5 Differences That Will Make Your Marriage Harder

In Dating, Engagement, Marriage, Relationships by Debra Fileta15 Comments

We’re all different in many ways, right?

But have you ever wondered how much of a difference is too much between two people when it comes to maintaining healthy relationship? I recently received this question in my email asking, “I’m starting to enter the dating scene and finding myself attracted to some much older men. What advice do you have on age difference in a relationship?

When it comes to relationships, differences can keep the spice in our relationship, teaching us new things and giving us new perspectives. But as I like to say, “opposites attract….but then they attack” (Tweet It!).

The truth is, no matter what kind of differences we’re talking about in a relationship, differences tend to eventually bring tension into a relationship. There are just some differences that make marriage harder…but five differences in particular tend to increase stress, and in turn, result in a higher likelihood of divorce (statistically speaking- though let’s always remember that God is bigger than statistics!)

I am in no way advocating that marriage should be avoided if these things are present in a dating relationship. And I have a hard time answering questions like this, because it’s not my place to say who you should or shouldn’t marry, it’s God’s place.

But no matter what you decide about your love life, I think it’s important to have a healthy awareness that the more differences between two people in a marriage, the more stress that relationship will entail.  Here is a list of some of the most significant ones:

Financial Differences:  It would likely be said that the number one stressor in marriages nation-wide revolves around finances.  But here’s the thing about finances- how you approach and handle money is a learned behavior.  We each come from a family of origin and life experiences that have influenced our perspective on money.   Not only do differences in financial responsibility add stress to a relationship, but also, differences in socio-economic status.  Your socio-economic Status breeds a lot of your personal expectations and desires when it comes to material things, so it makes sense that differences in this aspect of life can cause some major stress.

Age Differences:  I get asked a lot about age differences in relationships.  For the most part, there isn’t much to think about when the age difference is 5 years or less.  And the older a person is, the less these differences come into play.  But with that said, there’s no denying that major age differences do have a role to play when it comes to adding stress to a marriage.  With an increased age-gap, comes differences in what I like to call “generational culture”.  There’s no denying that every generation comes with its own unique set of attitudes, beliefs, interests, knowledge, experiences, and norms.  I mean, each group can be so different that they’ve given them names like The Millennials and the Baby-Boomers, The Generation Xers and the New Silent Generation.

Not only that, but every 10 years of life brings its own set of differences regarding life experiences and struggles.  Those who fall within the same age decade tend to have more in common as they experience life together, which results in less marital stress.  We live in a culture that praises Cougars and Sugar Daddies, without taking into consideration the stress that comes with age differences.  And if you want my personal opinion, relationships that are made up of age differences greater than 15 years likely come with their own set of deep-seated issues and unaddressed needs (for maturity, control, etc.)…but that is an article for another day.

Cultural Differences:  I’m going to start this section by saying loud and clearly that I am all for inter-racial and intercultural marriages.  8 of my top 10 friends are married to spouses of a different race and/or culture, and I love seeing the beauty of their differences at play within their relationship.  But here’s what it comes down to:  differences add to stress.  There’s no getting around it.  All of my friends will tell you that at one point in their relationship they have faced stressors rooted in their cultural differences.  From family interference, to time management, to gender roles, to communication differences…there is no denying that your background plays a huge role in who you become and what you expect in your relationship.

Religious Differences:  I’m not even going to address the Christian/Non-Christian dilemma in this section, though I am a huge advocate for marrying someone who is just as in love with Jesus as you are.

But the truth of the matter is that Christian or not, there is truth to the fact that marrying someone who has differences in religious preference or beliefs is another ingredient to adding stress in a marriage.  This goes for every religious group out there.   Issues of practicing your religious beliefs in the day to day, how you are going to raise your children and the family culture you choose to develop are all rooted in your religious beliefs or lack thereof.  It makes sense that these differences are ones that can’t simply be ignored for the long haul.

Educational Differences:  I think this was the most surprising stressor when I originally heard this list in my marriage psychology course. I had never really considered the differences that come within levels of education.  Again, there are entire cultures built within the walls of education.  I’m not referring to differences in occupation or educational focus (though that may or may not be a source of stress for some couples), but rather differences within levels of education such as:  high school, college, graduate school and beyond.  Education drives much of who we are, what we like, and how we invest our time.  On the other extreme, it can impact things as simple what we talk about and the hobbies we develop.  People who have the same levels of education tend to have more in common, which offers more fuel for connection.  It’s something to be considered when it comes to the factors that add stress to a relationship.

