I hear it all the time. “My husband [or wife] doesn’t understand me. We are so different. We don’t really have anything in common.”
When I first met Gail, I was attracted to her precisely because she was different. Sadly, after a few years, these same differences started to annoy me. In fact, I began to think that my approach to live was right and hers wrong.
I then did what any loving husband would do. I tried to fix her—to make her more like me. And she did the same. Not surprisingly, this led to several years of conflict.
What we forgot was that there’s a reason opposites attract–because it’s good for us.
Think about it. If you married someone just like you, then
- You wouldn’t have to grow.
- You wouldn’t have to get out of your comfort zone.
- You wouldn’t have to enter into someone else’s world.
Instead, differences are precisely what you need to become the person God created you to be. As Solomon noted, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17, NLT).
Differences can add richness, depth, and texture to your marriage. If you embrace them.
Your differences can be your biggest asset as a couple—if you learn how to use them. Here are three steps for doing so.
- Identify your differences. You know you are different than your spouse, but that is not enough. I am talking about more specificity. In what ways are you different?
For example, Gail and I are the exact opposite on each of the Myers-Briggs types. I am an INFJ. She is an ESTP. This means:
- We approach the world differently. I prefer introversion; she prefers extraversion (note: this is the way the word is spelled in the Myers-Briggs literature).
- We gather information differently. I prefer intuition; she prefers sensing.
- We make decisions differently. I prefer feeling; she prefers thinking.
- We approach structure differently. I prefer judging; she prefers perceiving.
According to StrengthsFinder test, we have completely different strengths. Mine are:
From these tests—and 33 years of observing her—I know the specific ways that we are different.
- Acknowledge your differences. It’s not enough to identify your differences and then file away what you’ve observed. No, you must acknowledge these—and celebrate them—in real time.
Let me give you a practical example. As an extravert (again, the Myers-Briggs spelling), Gail draws her energy from being with people. As an introvert, people wear me out. I prefer being alone.
But because we love one another, we make sure that help the other person get what they need. Tonight we are going to a dinner party. I would prefer to stay home and read, but I know Gail needs to connect with others to remain emotionally healthy. (I need it too; I just don’t always recognize the need.)
On the other hand, she knows I can’t be with people every night or I will burnout. So, because she loves me, she sometimes chooses to stay home so I can re-charge. (She also needs this; she just doesn’t always recognize it.)
- Leverage your differences. Differences are not something to be resented. They are something to celebrate and use.
Think of it this way: If Gail and I were exactly the same on the Myers-Briggs results, we would only have four tools at our disposal. But since we are completely opposite, we have eight. It’s as if we have more colors on our palette with which to paint the canvas of our lives!
The real test of this is in making decisions. As a “J,” I like an orderly, structured world. I want to make decisions quickly and get them behind me.
Gail is just the opposite. She doesn’t have the same need for structure. She wants to explore all the options. She prefers to have her decisions in front of her.
Let to myself, I can be impulsive, making decisions I later regret. Let to herself, Gail can procrastinate, missing opportunities she later regrets. Together, we ensure that we explore all our options but then make a decision.
King Solomon once observed,
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10, NKJV).
We usually think of this in terms of friendship, but it applies equally to marriage.
You weren’t attracted to your spouse by accident. What if God led you to him or her because He knew precisely what you needed to realize your full potential.