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.
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?