It’s okay to be different than your spouse. It’s actually good.
Cookie cutter individuals and marriages do not showcase our Creator’s love for humanity as much as variety. Yet in the daily grind of life, it can be hard to tolerate, let alone celebrate each other’s differences. But when we allow ourselves and others the freedom to be who they are, everyone benefits.
One example that comes to mind is the difference in Daniel and me when it comes to communicating with people.
A few years ago we were being interviewed on the radio about our work. The interviewer asked a question Daniel needed time to think about and I saw him searching for something to say. I quickly responded with, “That’s a great question. Thanks for asking. Do you mind if I share from my point of view? I’m wondering if any ladies who are considering global work would want to hear what I’ve experienced with that?” Our interviewer consented and it gave Daniel a little longer to prepare a response. He had done well in the interview, but wanted my help in that moment. My spirit soared because I had used one of my strengths to bless my husband. I enjoy creative problem solving when issues need to be dealt with quickly. It was a situation tailored to my strengths.
On the other hand, sometimes interpersonal communication is hard for me. A friend (who is okay with me sharing this vague story 🙂 ) was telling us about something that made her deeply sad. I nearly froze because I didn’t know what to say. I could see she was hurting, but suddenly I was caught up in the fear of not wanting to make things worse by saying the wrong thing. Daniel was a champion in that moment. He spoke with such love, wisdom, and understanding. She felt brave enough to continue sharing and left our time together feeling encouraged. He said just the right thing at the right time. I was amazed at his ability because I felt so uncertain about what to do. He loves teaching and gently instructing in settings like that. It was a moment well suited to his giftedness and personality and I was deeply appreciative. It’s one of my most cherished memories of our marriage.
Daniel doesn’t need me to hold his hand in public speaking. He can do it. And I do not always freeze up when relationships start to deepen. Making generalizations like that would be unfair to both of us and also untrue. Daniel and I are, however, gifted with different strengths. Our strengths serve our marriage and other people well when we work together. There is freedom in appreciating my spouse’s gifts and allowing him to shine without feeling slighted that I do not excel in the same areas. Finding my identity, security, and worth in Jesus’ perfect love allows me to appreciate who I am while giving others freedom to be who they are. We need each other. The variety each one of us brings to the table allows us all to experience God’s love in deep, meaningful ways. Bringing our different abilities together to serve our community makes us more effective.
However, a few years back, Daniel and I would have not been as adept at stepping in to help each other. Unintentionally, the focus of our work together might have shifted to “improving” each other instead of working in humility to honor our relationship and serve other people. After situations like the two I’ve shared, we probably would have scolded each other afterward. “Why do you struggle with that so much? I don’t get it. It’s not rocket science! Do you see how your response created awkwardness? It was totally unhelpful!”
Honestly, when we’re going though a stressful season, there are times this can still happen if we’re not paying attention to our attitudes. I’m told we’re not the only couple with flaws—that similar things happen in every relationship 🙂
We do not always get it right, but nowadays instead of being frustrated that the other person’s brain doesn’t work in sync with our own, we try to help each other. We try to learn from each other. I really want to appreciate the blessings our family receives from Daniel’s strengths and offer grace when one of his weaknesses shows. He wants to do the same for me. It is commitment and work, but we grow so much as we work through issues together. Life is best when we allow each other freedom to be ourselves— even when we make mistakes in doing so. During times we’ve lived together with that kind of honesty, openness, and vulnerability, we can look back and see how God used us to sharpen each other. Learning to celebrate each other’s giftedness and offer grace in our weaknesses deeply infuses God’s love into our hungry hearts. We want that to continue. We want to be like that more. We have so much to learn.
After almost sixteen years, Daniel doesn’t mind public speaking as much. I have learned not to freeze up (as much) when relationships start to deepen and how to show the love I feel, without fear. We’ve both changed and continue learning how to make room for things that may never change— one instance being that Daniel enjoys road trips filled with conversation, while I like a good soundtrack and the feeling of silent togetherness. We can create some wiggle room, but these are pretty permanent fixtures of our personalities. It’s a balancing act and requires much forgiveness, patience, and letting go of petty things.
Our personalities will not complement each other if the goal is to be exactly the same. Ironically, trying to be the same puts us at odds faster than almost anything. We’re meant to cultivate the ones we love instead of squishing them into molds. I wonder if trying to be exactly the same has it’s roots in fear? Maybe because we don’t want to be rejected, especially when our souls are laid bare and we’re showing our spouses who we really are. Maybe our personal insecurities or fear of other’s opinions make us feel the need to control outcomes, which ends in us trying to control others. We easily slip into the tendency to stop opening up instead of working to live together in healthy ways. It happens to every couple sometimes, because people are not perfect. Daniel and I both understand that being vulnerable with each other can be scary, but we’re so thankful for how God continually purifies our intentions and love toward each other. He is faithful to guide us in making the changes we need.
We want to help each other embrace who our Creator intended us to be and live in it without apology or fear. That requires being authentic, open, and vulnerable with each other—not only in our strengths, but also in exploring and understanding our weaknesses. It takes effort and it can get messy, but our desire is to pursue loving God and each other so we can live together without fear of harsh judgment or rejection. That kind of vulnerability, met with commitment and grace, continues to deepen our attachment and love. It slowly heals old wounds.
You shouldn’t bare your soul to just anyone. But when you open up to your spouse and are fully accepted, celebrated, and loved— that’s life changing. When the fruit of that kind of love is shared with people around you, it becomes community and world changing. That kind of love comes from the renewing work of our Creator when He enters our souls and begins the work of restoring us to be the people He intended. Relationships can be a beautiful picture of that when we stop trying to be each other or trying to force one another into molds. Our relationships reveal more aspects of Christ’s character when we believe our differences are good and begin to help each other grow.
Thanks for reading!
©2018 Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved
- To read more of our history together, see my stories in the Marriage Category.
- Some things Daniel and I have enjoyed reading together in the past few years:
–Men and Women: Enjoying the Difference, Dr. Larry Crab
–New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp
-Several books written by Bob or Marie Goff, Such as Love Does & Love Lives Here