Do you love your spouse, or do you truly cherish them? Gary Thomas encourages couples to make a daily effort to go beyond the ‘duty’ of love, and combat the natural inclination to drift apart by choosing to see the best in their spouse.
Woman: I like black coffee.
Man: Sugar and cream.
Woman: I don’t mind sour things.
Man: I have the world’s biggest sweet tooth.
Woman: I’m a saver.
Man: I’m a spender.
Woman: I’m a planner.
Man: I’m impulsive.
Woman: When I’m lost, I’ll ask directions quickly.
Man: Asking directions is a sign of weakness.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: (Chuckling) Well, I wonder if you ever feel like that couple there? You’re married and you love each other, but there are some things you are just on way different pages over. And uh … that’s really our subject on today’s Focus on the Family — how to navigate those differences and have some fun with them. Our host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Jim, I’m lookin’ forward to the discussion.
Jim Daly: Uh … so am I, John. You know, it’s so funny listening to that clip. Opposites do attract. Uh … I know it’s not everybody’s scenario and uh … don’t bother writing on that. We know that there are some couples that are very similar and we get it. But usually it’s opposites that do attract. I don’t know God’s chemistry there and what He put in us as human beings to be attracted to someone who thinks differently. I think it’s a good thing, but it does create some very humorous moments (Chuckling)–
John: It does.
Jim: –that’s for sure.
John: Absolutely and it seems, Jim, that those differences get accentuated with the years. I don’t know, that’s my personal experience.
Jim: I can remember when Jean and I did our premarital counseling when we went in. We went in, you know, goo-goo-eyed and we were saying, “We’re so much alike. We like all the same things.
John: Ahh, sweet.
Jim: And we sat through a week’s worth of, you know, like every night of premarital counseling. And we walked out of there at the end going, “We are so different. Oh … are we gonna be okay?” And that’s a good thing for premarital counseling, because you want to be tested that you really are committed to each other, regardless of your differences, not your similarities.
And uh … you know what? Here at Focus on the Family we want to help you with that if uh … you’re not married yet and you’re thinkin’, who would be right, we have resources to help you. If you’re married and you’re thinkin’, uh-oh; have I made a mistake, we want to certainly be there for you in that circumstance, to uh … give you some help and to put an arm around you and make sure that God’s in control and that you can make it through it.
John: Uh-hm. And we have a guest today who will say that very thing. She is married to an opposite and uh … it’s Melanie Shankle and she’s been a guest on this broadcast before. She’s delightful.
She’s the founder of the popular Big Mama blog. (Laughter) and author of the … the book, The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life. And she lives with her husband and opposite, Perry, and their daughter, Caroline, in the San Antonio, Texas area.
Jim: Melanie, it’s great to have you back at Focus on the Family.
Melanie Shankle: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Jim: Okay, let’s start right there. I mean, the whole thing about the antelope in the living room.
Melanie: (Laughing) Yeah.
Jim: I’m assuming uh … that’s a … a stuffed antelope head, but what’s goin’ on–
Melanie: It is.
Jim: –with that title?
Melanie: You are correct. You’re correct. My husband, my sweet husband is a hunter and loves to hunt. And we’ve had deer heads in our living room, which I (Laughter)… I’m fine with. I mean, we … we have. I mean …
Jim: That sounds a little odd.
John: Many women would not be fine with that.
Melanie: Well, but you know, we’re in Texas and that’s part of it and I knew it when I married him, it was part of the deal. And so, we’ve had those things.
But there was a time, I was out of town and I knew he had gone on this hunt months before and … and shot a Nilgai antelope. Um … which a Nilgai antelope, if you … I’m gonna give you a picture in your head, kind of looks like a huge cow with horns, is what it looks like. (Laughter) It …
Jim: I’ve seen a cow with horns before.
Melanie: Yeah, well, it’s …
Jim: But they go up in the air–
Melanie: They kinda go up–
Jim: –kinda straight up, not out.
