Dealing With Your Differences: Decide, Don’t Slide

By Scott Stanley
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Learning constructive ways to handle your differences is one of the most important things you can do to protect your marriage. You can decide to take control of your issues.

God designed marriage to be a relationship in which trust, openness and vulnerability can thrive. He designed the first relationship to be nourishing, enriching and fruitful. Adam and Eve were the first to experience the joys and miseries of marriage. Let’s see what we can learn from this very first couple.

As God was creating matter, light and life, He declared everything He made to be good. There was one notable exception: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone'” (Genesis 2:18). Sin and the fall had not yet happened. But still it was not good for man to be alone. Why? Simply because God created man for relationship: with Him, in marriage and with others. But relationships, especially close relationships, are difficult. In fact, it seems that our relationships with those we love most are the relationships most difficult to manage.

Consider this one crucial fact about the need for the kind of commitment that supports lasting love in marriage: It is the sense of permanence based in a healthy and strong commitment that allows a marriage to thrive even though it is made up of two imperfect beings. One of the greatest problems for marriages these days is that people have grown to expect more than is possible from their relationships. Marriages can be great but will not be perfect. The reality of two people thriving through the trials and imperfections of life trumps the fantasy of perfection.

Learning constructive ways to handle your differences is one of the most important things you can do to protect the promise that your marriage holds. These key principles can help guide you whenever you are not sure about what to do. If you apply them, you will seldom go wrong. They are powerful, simple and easy to remember.

  • Decide, don’t slide.
  • Do your part.
  • Make it safe to connect.

Key 1: Decide, don’t slide

This principle is a result of research on commitment and relationship transitions conducted at the University of Denver. I believe that couples form their relationships these days by “sliding” through all sorts of transitions without even realizing what they are doing, much less talking about it. For example, couples are making all kinds of important, potentially life-altering changes, without clearly choosing to make them. This matters because commitments are, at the foundation, decisions. Sliding now rules the day in how relationships develop, and this probably undermines the solidity of the commitment many couples will make later on.

Strive to thoughtfully decide about the things that matter. When you’re taking a journey, it’s necessary to make a clear decision about where you want to end up, instead of just driving around hoping to eventually end up somewhere you like. Sliding through — just letting things happen — is fine in non-crucial situations. For example, if you like the evening’s routine together, just letting things slide will usually work out just fine. But when something important is at stake, make a decision.

Decisions take effort, energy and teamwork. Do you need to decide where you will live in terms of the best work options? Are there major transitions coming up in your children’s lives? What about how you manage money? Who does what around the house? How do you treat each other when you are upset? Do you just let things slide and let whatever happens just happen? Making a thoughtful decision supports a stronger commitment to follow through on whatever has been chosen.

Where it matters, don’t slide — decide to take control of your issues rather than letting them control you.

Excerpted from A Lasting Promise: The Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage by Scott Stanley, Daniel Trathen, Savanna McCain and Milt Bryan, Copyright © 2014 by Christian PREP, Inc. Used with permission from the publisher, Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

From Focus on the Family website at ©2014 by Christian PREP, Inc. Used with permission from the publisher, Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Scott Stanley

Scott Stanley, Ph.D., is a research professor and co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. He has authored/co-authored many books including Fighting for Your Marriage, The Power of Commitment and A Lasting Promise. To learn more about Dr. Stanley, visit his blog:

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.