Nobody gets married anticipating irreconcilable differences in their marriage.
Time and again, we hear people encourage marrying someone with the same values. It doesn’t matter if you like DC and they like Marvel, if you like football and they don’t care for it; at the end of the day, those are just interests and hobbies, which can be fleeting over time (not unlike physical looks).
So if you’re lucky, you’ve married someone whose values align with yours perfectly – where and how you’re going to live, if you’re going to have kids, how they’re going to be raised, what church you go to, what your financial goals are, etc. But what happens when you or your spouse has a life-changing epiphany, and all of a sudden, you’re significantly out of sync with each other?
What Is a Life-Changing Epiphany?
“Life-changing epiphany” is a little vague. It sounds drastic, and it certainly can be.
Let’s say that when you and your spouse got engaged, you agreed that you were going to have four kids born exactly two years apart, live outside the city, and have your spouse quit their job to homeschool your four children. You agreed to attend church every Sunday, no matter what, and your children would grow up to be involved with the church through Sunday School and faith retreats.
Then one day, your spouse has a revelation: she realizes she’s absolutely in love with the newborn stage and wants twice as many kids than you initially discussed; or conversely, as much as he loves his children, he feels an extreme strain in working to support the family when just two of the four planned children have been born. Or maybe, either spouse realizes they miss living in the city where their friends, siblings, or parents live. Or the homeschooling spouse learns they’re not such a fan of teaching, and instead want to send their children to a private school.
If neither spouse has a “my way or the highway” mentality, conversations and compromise can be all you need.
Basically, anything that goes against what was initially planned for in life can be considered a life-changing epiphany. The sorts of revelations previously listed can be life-changing, but not necessarily earth-shattering, even though it certainly can be difficult to hear, “Dear, I don’t think that I’ll be able to support four babies in the next few years,” or “Hey, I don’t feel like I’m cut out for homeschooling.”
You can come to a compromise with your spouse – for instance, you can consider moving elsewhere that can afford the working spouse a better job opportunity, or take some extra time in between children for him to feel more confident in his career and earning ability. In the case of a change in heart about where you live, you can have an honest discussion about what is prompting that. Maybe your spouse is feeling isolated, and like they need to be closer to their parents or siblings. While you may have thought you’d like to live in a remote place, it’s important to have people around to help you and your spouse, and have someone you trust who can watch your children. As long as neither spouse is set in a “my way or the highway” mentality, honest conversations and compromise can be all you need.
But What About the Much More Complicated Life-Changes?
What if one spouse has a religious conversion or changes their political views? These are realizations that no amount of compromise or negotiation can solve – at least, not in such a way that’s going to leave everyone involved happy.
Take, for example, the case of celebrity couple Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. They reportedly broke up due to differences in lifestyle – them living apart was so normalized that their younger children were already used to their father’s absence. According to Kim, this took a major toll on her as well and was a big factor in their divorce.
It’s not likely that a genuine change of heart of this magnitude on a serious subject is going to happen overnight.
But there were other lifestyle differences here too. Kanye wants the kids to go to Sunday service with him, while it doesn’t seem to be a priority for Kim. Kanye seemed to be much more comfortable supporting a polarizing political candidate on national tv than Kim. Following their divorce, the conflict has continued with public disputes, from how to raise their children, especially regarding social media, to who Kim’s new beau is (and the sort of influence he can have on Kanye’s children).
Thankfully, in the case of a spouse having a life-changing epiphany around politics or religion, it’s not likely that a genuine change of heart of this magnitude and around such sensitive and consequential subjects is going to happen overnight. In order to reduce the chances of being blindsided by a big change of perspective, it’s important to communicate about this sort of thing regularly. Regularly ask your spouse what their thoughts are on what’s going on in the world, where they’re coming from, what they think of opposing viewpoints, and if they’ve changed their mind on something, ask why. If they’re coming from a rational and understandable place, you should see what you can do to meet them halfway, compromise, or agree to disagree.
It’s healthy to not be the same person you were five years ago – if you’re in your twenties that can feel like a lifetime ago, and in that time you’ve reflected, grown, and changed. While there is always room for improvement, stress over time can also cause a sense of loss. For this reason, it’s important to remember that you and your spouse are a team, and you have to support each other and be open and honest.
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