Marriage. The Bible tells us that when a man leaves his mother and father and joins himself to his wife, the two become one. But, does it always seem so simple? Most couples argue, and some face huge differences that can sometimes seem too big to overcome. We got up close and personal with a few idea readers, asking them about the biggest bone of contention in their marriage, and how, despite this, they ensure they find unity in their marriage.
In the beginning, we were attracted to one another because we shared so many similar passions and interest. We saw the world through a similar lens and had similar hopes and dreams for the future. We've been married almost seven years now and there is one massive difference - one that's common to many couples - it's a difference in body temperature, and results in thermostat wars! The problem is that we don't have a thermostat, we have storage heaters, so it means that the war tends to be waged in slow motion.
The main issue for me is the Arctic like temperature in the bedroom. So currently, I go to bed wearing a hoodie - it got so bad last week, I wore it with the hood up, while she often doesn't even sleep under the covers! From her point of view, as much as I complain, I still seem to sleep pretty well, whereas if I sneak the temperature up she wakes up hot and sticky - we should mention she is currently pregnant so having to wear a hoody in bed is really not such a hardship!
In hindsight, we should have seen this difference coming! Right from the beginning, on car journeys I would turn the thermostat up, she'd turn it down. At the beginning of the relationship these differences were just a little quirky, later they actually become points of contention that required a conversation and compromise. We guess a differences in opinion over the temperature of a car or room is hardly the biggest of relationship challenges, but how we deal with these little, even humorous, differences are good indicators and provide a practice ground for dealing with more significant ones.
Generally, my wife Natalie and I are very similar in our political views. We're Labour supporters and lean towards the left. However, we are very opposite when it comes to Brexit. I voted to leave and Natalie didn't. I'll leave Natalie to give her reasons why she voted in, but briefly I voted to leave as I thought the EU was progressing too far in a direction I didn't want the UK to go. Being a bit older than Natalie (I'm 45), I remember being taught at school about how the UK had "recently" joined the EEC, as it was called then. It was solely about trade. In my 20s and 30s, I travelled through Europe many times on holidays. I loved the Schengen Zone and the single currency but never thought it would be necessary for Britain as being an island, you have to make an effort to get out of the country anyway. Mr Cameron asked for concessions, the EU said "no", so our only option was to leave. I do appreciate some of the laws we've gained since being part of the EU and there's no reason we can't keep the best of these after we leave.
So how do we live together with these differing opinions? Basically we don't talk about it a lot! We had quite animated debates just before and after the vote. Natalie would get upset as I'm quite relaxed about the future and Natalie thinks it's the end of the world. However, it's certainly not the elephant in the room. As no one really knows what's going to happen next, I would never say "I told you so" to anyone if this goes in Britain's favour. One advantage of having parents on each side is that our three kids got a very balanced view of Brexit!
In the decade that Baggy and I have been married, I've become politically radicalised and militantly feminist and Baggy has mainly taken the same journey! However, Baggy has always had a negative view of the EU. He views it as undemocratic and unethical. I don't have a view on the EU as such, but am hugely concerned about the Tory government and see the EU as a necessary safeguard against Tory politics. After the referendum, I was distraught at the era Brexit could usher in. Baggy was delighted. It was difficult for him to understand how deeply concerned I am about the potential destruction Brexit could contribute to. Whereas he is usually great at comforting me, I suddenly felt utterly alienated from the person I trust most deeply.
The following principles have helped us:,br />
1. A healthy relationship is rooted in understanding not in agreement. Once Baggy began to grasp just how desolate I was about Brexit, Trump and the rise of fascism, he became more appreciative of my pain. We still aren't in agreement about Brexit, but he has focussed on comforting me, even if he thinks my views are overly dramatic. He trusts that how I feel is more important than his assessment of the political climate.
2. Honour positive intentions. Baggy didn't vote for Brexit because he is a racist bigot. I'm not distraught about the vote because I don't honour democracy. We try to honour each other's positive intentions, while also recognising intention isn't the same as impact.
3. Don't mention Brexit. Now we've come to a place of understanding with each other, we try to avoid talking about it. There's no point in going around in circles, and really the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Once we see the long-term reality of Brexit, we can then see whose perspective was most accurate.
My husband Matt and I have been married for almost 30 years and for all but 10 months of that time we have been missionaries. Our work has taken us all over the world. Either one of us may be left with the care of the home and family. People always ask us questions like: "Don't you miss each other?" Maybe they wonder if we thought it through.
We find spiritual and emotional intimacy gains an added dimension during these times apart. This is not to say that it is easy. I think the best analogy I can offer is fasting. I find that the busyness of the week doesn't allow me the intimacy with God that I really want. Being physically hungry on Sundays draws me to times of prayer. Being away from family, I don't have to think about food purchase, prep or meal times that break my routine. I enjoy food and everything to do with meals including cooking, serving, eating and family time. But as soon as the habitual pangs for hunger start, I begin to pray. I'm more focused on prayer than any other time. The focus of my union with God goes beyond my needs and more about the beauty of the partnership; something I often take for granted.
While away from each other we try to beat each other on ways to creatively care. I have often left more than 100 precooked meals in the freezer. We use Skype to schedule prayer together. Most nights I will go to bed while Matt prays or reads out loud until I fall asleep. We listen to the tiny details of day-to-day life in a way we often neglect when we are together.
When we miss birthdays and anniversaries, we create our own celebrations. 2015 we celebrated 10,000 days of being married.