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Recently, I was talking to a friend who has been married about as long as I have – roughly 30 years. We were recalling the things that brought on the most conflict in the early years of our marriages, and she said, “About 90% of our fights were about his driving too fast!” It got me thinking about how we all make different choices, have different habits, and place value on different things than our spouses do.

But just because we have different perspectives on things, it doesn’t mean one of us is always “right.” Oftentimes, there are many “right” ways to do things, and it all boils down to our comfort level with each other’s choices.

Also, if one of us tends to make everything a def-con-priority-one issue, our spouse will soon start to tune us out. We have to decide what matters most to us, respect each other’s viewpoints, and let the minor things go.

The following exercise is probably most helpful to couples who are about to get married or have only been married a short while, but even seasoned couples might find a few things on the list that they’ve been meaning to address. Take some time to answer these questions together and really listen to each other’s perspective. If some preference of theirs seems petty or unimportant, ask yourself why they might hold that view, and apply grace to the conversation liberally.

Each of you, read through the list separately and choose two to three situations you feel cause the most friction in your relationship. Remember, you are on the same team, so try to find solutions that help you both win!

How Important Is…

…obeying the speed limits?

  • Is either one of you a speed demon? A pokey Joe? Do you experience conflict over this?

…having a clean/neat house?

  • Have you discussed what each of your definitions of “clean” is?
  • Are you particular about any certain part of the house staying clean – the dining room table, the kitchen counter? Should the bed be made every day? Should the sink be empty every night?
  • What do you think about hiring out certain aspects of house cleaning?

…being on time to events?

  • Did you grow up in an early, on-time, or late household?
  • Do you see any compromises in your future on this?

…making time for exercise?

  • Is this something you plan to do together?
  • Does it require planning on the calendar?

…eating at home vs. eating out?

  • Are there any times when you expect to eat out (or to have a big home-cooked meal)?

…healthy food vs. junk food?

  • Do you think less of your spouse if they indulge every now and then?

…the way you load your dishwasher?

  • Do you think there’s a “right” way and a “wrong” way?

…having a savings account?

  • How much needs to be in it for you to feel comfortable?

…having a pet?

  • Did you grow up with one?
  • Who would take care of it most of the time?


  • Does one of you require more than the other?
  • Are you a night owl or an early bird?
  • Would you prefer to go to bed at the same time as each other?

…hiring out work on the house or doing it yourself?

  • What types of things can you fix around the house? Do you enjoy doing that, or would it be worth it to you to hire it out?

…having clean cars?

  • Are you okay with running it through a car wash, or do you want to do it yourself? Who is in charge of this?

…regular self-care?

  • Is time away by yourself something you need?
  • Fill in the blank: “I really need __________________ to be at my best.”

…driving a new/used car?

  • Is it okay to “invest” in a depreciating asset?
  • Would you feel safe if you drove a used car?

…having two incomes?

  • Does this depend on the season of life you’re in, or is it a hard and fast rule?

…voting for the same candidate/party?

  • Do your political views align? Does that even matter to you?

…attending church regularly?

  • How involved would you like to be?
  • Are there any ways you think you could serve well together?

…growing together spiritually?

  • Do you want to have quiet times with God together, or can those be separate?
  • Should one of you always be the one to initiate praying together?

…downtime to relax vs. productivity?

  • Is one of you more project oriented? Is one of you more inclined to binge watch a TV show?
  • Do you consider this a character trait/flaw, or are you accepting of your spouse’s tendencies?

This list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully it will help you both to begin to target the areas of your marriage where your individual preferences are leading to conflict. The goal here is to bring clarity to the preferences your spouse feels are important and to give you the opportunity to show grace towards those preferences that you might not agree with. Don’t let the enemy bring division when unity is just a matter of choosing to make a small sacrifice on behalf of your spouse.