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When Opposites Attract (And When They Don’t) – Part 2

The ways in which your spouse differs from you makes the two of you better as a team than as individuals, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.

Opposites Attract 2

In Part 1 we took a look at three “opposites” that are frequently found in married couples: thinkers & feelers, higher sex drive & lower sex drive, and introverts & extroverts. Today we’ll look at three other common areas of difference, each of which could be a source of misunderstanding or conflict.

4. Verbal & Non-verbal Processors

I’m an off-the-charts non-verbal processor. My wife is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. This dramatic difference in how we process our thoughts and emotions can definitely make effective communication a challenge.

The difference in how we process through an issue is more than just a personal preference. I believe it actually has to do with how our brains are wired. Blaming your spouse for how they are naturally wired is completely non-productive. Pushing them to be different doesn’t work either. Pushing a non-verbal processor to discuss an issue when they haven’t had a chance to think it through is going to often be met either with anger or total withdrawal. Likewise, retreating from your spouse when they want to talk something through is likely to be met with frustration and accusation.

My wife and I have found that the best way to deal with the different way we process things is a combination of selflessness and grace (some might call it compromise, but I don’t like that word). My wife is willing to give me time and space to think, especially if I specifically request it. She counts on me to come back and finish the conversation as soon as possible. For my part, I’m willing to at least make an effort to talk something through, even when it wouldn’t be my first preference. I recognize when her need to discuss something is causing her distress.

When you realize that your default processing method isn’t working for your spouse, make an effort to accommodate their preference. Likewise, when your spouse’s verbal or non-verbal preference is causing you difficulties, let your spouse know in a respectful way what you need. Give grace to each other in this.

5. Goal Oriented & People Oriented

This difference is closely related to one we covered last time, introverts and extroverts. Because extroverts are energized by people, they tend to see people as a priority. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to place a higher priority on achieving goals.

This difference in priorities can cause conflict about such things as where to go on vacations, how to spend your time and money, and what activities to be involved in. Again, this difference rings true in my marriage. My wife is strongly people-oriented, but for me ticking things off my list or making progress on a project has a high priority.

In this difference, we each recognize the strength of the other, and to a certain extent, we influence each other to be more open to the other’s priorities. Jenni’s people orientation helps remind me that people and relationships are important. Many of our closest relationships with others were developed through her, and she helps keep me connected to the people in our lives. I know that God values her focus on people.

At the same time I know Jenni appreciates my ability to get things done. My task and goal orientation help us keep projects on track and keeps our life from being chaos. I help bring balance to her life. She often comes to me to help her organize her tasks efficiently.

If your spouse has different priorities than you do, allow him or her to provide a helpful counterbalance.

6. Love Languages

Last time we covered a few dimensions of the the Meyers-Briggs personality assessment. Another useful assessment tool is Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages . Dr. Chapman breaks down the way in which people most experience love into five “languages.”

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Receiving Gift
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch

If you haven’t taken the Love Languages Test (link), you really should. Even if it’s just been a while since you took it, it’s worth repeating, as love languages commonly shift over time. Find out your spouse’s love language and more importantly, read up on the kinds of things you should do to express love in a way that speaks that language. For a more in-depth understanding, you can get Dr. Chapman’s 5 Love Languages book (affiliate link helps support this ministry).

Paperback (click the book below):

Click here for Kindle format

We naturally tend to give love in the same way we like to receive it. That only works if your spouse has the exact same love language priorities as you do, which in not usually the case.

 

Understanding your differences and learning how to navigate them successfully will help keep your marriage from getting derailed by continual conflicts.

Of course, there are many other differences besides the ones we’ve reviewed in this post and the previous one. The main thing to remember is that your spouse isn’t wrong just because he or she is different from you. Plus there is usually value and strength to be found in the difference that makes the two of you a great complement to each other.

What differences have you learned to navigate in your marriage?

 

Different Isn’t Wrong (When Opposites Attract Part 1)

Navigating your differences is often a matter of learning to value them instead of fighting them.

When Opposites Attract

I’m convinced that opposites do indeed attract. After almost 35 years of marriage, my wife and I remain deeply in love, despite the fact that there are many ways in which we are as different as night and day. And I am actually quite thankful for that fact. Most of the time.

