“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:2-3
I’m your basic polar bear. I like cold. I love the snow. Chilly winter days are my favorite. Fall sweaters make me happy. If I’m headed for a summer day by the pool, I immediately look for a spot in the shade. You get the picture.
My husband, on the other hand, is a lizard. He loves, dare I say, worships the sun. Hot weather is his happy place. Bright sunlight gives him energy. He could easily live in the desert. In the middle of July.
So how does a polar bear and a lizard stay happily married for twenty-five years? God’s grace, plenty of humor, and a few of these give-and-takes…
Accept the animal you are.
About a year ago my lizard started doing triathlons. “Let’s do it together!” he said. “It will be great!” he said. “We’ll have so much fun!” he said. About a month into training, his running, biking and swimming times had greatly increased. I, on the other hand, was still an average runner, an extremely slow biker, and my swim workouts only increased my split ends. It wasn’t “great.” I wasn’t “having fun.” So I stopped. The world didn’t end. No one called me a quitter. Now, three triathlons later, my husband is still racing, and I have taken the much more enjoyable position of cheering him on. Because that’s the animal I am.
Accept the animal he is.
Instead of rolling my eyes when he puts ketchup on his tuna fish sandwich or teasing him every time I find him watching another episode of Survival in the Alaskan Frontier, I remember that it’s my husband’s unique interests, likes and preferences that make him the man I fell for. He is interesting and fun and allows me to see life through another set of eyes. A different perspective. He broadens my views. Challenges me to think outside my comfort zone. I can’t say that I’ve tried ketchup with tuna and I still haven’t gotten hooked on outdoor Alaskan survival shows, but I support and encourage his choices. Because that’s the animal he is.
Stay ahead of potential pitfalls.
When a situation is on the horizon that is bound to become a roadblock, we’ve learned to be prepared. We try our best to make prior arrangements to head off strife whenever possible. When the freeway is congested on the way out of town, I drive because traffic doesn’t bother me. When we’re headed out for a day at the beach, he remembers the umbrella and asks if I remembered my hat because direct sunlight gives me a headache. Knowing each other well, having a firm handle on strengths and weaknesses, and being thoughtful about the things that can trip one another up go a long way in keeping the peace between polar bears and lizards.
Hold your tongue.
Okay, I admit, this is the hardest one. It’s like really difficult. But it’s also the most effective. Part of being married to a different animal is the inevitable variances in how day to day things are done. When the kids were babies we changed diapers differently (he could care less if the two sides were perfectly symmetrical). We load the dishwasher differently (he doesn’t care if the spoons are all facing the same way). We fold laundry differently (he doesn’t smooth the wrinkles in t-shirts before folding over the sleeves). But I don’t say a word. Why? Because he changed diapers. He loads the dishwasher. He folds laundry. So this polar bear just says thank you.
Don’t lose sight of what’s most important.
Twenty-five years ago I met a really cute lizard. I realized quickly that even though we differed on lots of little things, we were on the same page about the big things. The things that truly mattered. Faith. Family. Values. The general way in which we viewed the world and our place in it. The way we viewed marriage. The way we thought kids should be raised. The direction we were headed. The dreams we were after. It’s easy to get tripped up in trivial stuff, but when you are both determined to keep your eyes on the big picture, little things take a backseat, where they belong.
The things that truly bind us have little to do with compatibility and sameness…
Not even with finding shade at the beach or the way we load a dishwasher, and more to do with knowing each other well, and most importantly, knowing the Lord.
With God’s grace, guidance, and wisdom, different animals have a chance at successful marriage and true happiness together. And if a polar bear and a lizard can figure it out, any animals can.
♡ Kathryn O’Brien is author of children’s picture books and writes for Proverbs 31 Woman.
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