Melanie: –in the air, but straight up. It’s ju … it’s not the prettiest thing you’ll ever see; that’s what I’m gonna tell you. A Nilgai antelope, you can look it … look it up on Google. But it um … he had shot one. Well, I never thought to ask what did you do with it or whatever. I knew that we ate the meat, because that’s what we do, eat what he shoots. And so, I knew that we had done that. Well, I had gone on a trip right before Thanksgiving with some girlfriends. And …
Um … when I got home that day I walked into the house and there was … I can’t even describe it to you, a huge Nilgai antelope head hanging right next to my front door in my living room. It looked like the thing had been running down the block and crashed through (Laughter) the front of our house. It was … there it was.Jim: It was that big. It kinda looked like a cow with horns.
Melanie: Exactly. (Laughter) That’s … yeah, yeah. I’ve heard; they look like a cow with … it was enormous. I can’t even tell you how big this thing is. (Laughter) I mean, it’s like a 2,000 pound animal.
Jim: So, I gotta ask you, all of a sudden, were you happy or sad?
Melanie: No, I looked at him and I said, “I don’t understand why you hate our house (Laughter) and why you would do that?” And I … I don’t understand. Like we live in a small little cottage house. We don’t live in some big ranch house that lends itself to big animals hangin’ on the wall. I mean, this thing was a monstrosity.
And so, I said, “I … I … I don’t even know what to do.” Well, he was angry and so I left because it really was one of those moments that ended with us really not speakin’ to each other for like two days.
John: So he–
Melanie: And I thought …
John: –he’s got this trophy that shows–
Melanie: That he’s so–
John: –he …
Melanie: –proud of–
Melanie: –that I hate and I don’t want in our living room. And I thought, this is one of those things. And that’s when I thought, if I ever write a book on marriage, I’m gonna call it The Antelope in the Living Room, because–
Jim: Oh, that’s good.
Melanie: –these are the proverbial “antelopes in the living room” and the literal antelopes in the living room that um … cause some friction and tension in marriage.
Jim: Well, I gotta ask the question then. Is it still hangin’ in the living room?
John: Oh, yeah.
Melanie: Well, I will tell you, it did for a long time. It did for a long time. That …
Jim: Uh … does that mean a few weeks or a few years?
Melanie: No, no, a few years.
Melanie: That Christmas it loomed over our Christmas tree.
Jim: You could hang decorations from those horns.
Melanie: Well, I … it-
Jim: That’s the beauty of it.
Melanie: –had … it wore … wore a Santa hat. It …
Melanie: Yeah, it–
Melanie: –wore a Santa hat and a Rudolf’s nose. (Laughter) I mean, it … it was dressed up. But every time I would walk in the living room, because this … the way this thing loomed, I would be like, “And lo, an antelope of the Lord appeared.” (Laughter) Because it just (Laughter) … it just hovered. (Laughter)
Jim:Uh … talk about that, the differences. Why do you think God um … puts that in us to be attracted to someone that doesn’t think the way we think? Is it to get rid of our selfishness?
Melanie: (Chuckling) I think that’s a part of it. I think it’s to get rid of your selfishness. And I think it’s to … to just kind of refine each other. You know, I just … especially as Perry and I have been married, you know, longer and longer , I just see in so many aspects, whether it’s parenting or in social settings or you know, whatever it is, that we just … our strengths and weaknesses are really designed to complement each other. I mean the places where I tend to, you know, have weaknesses and maybe not stand up for myself or maybe not say no or overcommit, you know, that’s where Perry’ll come in and be like, “You just need to tell ‘em no. I’ll tell ‘em no for you.” (Laughter) You know, it’s … it’s that and it helps bal … we … it balances us out. And I think God does that to create, I mean, you know, the two become one and ideally that’s one balanced person. And I think that works well when you’ve got your different strengths and weaknesses …
Jim: It can also create great tension.
Melanie: Oh, for sure.