While there are many benefits and blessings from our differences, there are also challenges that come along for the ride. We have learned over time that navigating these differences successfully comes down to valuing and respecting them instead of fighting them.

Let’s look at a few common areas of difference.

1. Thinkers & Feelers

One difference married couples face is in how they approach decision making. The Meyers-Briggs personality assessment breaks these down into two groups: thinkers and feelers. Thinkers tend to make decisions based on facts and data, whereas feelers tend to make decisions based on emotions and feelings.

Such differences in decision making style can cause conflicts. For example, when Jenni and I disagree on how to proceed with a decision my logical, fact-based opinions can be seen by her as not valuing her perspective, which tends to be based more on her feelings. It’s easy for both thinkers and feelers to feel misunderstood, devalued or even judged for their approach. But neither is right or wrong, just different.

According to one personality assessment site, feelers and thinkers should try to find value in each other’s decision-making styles. Thinkers, for example, can value the way a feeler is sensitive to the emotional needs of others and appreciate their ability to identify subjective dimensions of an issue. Feelers can appreciate a thinker’s fact-based, solution-oriented problem solving abilities in the midst of difficult or complex decisions.

Each brings a different perspective that together can improve the outcome.

2. High Drive & Low Drive

Differences in sex drive often create significant stress on a couple’s sexual relationship. My own polls indicate that about 90% of couples have at least somewhat mismatched sex drives. The fortunate one-in-ten couples who have about equal drive levels report having the most sex and the highest overall sexual satisfaction. But what are we in the other 90% to do?

The first thing to remember is that sex drive levels are often largely dictated by hormones and other brain chemicals, which can be difficult to control or change. Whether your spouse is higher drive or lower drive, it is not their fault, and blaming them for it won’t help the situation. It will only make things worse.

While it is true that there are factors over which you have no control, there are also many other factors that influence a person’s interest in sex over which you do have control. Taking care of your overall health (sleep, diet, exercise), managing your stress level, working on the non-sexual intimacy in your relationship and being intentional about sexual thoughts and actions will all have a significant positive impact on your sex life.

Yes, mismatched sex drives is the norm, but there are many ways you can work collaboratively to ensure each other’s sexual satisfaction. The best attitude to take when dealing with your spouse’s difference in drive is to be an unselfish lover. Seek to work with and nurture your spouse’s sexual nature rather than fighting against it or demeaning them for it. We are instructed by Scripture (Col 7:3-4) to take responsibility for each other’s sexual satisfaction through mutual sexual surrender. The best way to do that is to take delight in delighting each other.

I love what Christian Psychologist and author Juli Slattery says in her post How Sexual Differences Can Strengthen Your Marriage. She says that every time you and your spouse disagree about something sexual, you are presented with a question, “What kind of lover will I be?” You get to choose either natural, selfish love or unconditional, unchanging love – the kind of love God gives us. This is what she calls servant love. Rather than asking, “What’s in it for me?” servant love asks, “How can I bless my spouse?”

3. Introverts & Extroverts

I’m not sure why it is, but many married couples I know seem to consist of one introvert and one extrovert. That is certainly the case in my marriage (I’m the introvert).

Introversion and extroversion is another dimension measured by the Meyers-Briggs personality assessment. As traditionally defined, an introvert gains energy from alone time, whereas an extrovert gains energy from being with people. The opposite is also true – that introverts are drained by a high level of engagement with people, and too much alone time can drain an extrovert. Be aware that introversion/extroversion should not be confused with other personality traits such as being shy/outgoing, quiet/loud, or sensitive/insensitive.

Because they tend to help balance each other out, the pairing of introverts and extroverts seems to work well in most relationships, but it can also be a source of stress and disagreement that deserves some intentional and collaborative thought.

Working this out in my own marriage means my wife and I accept each other for the way we are wired and don’t try to change each other. But at the same time, we are also willing to step outside our normal comfort zones for each other. I’m open to willingly attend more social functions than I otherwise would and knowing that, she accepts that I’ll sometimes opt out. And she is open to leaving an event before she normally would when she senses that I’m nearing my people limit.

