If my wife, Jean, and I are any indication, the answer is an emphatic yes! She likes milk chocolate; I raid the candy dish for the dark stuff. She prefers deep, heartfelt conversation; I'm usually satisfied with the highlight reel. We're as different as, well, a night owl (her) and an early bird (me).
If you're married, you could probably count myriad differences between you and your wife. Most are easy to navigate with patience and good communication. Some can be more challenging. It takes effort — and often humility — to recognize the areas where the differences in a marriage can help us thrive.
I'm generally a positive, optimistic guy. When adversity comes, I try to push through it. Early in our marriage, I assumed my wife shared that approach to life. When Jean was going through an especially difficult time, I encouraged her to persevere. She knew I meant well, but her response surprised me. "Jim," she said, "some of us can't pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and just get going." That day I understood for the first time that my wife and I not only had some unique preferences, but we also had completely different approaches to life.
But differences don't have to be obstacles to a healthy marriage. Our spouse's unique qualities are meant to complement our own. In my marriage, sometimes my "we-can-do-this-and-here's-how" attitude is appropriate. Other times my wife just needs me to acknowledge what she's feeling and let her know I care. Understanding the way the Lord has crafted her helps me listen and speak in a more productive way. It makes me a better husband — a better person.
On the weekends, it's often easy for me to slip into my role as Mr. Taskmaster. I have a list of things to do: mow the lawn, trim the trees, fix the front door. Jean is constantly thinking about how to use the time I'm home to connect as a family. So she'll make suggestions like, "If you're fixing the door, I'm sure Trent would like to learn how to do that." I'm learning to see Jean's suggestions as opportunities for me to embrace her intuition and connectedness, leveraging it for the good of the whole family.
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family broadcast.
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This article appeared in the August/September 2012 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2012. ThrivingFamily.com.
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