Jim: And uh … it may not come out in the nice (Clearing throat) phase of your relationship (Laughter), perhaps the dating phase (Clearing throat) you kinda look right through. You may be blind to it.
Melanie: Uh-hm, yes.
Jim: Um … shortly after marriage, somewhere along the line, first year, third year, fifth year, those things become more irritants. How … how do we as married people manage that better, understand that and look, you’re not gonna be able to control the person you married. You want to become one flesh, but you’ve got to be able to take a deep breath and realize that God has created your mate in a different way than He created you.
Melanie: Uh-hm. I think, you know, one of the things I told myself early on uh … in marriage and after Perry and I got married and I realized we were different in so many ways. And sometimes I didn’t understand what his priorities were or especially, you know, when it comes to money, which is a whole other thing, how we want to spend money and what we thought was important and all those different things that I thought I really want to treat him … um … the way I would treat my best friend.
And it was that realization of I should be treating my husband with that same kindness and that same sense of forgiveness, because I realized I was so much more willing to overlook things in my best girlfriend than I was in my husband. And I was holding him to a higher standard that ultimately I thought, that’s not … that’s not fair. I mean, he’s also my best friend in a different way, you know and just that I need to treat him with that kindness and understanding of who he is and … and what’s important to him.
Jim: Okay, a lot of people just went, “Yeah! That’s it! That’s, that… I’ve got to share that with my wife tonight!” (Laughter) Uh, any disclaimers to hear that, I mean?
Melanie: (Chuckling) Well, I mean, I think that there’s give and take. And they’ve got to do the same thing back. But, I think if you can get that mutual respect of you know what, I may not understand this, but I’m gonna respect it. It’s important to you.
And then if you give that to each other, then I think it creates a nice give-and-take, and a compromise, which is, ultimately, what marriage is about.
Jim: Now looking back when you and Perry were courting each other–
Jim: –first of all, tell us a bit about how that came about, given that you’re kinda opposite. Uh … but how did that come about? And did you not see those things in that context until after you were married?
Melanie: You know, I think that it’s interesting. We both were at Texas A&M. We met at a Bible study there called Breakaway. And we just were friends, you know, just mutual acquaintances. And then we both ended up in San Antonio after graduation and that was when we were reintroduced and … and met at that time. And I knew, you know, he was kind of different to me. I mean his family had grown up with ranches and he was an outdoorsman. His dad had been a big outdoorsman.
And so, that was such a part of his life. My family’s idea of an outdoor activity is golf, at best. (Laughter) I mean, that’s … that’s about where we rough it on the golf course, maybe the tennis court sometimes, but you know, that was …
John: You don’t have a cart.
Melanie: –no. (Laughter)
John: –roughing it, right?
Melanie: Yeah, that’s it; that’s it. That’s e …
Jim: And nothin’ that goes “bang.”
Melanie: Yeah, no … no guns, no you know … and so, I knew that was part of his … and I loved it. You know, to me it was interesting to go down there and … and go to the ranch and … and see wild hogs and deer and this whole world that I didn’t really even know existed, even though I grew up in Texas, too. I just had such a different city upbringing.
But you know, I think in the way that girls do, you tend to be more into all those differences when you’re dating, you know. (Laughter) It was kinda like, oh, I would love to get up at 5 a.m. and hunt with you. Tell me more about that. (Laughter) And now, you … you know, you couldn’t pay me to get up at 5 a.m. and go hunt with him. But you know, when you’re dating, you’re willing to, you know, take one for the team a little bit. (Laughter) So uh … (Laughter) and then it’s later. Maybe it’s a bait and switch. Maybe it’s not fair of us.
Jim: Well, I was gonna say, that sounds like bait and switch–
Melanie: A little bit, a little bit. But …
Jim: It’s accommodation.
Melanie: It is; it is. And now, you know, I’ll still go out and hunt sometimes, but it just requires … I need to bring my magazines with me and the temperature needs to be just right and I need to be preferably in a blind that doesn’t have bugs and you know.
Jim: And a heater.
