honest - marriage is weird. You take two different people, with different goals, personalities, and life experiences, and mesh them together as one, all the while expecting them to somehow "grow together". Since Ross and I met as kids, I feel that, in some ways, we've had an easier time growing together. We come from the same hometown, and we experienced a lot of things together or in a similar season of life. When you meet and/or get married at an older age, you have more life experience under your belt that may or may not align with the experience of your significant other. There's nothing wrong with having differences; in fact, they're inevitable. The key is how you approach them.
Let's start with what I've learned not to do. I am a very opinionated person. I'm a very organized person. In a nutshell, it's very easy for me to think that life is "my way or the highway" because I have probably planned, re-written, and categorized all the steps that make my way so good (humble, I know). Ross is much more laid back, and he definitely indulges many of my OCD tendencies and my need to do things in a certain manner. However, if he has his own way of doing something that he cares about, my "brilliantly" thought-out plan is not his top priority. Why? Well, because he's smart, too, and doesn't need his wife to be his mother.
In many ways, we learn to compromise, but there's one area where we, and most couples I know, typically butt heads, and it all centers around personal goals. Let's play this out:
If one day, I wake up with the goal to experiment with a new workout plan, I have probably mulled it over for a while. I present my plan to Ross with excitement, expecting him to feel the same fervor to ditch his current plan and try mine. And you know what? Crickets. "Cool, Griff."
"But it's such a good idea!" I pout. I can't understand why he doesn't immediately want to conform. Likewise, Ross will come to me and say, "Griff, we need to spend 30 minutes every morning reading business books before we start the day." I'll quickly retort with the things I have to do with the first 30 minutes of my day and why that doesn't fit into my plan. When it comes to personal growth, marriage creates a minefield of surprises and different intentions.
So many things in marriage require the two of you to be on the same page: career, finances, family planning, you name it. But, personal goals do not always fall into that sphere because you are two different people with different needs and passions. Ultimately, you cannot make your goals your spouse's goals. We have bought into the lie that "becoming one" in marriage means that, just because two people love each other, they will learn lessons at the same time and follow the same path. God uses our own experiences and relationships to teach us unique lessons, and unless you spend every waking minute with your spouse, those aren't going to be identical between the two of you. No matter how close you are, God wired you differently, so you'll approach the same problem in two different ways.
It's good to learn how to compromise and work together in so many areas, but personal growth doesn't always have to be one of them. Just because you've been prompted to change something in your own life, it doesn't mean that it's time to introduce it to your spouse. It's not that your goal is bad or wouldn't be good for the other person, it's that it isn't their goal or their priority right now, and you can't make it so.
You fell in love with the other person because they were not you. They complemented your life in a way that added something new and different, so stop trying to make them into you. Give them the freedom to find personal growth within the context of marriage, and they will do the same. In your differences, you'll figure out how to grow together.