2) Know your differences, embrace them and use them for each other’s benefit. Typically the place where we find differences in a couple we also find some of their greatest strengths. Have you ever noticed that some of the very things that attracted you to your spouse when you were dating, can be the very things that drive you crazy once you are married?! The characteristic of spontaneity that you loved about that person, when you were dating, now years later drives you crazy because they won’t follow the plan. The characteristic of stability, well grounded, and practical seemed so comforting when you were dating but later in marriage feels like a wet blanket to all your great ideas and dreams. (Yes these are personal examples)
Embracing these differences and using them for each other’s benefits can be challenging. Especially since you first have to be humble enough to say you need those very characteristics in your life that sometimes have driven you crazy. How you apply this may be very easy to see in some areas and more difficult to see in others. For example, if one of you is clearly better than the other at handling and organizing your home finances, then let that person lead in that area. It will be for your mutual benefit. Other areas are a little trickier to see and implement. My personality is pretty no-nonsense and more on the analytical side. My wife is far more compassionate, gracious and feeling towards situations. I can’t tell you how many times she has given me advice, from her perspective, in a difficult people situation. I have not always appreciated that advice. I’d rather have her tell me she thinks I am handling things perfectly. But I have to admit, that when I’ve been humble enough to follow her advice, it has helped those situations be resolved in a much more positive way than would have occurred had I done it my way. When you know and embrace your differences you can use them to each other’s benefit.
3) Laugh Often… I’d have to say some of my favorite memories over the past twenty years have been the times just before falling to sleep at night or just getting up in the morning that my wife and I, reflecting on something that has place in our day, have laughed so hard we could barely catch a breathe. Often it will be about something one of our kids said that day or how they responded to our correction. It might be about a silly and insignificant thing that led up to a big blow up between us. Later, as we reflect on the source of such a large disagreement, we can’t help but laugh at the stupidity with which we sometimes act.
Sometimes we have laughed at a stressful time in our lives. Maybe a time when things were not going right and the future looked quite dim. At those moments something said in ‘black humor’, would just break both of us up laughing and gave us perspective that life would be okay and we will get through this difficult time. I remember one time we were looking for a new place to live while I was in seminary. It had been a whirlwind trip and as we were heading home talking about the house we had put an offer on, I mentioned to my wife how I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to handle the avocado green appliances. My wife laughed and said they were almond color. I was certain she was wrong and because I’m not color blind, I knew that wasn’t the reason for the discrepancy. All the way home, during that 16 hour drive, we tried to prove to the other why we felt we were right about the color. Days later we asked for some pictures to be sent of the house and there it was in full, living color for all to see the almond color appliances! I’m still not sure how I got it so wrong but even to this day we laugh about how adamantly I argued my position, wrongly. Laughter is great medicine in marriage so use it liberally!
4) Set priorities and build your life around them…not the other way around. (to be continued tomorrow)