Melanie: And a heater (Laughter), for sure. And … but other–
Jim: Other …
Melanie: –than that …
Jim: A microwave, it always–
Jim: –helps to warm up your latte.
Melanie: Other than that, I’m like a pioneer. (Laughter) Other … (Laughter)
Jim: Hey, when you talk about that realization that maybe we’re different, I think you have a story in your book on your honeymoon–
Melanie: Yeah. (Laughs)
Jim: –Where that … that difference came out. You thought it would be what? And then what did Perry expect out of your honeymoon?
Melanie: Well, there were a whole lot of things, but I will tell you that the biggest of what stood out to me was when we got on the plane. You know, we were goin’ to the Bahamas and we were gonna be at a resort for a week. And so, I brought a book, because I’m a reader. That’s what I love to do. And so, I brought a nice … I mean, I had researched, you know, to find …
Jim:Moby Dick or something–
Melanie: Oh, well, I didn’t …
Jim: –get you through a week.
Melanie: You know, something like that, (Laughter) you know. Some … it was probably … you know, who knows? But I had brought a book and we got on the plane for our first leg of our flight and we got all settled in and … and I opened up my book, you know. And we’d already at that point been together for 24 hours, so you know, you … you rehashed the wedding and you talked. And so, I was ready to read my book.
Melanie: And he said, “What are you doin’?” And I said, “Well, I’m … I’m reading.” And I said, “Did you bring anything to read?” And he pulled out a Cabela’s catalogue. (Laughter)
John: This is an outdoors–
Melanie: Yeah, an outdoors–
John: –outdoors place.
Melanie: –outdoors catalogue.
Jim: I like this guy.
Melanie: Yeah. He pulls it out and he thumbs through it and the plane, you know, they hadn’t even … I don’t even think everybody was even on board yet and he said, “Well, I’m done with that. What now?” And (Laughter) I was like, “Do you not read?” And he was like, “Not really; I don’t like to read books.” And I just … (Laughter) it was that moment of, we’ve dated for two years, like you would’ve thought that would’ve come up, but it just goes to …
Jim: It didn’t cover that, huh?
Melanie: We never … we never covered that.
And to this day, he’s like, well, you can just tell me about your book. So it was that whole thing of, then we were on a three-hour flight and I read on flights. That’s what I do. But all of a sudden, he was that passenger that you hate to sit next to, because they (Laughter) want to talk–
John: The whole time.
Melanie: –instead of lettin’ you read your book.
Jim: Hang on. Did you call you mom and said, “I met the most horrible passenger on the plane. (Laughter) Unfortunately, he’s my new husband.”
Melanie: Yes, my new husband, who doesn’t like to read. So, you know, librarians and barbarians, somethin’ like that. (Laughter) So …
John: There’s the Sky Mall catalogue.
Melanie: Yeah, well, that’s it.
John: He can always order from that.
Melanie: Well, that’s …
Melanie: Yeah, he had–
Jim: –experience there.
Melanie: –some options. He had some options. I think we ended up doin’ like a crossword puzzle and maybe some of that, you know, Sudoku, kind of–
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Melanie: –which I can’t do, but I pretended.
Jim: It’s so funny. And I know for Jean and I, it’s funny ‘cause she was a night person and I was a morning person. That was–
Jim: –our big distinction.
Jim: And you know, having children changes that for a woman and she has learned to accommodate early mornings and–
Jim: –late evenings. So, she’s everything now. But when we were first married, that … she would not talk before 10 o’clock.
Melanie: Yes! (Laughs)
Jim: I mean, literally, I thought she was mad at me every morning. (Laughter) ‘Cause I … I wake up bubbly–
Jim: –ready to go. (Laughter) Well, let’s go conquer the day. Let’s … let’s pray, you know. Let’s ask–
Jim: –the Lord to give us that strength. And “Uh-buh-buh-buh-buh …”
Melanie: Yeah (Laughing)
Jim: And then at night I’d be, “Uh-buh-buh-buh …” And she’s–
Jim: –all, “Hey, let’s … let’s have some–
John: Let’s talk.