 

Each of these three differences can be difficult to navigate because they strike at the core of who we are. Rather than being accusitory or defensive, learn to value each other for the strengths each brings to the relationship. Learn to verbalize your own thoughts and needs in a respectful manner that doesn’t discount your spouse’s thoughts and needs.

Judging your partner because their natural responses and predispositions are different from your own will quickly lead to division and frustration. Accepting your spouse for the way God made him or her, putting your their needs above your own and proactively communicating about your differences will strengthen your marriage and allow you to avoid repeated battles.

Appreciate that your differences often mean that the two of you together are greater and stronger than either of you alone.

 

We’ll explore a few more differences next time in:  When Opposites Attract Part 2

 

5 Secrets to Sexual Surrender

Mutual sexual surrender is the best path to sexual intimacy.

Mutual Sexual Surrender

What does mutual sexual surrender in marriage look like? It looks like this:

The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.
1 Cor 7:3-4 NLT

Remember, when I talk about surrender, I’m not referring to any of the negative connotations of that word (loss, giving up, defeat). Rather, I’m talking about the complete giving over of your self to your spouse – about being all in 100%, holding nothing back. I’m not talking about losing your self, but rather bringing the fullness of your self to your spouse and marriage for purpose of building intimacy and strengthening your marriage.

This is what I mean by sexual surrender: laying aside self-centeredness, self-protection, and self-reliance and learning to give generously and unconditionally in a way that blesses and delights your spouse.

Secrets of Surrender

Surrendering your self and your body to your spouse isn’t necessarily natural or easy, but there are some steps you can take that will help you in the journey toward mutual sexual surrender.

1. Believe – that God created sexual intimacy for a couple’s mutual delight and as the ultimate form of human intimacy, designed to be only available between a husband and wife. Believe that God calls you to give your body over fully to your spouse for their sexual fulfillment (see 1 Cor 7:3-4 above).

2. Accept – that you likely express your sexuality very differently from your spouse. Cherish each other’s sexuality as God-given, and never denigrate each other for it. Accept your own sexual desire as healthy and your wishes as normal (as long as they are in the bounds of scripture, of course).

3. Delight in delighting each other. Take joy and pride in the deeply satisfying smile your spouse wears the day after a night of bliss together. Shift your perspective of sex from “have to” to “want to” to “get to” and see it for the wonderful privilege it is. (See my post Sex: Right, Duty or Privilege)

4. Respect – each other’s boundaries. Exploration is a normal part of any healthy sexual relationship but must always be done in a way that honors each other. Never push your spouse into anything that violates their personal integrity. Making love means that love should be at the center of every action.

5. Mutuality – is a must. One sided surrender is not sustainable. Each of you should be focused on what you give more than what you get. See #3 above. Realize that because you are one flesh, when you give pleasure to your spouse, you benefit as well. Being one flesh means that score-keeping has no place, especially when it comes to sex.

As I said in this post, I see sex in marriage as being more about your surrender than your satisfaction. But the truth is that mutual sexual surrender is the best path to a deeply pleasurable and satisfying sex life.

What do you think of the “mutual sexual surrender” idea? Have you experienced it in your marriage? Are you willing to give it a try? Share your thoughts in a comment.


For more thoughts on sexual surrender, see my separate posts for husbands and wives:

5 Common Lies About Intimacy (and 5 Truths)

Don’t buy these common misconceptions about intimacy. Choose to believe the truth instead.

Don't Buy The Lies

Everyone wants more intimacy. At least it seems that way to me. Every time I ask about what people want more of in their marriage, the top answers, no matter how I frame the question, always come back to intimacy.

In my New Reader Survey,  77% had great interest in posts about sexual intimacy and 82% had great interest in posts about emotional intimacy. Regardless of how I slice the data, male/female, years of marriage, kids or no kids, previously married or not, people are looking for more intimacy in their marriage.

The same goes for my “Three Things” survey,  where I asked people to identify the top three things they wanted more of in their marriage. The top answer is for more passion/sexual intimacy (65%). The next highest answer is for more spiritual togetherness (39%). In third place is a stronger emotional connection (37%).

