My husband James and I are extreme opposites. I know every married couple probably feels this at some level, but I am pretty convinced we are about as opposite as it can be. Let me give you a few examples:
He is the youngest child, I am the oldest. He is a “free spirit”, I am a nerd. He views money as an opportunity for fun, I view it as a way to create security. He has ADHD, I am Type A. He is an extrovert, I am an introvert. He has the gift of “shameless asking”, I do everything myself and never ask for help. He is a night person, I can’t stay awake past 10pm. He likes to work out, I take naps at every available opportunity. He would hang out with people every minute of the day, I like to read by myself. He sets eight alarms every morning, I set one. He plays volleyball 3-4 times a week……I don’t. He likes to buy clothes from J Crew and Ralph Lauren, I shop at Ross and Goodwill and refuse to spend double digits on a single item of clothing.
We are on opposite ends of the personality spectrum and probably every other “spectrum” out there. Looking at this on paper view, it probably looks like we aren’t very compatible with each other. And in some senses, we probably aren’t. With all of this in mind, how do you make a marriage work? First, I am convinced the only reason our marriage works and will last forever is because we both love Jesus. I know, I know, it seems silly. But really. Jesus is what cements us together. He is the only reason we ever liked each other in the first place. He is our foundation, our driving force, who we turn to in conflict, and look to for wisdom. We aren’t trying to find our purpose and identity in each other. It’s already found in Jesus. We are passionate about the kingdom of God and using every ounce of our time, resources, and ability while we are here on earth to make His name great. We read the Bible together, pray together, reach out together, and invest in our community together. We wrestle through hard issues, ask hard questions, and dive deep into difficult relationships with people. I can’t think of a better purpose for a marriage or anything else I would rather spend my life doing with my husband. We are created to bring God glory, and I am so happy to have a partner in crime to do that with.
But before I lead you down a trail thinking we are always some cute little happy and holy couple serving God in complete marital bliss, don’t forget that we are still in our first year of marriage. It’s hard. Really hard. So while our common denominator is Jesus, and always will be, we still have conflict (gasp). We got in a fight last night for crying out loud. IT HAPPENS PEOPLE! (I may or may not have got my feelings hurt that James went to watch MNF with a bunch of guys and I stayed home alone and threw a pity party about how boring and lame my life is then unleashed my wrath when he came home 5 minutes later than he said he would). After the fight had calmed down (bless his poor soul, he puts up with a lot), we had a discussion talking about the root of our conflict, and we discovered that more often than not, conflict arises when one of us feels misunderstood.
So how do you come to a point of understanding your spouse, or anyone for that matter? I have concluded that to be understood, you first must become self-aware. If you don’t even understand yourself, how in the world are you supposed to expect someone else to? You can’t expect them to read your mind and keep up with your raging emotions, demanding that they fulfill all your relational needs and desires when you don’t even have a clue what is going on with you or how you operate. So here is my nice little three-step solution I created for this problem:
- Become self-aware
- COMMUNICATE this. Don’t leave them guessing. Just be straightforward.
- Ask them to do the same.
How do you become self-aware? This is an ongoing process, but I would just start by asking yourself questions, looking at the way you respond to certain situations, and then write down trends and common factors between different events. As the sweet and loving wife I am, I typed up a long email to James early this morning explaining different things about my personality and what makes me “tick”, and then asked him to do the same so we can come to a better understanding of how each other operates.
Here’s an excerpt of a few things I wrote to James:
- I am an introvert. Unfortunate, I know. But it’s just how I am. I love people and I love spending time with people in time that is predetermined, meaning that it has been planned beforehand so I can mentally prepare. I don’t like surprises or random decisions to spend time with people. When it is planned a few days or weeks in advance, it gives me time to prepare to be on my best behavior. 🙂 and no matter how much I love a friend, I have no desire to see/talk to them every day, or even every few days. I need a break from people. 2 or 3 times a week is the most I can see a certain person or I will get tired of them. Once my social capacity has been reached, I need a significant amount of time to recover.
- I am a clean freak. Another unfortunate thing about me. If we are home I literally cannot relax until all the dishes are out of the sink and put in the dishwasher. Sand on the floor will lead me into a panic attack. I will lay awake in bed at night thinking about vacuuming the floor and will not rest properly until it has been done. I will make our bed every single day for our entire lives. Everything we own must have a place it belongs or it belongs in the dumpster. I love to throw things away so it better have purpose and be put to good use if it is going to stay in the house. 🙂
- I have two primary love languages, and the first is quality time. I like us to be together, fully engaged, enjoying each other, and learning more about each other. I like to try new things and do things I’ve never done before. And no, we can’t invite other people to come along. 🙂 I want to explore new things…with you! I need at least an hour of undivided quality time every day, and one night (date night) of several hours of quality time each week.
- My second primary love language is acts of service. I know I am fully capable of doing most things, but it makes me feel cared for and thought of when you serve me in little ways, like doing the dishes, taking out the trash, etc. I really do appreciate those things and it means a lot to me!
- I am a planner. If it is not on the calendar a few days or weeks in advance, there is a 95% chance that it’s not happening. I like things to be predictable so I can prepare accordingly for what is coming up.
So there you go. This is my first attempt of becoming self-aware and communicating these things to James so we can understand each other better and learn how to love each other more. When you are self-aware, you understand yourself better, and then are able to communicate that to people you love. You understand you, they understand you, and you understand them. Sounds pretty good to me!
Disclaimer: I have no actual real evidence that self-awareness leads to less conflict. It just makes logical sense in my head so I thought I would try it out! Also, this does not just apply for marriage; it is necessary for any healthy relationship!
Thanks for hanging out in my world for a little bit. Until next time,