Jim: –prayer time.” I’m going, “You know, if I bow my head, I think I might fall asleep.”
Melanie: Yes! Yes.
Jim: And uh … it’s just the way we’re wired, isn’t it?
Melanie: It is; it is.
Jim: How do you find that middle ground where you can say, okay, here’s where we can meet?
Melanie: You know, I think it takes a while to find your rhythm. I mean, we had that same thing, night owl, early mornin’, you know, Perry’s an early bird; I’m a night owl.
And I think it just takes some adjusting and adapting and figurin’ out what’s important. And you know, and I learned early on, he didn’t care if I slept until 10 o’clock on weekends. You know, he’s … he’s fine with that and I didn’t care if he got up early.
Jim: Oh, he’s gracious–
Melanie: It … he is. (Laughter) Now–
Jim: –(Chuckling) you know.
Melanie: –now notice this is–
Jim: Is he a–
Jim: –morning guy?
Melanie: This was pre-kids. He is a morning guy.
Jim: Yeah, see that’s pretty good. Morning guys like that. You … we usually want you up, you know, by 8.
Melanie: Yeah. No, he’s learned. Now at first, I think, ‘cause he grew up in a home where his mom got up and cooked him breakfast. And I was just like, you know, here … so, it was kinda like the reading thing for me.
Melanie: Where it was like, you know, I don’t … I don’t cook breakfast. Here’s the thing – I don’t cook breakfast. I don’t believe in it. (Laughter) Um… it’s uh, you know.
John: You’re on your own.
Jim: And… and how’d that…
Melanie: You’re on your own.
Jim: –how’d that go down?
Melanie: You’re on your own.
John: Go out and kill something for breakfast.
Melanie: Yeah, exactly. Go scavenge. You’re a hunter. Go scavenge–
Jim: What that good?
Melanie: –for breakfast?
Jim: Did that work well?
Melanie: Um … you know, it worked out. I mean, he figured out. He was in charge of breakfast. That’s what he did. And I think that so much of marriage is, it’s figuring out here’s a hill I’m willing to die on and here’s something that I can let go and compromise on and–
Jim: Boy, that’s well-said.
Melanie: –figuring out the balance.
Jim: I think a lot of times that friction in marriage is wrapped right around that. There’s no solution. You get bitter. You start resenting your spouse and you don’t find [a] solution. You don’t have a desire anymore.
Jim: And then the relationship just becomes so brittle that nobody wants to invest in it any longer. And then you’ll end up in counseling or on your way to divorce court–
Jim: –even within the Christian community.
Jim: Um … for you, what … what’s a sign that you need help? I mean, when you’re there and you’re in that situation, the opposites and the humor is perhaps–
Jim: –no longer there.
Jim: And now it’s become more like battle.
Jim: What does a woman do particularly? Speak to that woman in that situation.
Melanie: You know, I think that’s … it’s hard. I … I … you know, for me, that’s when I really began to pray and I … and I’ve just learned over the years that sometimes the trick is to act like I’m still in love even if I don’t feel like I’m still in love. You know, I think feelings can be so… deceitful. You know, I think your feelings can lead you astray and you can just start to think, “Well, I don’t feel it. And so, if I don’t feel it, then I’m not gonna act on it. And so, I’m gonna quit doin’ these acts of kindness or these things that I’ve done.” And sometimes I’ve learned if I’ll just ask the Lord to give me strength to just kinda power through and to still um … treat Perry the way that I know he wants to be treated and to … to respect him and to love him and to encourage him, even if I don’t necessary feel it.
Um … but a lot of times I feel like it comes back around. Sometimes it’s just workin’ through. And I think that, you know, what you learn in bein’ married for any amount of time is … I mean, there are highs and lows. I mean, I feel like, you know, I could go back over our marriage and if you looked at a map, there were probably years that looked like mountaintops and there are years that looked like valleys.