Intimacy is The Goal

I believe that intimacy, in all forms, should be the main goal of every marriage. God built us with an innate desire for intimacy: intimacy with Him and intimacy with our spouse. Deep down we all need a strong connection to God and our spouse, and that’s ultimately when our marriages are strongest.

I also believe God designed us for a huge capacity for intimacy and that we can continue to grow closer together regardless of how long we’ve been married or how strong we feel the intimacy in our marriage currently is. There is always more, just as there is in our relationship with Christ.

Don’t Buy These Lies

So we all want and need more intimacy. There are some common misconceptions about intimacy in marriage that will do damage if you believe them. Choose not to believe the lies but to embrace the truth instead.

1. Guys Don’t Do Intimacy

In his book Scarey Close, Donald Miller has a chapter about men and intimacy. He says, “I don’t think men are as bad at intimacy as we might think. It’s just that we get pressured to go about intimacy in ways that are traditionally more feminine, specifically we’re asked to talk about it and share our feelings. We don’t really want to do that.” He goes on to say, “I think men do intimacy differently and I think that’s okay.”

In that same chapter he also says, “The problem is most men are actually great at intimacy it’s just that we’ve been led to believe we aren’t. And I’m convinced the confusion is costing us.”

I agree. Men do intimacy; they just do it differently than women. To begin with, for many men the path for emotional connection leads through the bedroom. A strong sexual connection actually makes them desire (not just be open to) a strong emotional connection. Another difference is that men tend to share more about facts and data than about their emotions, because these are things that are important to them. Finally, men tend to use a lot fewer words than women do.

What all this points to is the fact that when it comes to intimacy (being fully known, and yet totally loved and accepted), men approach it from a very different angle than women. We need to accept that difference in each other and be okay with it.

Truth: Your spouse probably does emotional intimacy differently than you do, and that’s okay.

2. Sex is For Him

It’s amazing to me how many women believe this one. Many women who don’t have the same testosterone-laden sex drive as their husbands do think they are fine without sex. They aren’t.

Sex is the only form of intimacy that God strictly reserved to be shared between husbands and wives, which makes sex not only unique but also sacred. In my Sexual Satisfaction Survey findings (which you can get a copy of by subscribing to my posts here) I found that one in five marriage are essentially sexless (sex less than once a month). That is tragic.

Believing that sex is primarily for husbands will rob wives of the sexual enjoyment and fulfillment that God has intends. Sex is not primarily a physical act. It is deeply spiritual and builds a wide pathway to a strong emotional connection as well. Having sex regularly strengthens your marriage, gives you a sense of well-being, and makes you actually desire sex more.

Truth: Don’t let the fact that you may have less physical drive allow you to miss out on the joy and pleasure that is rightfully yours.

3. Spiritual Intimacy is for Her

The male corollary to women believing that “sex is for him” is the lie that “spiritual intimacy is for her.”

While I observe that women tend to gravitate more naturally and easily toward spiritual matters, it doesn’t negate the fact that God desires an intimate relationship with husbands. I’ve found that I can love my wife best when I am strongly connected to God and that to be a good husband, I must first learn to be a bride – the bride of Christ.

If you buy the lie and leave the spiritual domain to your wife, it will not only inhibit your relationship with Christ (and therefor with your wife), it will rob you of the satisfaction and enjoyment that comes from leading your family spiritually. Most women have a strong desire to see their husbands step more fully into their spiritual leadership role. Dare I say that demonstrations of spiritual maturity and leadership are compellingly attractive to your wife. In my Three Things survey, more spiritual intimacy was the number one desire for wives.

As I explain in “3 Simple Ways to Lead Your Wife Spiritually” there are some easy ways to start to step out and lead. And for wives, read my post “How to Support Your Husband’s Spiritual Leadership.”

Truth: A thriving relationship with Jesus is for both husbands and wives and is the foundation of your marriage.

4. Intimacy Needs to Be Earned

There is a tendency in marriage to withhold the intimacy your spouse desires until you feel your own intimacy needs are being met. This is a dangerous game that will quickly land your marriage on the The Path of Separation, where you slowly spiral apart from each other.

