The 80-Percent Difference
And the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. EPHESIANS 5:33
I once asked Elisabeth Elliot, who for decades has been one of the most respected women in Christian culture, a very specific question: “If you had a group of wives who had all been married between 10 and 15 years—that difficult stretch when the honeymoon is long gone, when responsibilities are high, when the
children are often plentiful and chaotic—what would be the best piece of marriage advice you could give them?”
Her answer, as always, is worth remembering: Respect your husband, and don’t argue. A wife at that stage of marriage realizes this is not exactly the man she envisioned before the wedding ceremony. This person whom she thought was a prize package has turned out to be a surprise package. But the more you can offset the differences in your personalities and the way you respond to each other, the more you can learn to enjoy this man. My husband once made the statement: “If a woman conceded the fact that her husband was perhaps up to 80 percent of her expectations, she ought to consider herself very lucky.” Still, what’s she going to do with the other 20 percent?
You can pick away at that 20 percent for the rest of your life, but you’re not going to reduce it by very much. One of the secrets of a good marriage is learning to accept with gladness the 80 percent you’ve got. Barbara and I have seen that even the best of marriages come with differences of opinion and expectations, with many sources of potential conflict. If we obsess over each other’s flaws, they can soon blot out all the other’s strengths. Elisabeth is right: Marriage is less about eliminating each other’s faults and more about celebrating each other’s value.
Take turns naming three or four things you truly appreciate about one another—the things that made you want to marry each other.
As you pray, take turns thanking God for some specific ways that your spouse complements you. And seek His kind of patience and understanding as you deal with your spouse.