Why Can’t We Understand Each Other?


Have you ever found yourself in a heated argument with your spouse over the meaning of a word or concept? In any relationship, but especially marriage, unexpected disagreements can pop up. And sometimes two people don’t even realize they disagree on a topic until they’re in the middle of discussion that has gone from friendly to feisty.

Take something as seemingly innocent as pets for example. Suppose a husband and wife agree they are going to adopt a dog from the local pet shelter. They go on a weekend and look at all the dogs available. The husband sees a huge Great Dane and thinks, Yes, this is the dog we want! Meanwhile the wife sees a little Chihuahua and thinks, Yes, this is the dog we want! When the couple starts talking, they are surprised and frustrated to find out that the other person’s definition of “dog” is completely different than their own. He thinks, I’d never get a little dog like that! She thinks, I’d never get a big dog like that! Unable to agree, the couple goes home disappointed and without a new furry friend.

What happened to this couple? They successfully communicated that they wanted a dog, but they failed to communicate what a “dog” was to each of them. And this same kind of communication failure also happens for more serious issues. A couple might agree that they both want to have children, but one spouse thinks of “children” as two kids while the other spouse thinks of “children” as 10 kids.

Why does this happen? How can words and concepts mean different things to different people? Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley studied this very question. They asked more than 2,700 people to make similarity judgments about different categories, such as animals and politicians. Even for basic animals like penguins, only around 12% of randomly selected individuals shared the same concept. People have different ways of seeing even the most common things!

Your unique experiences and perspectives shape how you approach problems and react to situations. It’s like every spouse brings their own bag of concepts into the marriage. But don’t let society or the enemy lie to you—being different does not mean that you are incompatible. If you are willing to ask straightforward questions like, “What do you mean by that?” or “Can you explain further?” you can create a deeper connection with your spouse and prevent disagreements from escalating into fights.

In a Christ-centered marriage, humility and acknowledging your partner’s unique perspectives can strengthen your relationship. Remember to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, just like the Bible says in James 1:19. Instead of jumping to conclusions and going with your first reaction, take a deep breath and give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Selfless love means appreciating your spouse’s unique viewpoints and intentionally creating an atmosphere of compassion and empathy where disagreements are met with grace and a genuine desire to understand one another.

Jesus is the embodiment of God’s agape love—He is the ultimate example of compassion and understanding. Selfless, sacrificial love forms the foundation of your faith and your marriage.

Choose today to work on building a Christ-centered marriage together. Prioritize open communication and active listening. Seek guidance from God’s Word and let Christ’s love shape your interactions with your spouse. Remember, a strong marriage is built on mutual understanding and a shared commitment to growing together.

You will never understand each other perfectly, but you must keep working toward that goal. As you do, you will gain a better understanding of your spouse as well as a deep lover for each other.

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