I have to end this article by saying that at the end of the day, there are SO many factors that have the potential of adding to stress in a marriage.  In marriage, we are taking two separate lives with independent personalities, characteristics, and traits and joining them together as one.  There will always be stressors to work through and kinks to work out in any healthy relationship.

Though each one of the above mentioned differences adds to the stress factor in a marriage, I don’t write this article in hopes that people will simply make “calculated risks” when it comes to marriage.  Marriage is not necessarily about entering a relationship in which you are entirely risk-free.  No, it’s about so much more than that.  It’s about being called to another human being and choosing to love them no matter what life may bring.

But true commitment comes only when there is true awareness and recognition of the difficulties that may come your way.  

So, before you say I do, consider the differences in your relationship and the difficulties those differences may bring.  And then after all the calculations have been made…be sure you feel called.

*For everything you need to know about finding and keeping a healthy relationship, support me and this ministry by picking up a copy of True Love Dates!*

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 50+ articles at Relevant Magazine! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter

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15 Comments on "5 Differences That Will Make Your Marriage Harder"

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Agz
Guest

Hi Debra, amazing points, just as you mentioned, my mind too would never have come to think of these things. Thank you for sharing.

You said “be sure you feel called”, can you slightly expand on that?

Foxie
Guest

I would also like Debra to expand on this… this is one of the mysteries of life for me – what does it mean to feel called? I turned 24 recently and I hope that marriage and family are the future of my life but I am not sure what to look for as regards “feeling called”.

Belle
Guest

Thanks Debra for this article. I have had interested suitors and I’ve been thinking if either one is worth pursing a relationship with. I too am attracted to much older men and I would like read your take on that issue. I’ve read in many places that have “daddy issues” is one source of this particular attraction, which I do have. I’m thinking I should wait until I’m a older (hopefully certain needs and problems better resolved) before I jump into the dating scene so age difference isn’t such a big deal.

Naomi
Guest
Thanks for this article Debra. Having recently divorced after 12 years of marriage I cannot emphasise enough the importance of considering these factors. Some might say ‘Love conquers all’ which is the attitude which I entered my marriage and was prepared to work at things but as in my case if your spouse is insecure these differences are magnified even more and a better paid job or being intellectually unmatched can be a dangerous source of jealousy. Not to mention throwing in 2 very different family backgrounds. If I ever have the privilege of being in a relationship again I… Read more »
Romy
Guest

Debra,
I love your book & I’m re-reading it to get a better understanding of myself. In a nutshell, I feel so ready for love & marriage but I know I’m in a waiting period for God’s will & perfect timing. Our background are so similar. Thanks for the insight!

Ken
Guest

Debra, thanks for another insightful article. I’m curious; have you found language differences to be a major stress-causing factor?

Cynthia
Guest
Debra, I understand the overall presentation of your article. However, as I read your article I found myself feeling offended. Only because my relationship has every last one of those items except financial differences. I didn’t search him out or pursue him, but God put us together as a solid match and we are a match beyond belief. He has always pursued me and not the other way around. I know beyond a shadow of doubt, that my fiance loves me. He pursue – I enjoy knowing that I have a man that loves me and proves it through his… Read more »
Bill
Guest

I don’t think you should feel offended, as Debra’s point is these things can make a marriage more difficult but they in no way preclude a happy marriage.

As a wild example, a marriage between a person who does not speak English and one who speaks only English will be MORE difficult than might otherwise be true, but admitting such in no way means the marriage will not be a happy one.

Sam T.
Guest

Only one of these 5 differences is biblically based (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Bill
Guest

Don’t underestimate the question of belief.

While my present girlfriend is a “Christian,” she belongs to a belief that makes you a Christian by birth where I believe you have to actively ask Jesus into your heart.

While that may not sound like a huge difference, in practice it’s not so subtle.

It’s difficult to explain the concept of growing closer to God to someone who believes they are “covered” because they were baptized at birth.

Patricia
Guest

Thank you so much for the amazing lesson. I have a fiance of only Primary level of education though I am a Bachelor’s Degree graduate. He behaves responsively since he is five years older than me. Do you think we shall make a perfect match considering the fact that he is of the same religion as I?

janet
Guest

People tend to confuse race with culture. Race is only the color of your skin. It has nothing to do with culture. Culture is how you are raised and the believes and actions you choose follow there after.
It really annoys me when people mix the 2 together like its the same thing.

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