And you know, both of those, I mean, if you can find a good level and sometimes that’s just continuing to just love each other and encourage each other, even if you don’t feel it in that moment.” Because I think things take place and you know, with a woman, I know you can have a million things on your mind. You’re worried about your finances. You’re worried about what’s gonna be for dinner. You’re worried about how you kids are doin’ in school. You’re worried about your … You know, your community and your friends and your church and your Bible study group and … and it’s hard to not let all those things pile up to where you lose sight of your marriage. But it’s just to continue to make that a priority and just ask God to give you the strength, because sometimes you’re not gonna feel it and it’s only gonna be by trusting Him and … and letting Him guide you through that path.
John: Well, we’re hearing some excellent advice and having some laughs along the way as we talk to Melanie Shankle on today’s Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Melanie’s book is The Antelope in the Living Room. And we’ve got details about that at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And if we’re touching on something that you’re just really struggling with, if these differences are really glaring and irritating and you’re struggling with that, give us a call here. We have caring Christian counselors and we’d be happy to at least have an initial conversation with you to kinda get you going down the right path. And our number here is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Melanie, I so appreciate your humor and your heart (Chuckling). Um … let’s touch on the really sticky issue—in-laws.
Jim: Talk about your experience with Perry. And I think it was a holiday you guys were comin’ together and you were just married, right?
Melanie: Yes. We had just been married.
Melanie: In-laws are such a tricky thing (Laughter) and I think that’s such a … I’ll have to be careful, ‘cause my mother-in-law’s probably listening. Um …
Jim: Well, you’re talking generically–
Jim: –or about your friend, Sue.
Melanie: Yeah, well, that’s right; that’s right. And I love my mother-in-law. But it’s so hard, because you’ve got two different families that have been two different ways and you know. And … and sometimes you’re just different.
And what I had learned, my husband’s um … for the first Thanksgiving I spent with his family or one of the first—I had been with them a couple of Thanksgivings, but this was after we were married—and I felt … his mom does a very traditional Thanksgiving. It is turkey and dressing and green beans and rolls.
Jim: Sounds good to me.
Melanie: And that’s it. (Laughter) But I like variety. I came from where everybody brought all these different dishes and there was green bean casserole and there was broccoli rice casserole and there was sweet potato casserole. And I decided I missed the variety.
So, I took it upon myself that I was gonna create a little of that at the next Thanksgiving. And so, I’d called my mother-in-law and asked her if I could bring anything and she told me no. And I said, “Well, I would really like to bring broccoli rice casserole, because it’s my favorite and I miss it at holidays.” And so, she’s gracious, and said that would be great.
Well, my husband has a brother that’s seven years younger than him. And so, at the time was, you know, in his 20s. And so, I brought this, my broccoli rice casserole and I set it in the middle and his brother, “Ew, what is that?” (Laughter) And I was like, “Well, it’s broccoli rice casserole.” And he was like, “It smells. What is that smell?” And I was like, “Well, it’s … it’s got Cheez-Whiz in it. It’s Cheez-Whiz.” And it was just … they were all …
Jim: Cheez Whiz?
Melanie: Well (Laughter), what are you puttin’ Cheez Whiz in there?
Melanie: And … have you never had it—
Jim: I’ve never had–
John: Oh, I used to …
Melanie: –with cream of–
Melanie: —mushroom soup? Well …
John: Obviously, we’ll have to post the recipe for this on the website.
Melanie: I mean, it’s …
Jim: –yeah, there you go.
Melanie: Listen, it’s everything that–
Jim: Cheez Whiz? (Laughter)
Melanie: –you … and … and cream of mushroom soup. It’s everything–
John: Of course.
Melanie: –you shouldn’t eat, but it makes the broccoli delicious. (Laughter) I mean …
Jim: Obviously it gives an–
John: You cover it up.
Melanie: It gives it a little … well, Cheez Whiz has a little bit of a … I mean, it’s … it’s cheese in a jar with a–
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