The fact is that when you got married, the two of you became one. Therefore, intimacy should be your expectation at all times and you’ll want to continually and intentionally cultivate it. When you withhold intimacy, for whatever reason, you damage your connection and tear at the fabric of your oneness.

Withholding and punishing normally results in the opposite of what you hope it will accomplish. Waiting for your spouse to change before you become generous at meeting their needs does not work. The best way to keep on the Path of Intimacy is for you to work on you and becoming the best you can be at meeting your partner’s needs.

Truth: Grace, not judgment, is actually the best path to having your intimacy needs met.

5. Intimacy Is…

It’s safe to say that we all have our biases when it comes to intimacy, and we tend to think that our view is the “right” view.

What we often think of as intimacy is actually a byproduct of intimacy. A hot sex life, being romanced, having a deep emotional connection, or praying and sharing together are all fruits of intimacy. The lie is that if we go after to fruit, we’ll get the intimacy we want. The truth is that it’s intimacy that leads to the enjoyable fruit.

And intimacy is actually pretty simple (not easy, but simple), and it’s probably not what you think it is. It’s being fully known, weaknesses and all, yet being completely loved. (This is the same definition as intimacy with God, by the way). Stepping into the vulnerability that comes from be completely known, and being met in turn with unconditional love and grace, we experience the kind of intimacy that more easily leads to great sex, a deep soul connection, and a strong spiritual bond.

Truth: if you’ll work on being fully known, being transparent with the totality of your being, it will cause physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy grow.


These are my top 5 lies about intimacy. You’ll do well not to buy into them. Do you have some others lies that you’ve discovered in your marriage? Leave a comment.

Which Way Do You Run?

Grace is what allows you to run toward your spouse when you’ve messed up.

grace intimacy

I read this in a Joyce Meyer devotional last week.

The grace of God is greater than our sin or any other problem that we may have. You might be feeling guilty and tempted to shrink from God’s presence, but He wants you to run to Him, not away from Him.

~Joyce Meyer

As I often do, when I read this I immediately thought of the marriage parallel.

We all have times when we blow it big-time with our spouse. We say something unkind, maybe deliberately. We don’t do something we said we would do, or we do something we promised not to do. We betray a confidence, break a trust or speak ill of our spouse behind their back. The list of possible screw-ups is endless.

We’ve all done things we wished we hadn’t.

Which Way Do You Run? 

When you make a mess in your marriage, which way do you run? Do you turn away from your spouse to run and hide, making excuses and avoiding blame. Or do you turn toward your spouse with a sincere desire to make amends and re-establish your connection?

In the same way that shame and fear cause us to run from God, so too it is with our spouse. But when grace and love permeate your relationship, it allows you to run toward your spouse, just as it does in your relationship with God.

Running away widens the gap between you at just the time when what you really need is to close the gap. Sure it feels safer to distance yourself from the person you’ve offended, but separation is never the solution. Intimacy is.

Grace is an Invitation to Intimacy

The best way to ensure that your spouse extends grace to you when you’ve blown it is to work toward an atmosphere of grace in your marriage.

And the best way to fill your marriage with grace is to first experience the overwhelming and extravagant grace of God toward you and your spouse – to allow grace to have its full effect in your own life. Then, when your spouse messes up, make every effort to respond with that same grace and love. Don’t turn away in offense. Don’t distance yourself in retribution. Reach out, extend grace and strive to maintain intimacy through the trouble.

Grace is contagious! The more you extend grace, the more you shift the atmosphere of your marriage toward grace, and the more likely it is that you’ll receive that same kind of grace when you need it. It’s not a guarantee, of course, but it definitely improves the odds.

The Fruit of Grace

Ask yourself this question: How different would your marriage be if your spouse never, ever doubted that you truly love him or her?

And suppose that you never ever doubted your spouse’s love for you? How delightful would your marriage be if you lived every moment in celebration of the secure love you share and never had to strive to earn love?

This the fruit of grace: confidence in love. Security, trust and peace grow in a marriage filled with grace.

So the next time you feel tempted to turn away and hide from your spouse because you’ve made a mess of things, stop yourself. Make a deliberate turn toward him or her, trust in their love, and seek to maintain your connection while you clean things up.

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