This week I released a fun Facebook quiz regarding marriage. If you haven’t taken it yet, you can do so here: Which Celebrity Couple Are You? The quiz uses three famous couples as symbols for what is the basic foundations of marriage–friendship, partnership, and intimacy.
While a nine question quiz can’t be taken too seriously, it can reveal something very important. If you and your spouse have different answers, those differences should be recognized. They shouldn’t be questioned or doubted or discouraged, but they should be noticed.
The power of the quiz is that it identifies perspective and expectations. One of my favorite articles from this past year is 7 Terms Every Couple Must Define. That article reminds us that we can say the same word but mean drastically different things. In the same way, the idea of marriage can be viewed in radically different ways by a husband and wife. Those contrasts aren’t necessarily right and wrong as much as they are simply different. When recognized and built upon, those differences can create great strengths. However, when ignored, or even worse, when someone’s viewpoint is deemed inferior, those differences can destroy the marriage.
3 Steps to Handling Differences
1. Identify. The first step regarding different perspectives in marriage is to identify them. Assuming our spouse sees everything the way we see it is foolish. We should expect differing ideas and understandings. Something as simple as a 9 question quiz can reveal different expectations. Asking your own questions can be equally powerful. Without judgement or debate, simply listen to your spouse’s answers to some key questions: What is most important to you in our marriage? What brings you the most satisfaction? What do you need the most from this relationship? How do you most feel loved? What makes you feel respected?
2. Appreciate. Differences can create great strengths, but for many people differences are scary. Instead of seeing the potential which differences can bring, we most often assume they will divide us. It’s vital that a couple not view their differences as a danger, but instead see them as an opportunity. To do so, we must value our spouse’s opinion and perspective. In marriage, friendship, partnership, and intimacy are all important. None of the three can be absent from a healthy marriage. Yet all of us will lean toward one over the other. One aspect will speak to us more. That’s not wrong; it’s just life. If your favorite aspect is friendship and your spouse most appreciates intimacy, that’s not a problem. Appreciate the differences and know that if they are handled properly, the differences can make you stronger.
3. Act. The power of a simple quiz which reveals differences is that we can take the information and change our behavior. Realizing that our spouse’s perspective is different than ours should influence our actions. Jenny and I respond differently to sickness. When I’m sick I want to be left alone. When she’s sick, she wants to be taken care of. If we never consider the differences, I’ll leave her alone when she is sick and she will try to take care of me when I’m sick. We will treat each other the way we want to be treated. Instead, we should treat one another the way they want to be treated. So when she’s sick I need to help her and when I’m sick she needs to keep from helping me. The same is true in every aspect of marriage. By understanding our spouse’s perspective, we should seek to love them in the way they will best accept it. If your answers differ, work hard on the area which is most important to your spouse. If you love the partnership aspect of marriage, but your spouse has a higher regard for friendship, continue being a good partner but be diligent in understanding how to strengthen the friendship with your spouse.
Differences exist in every relationship. A couple’s success isn’t determined by the presence or absence of differences, but by how the couple identifies, appreciates, and acts on those differences. While having things in common is a benefit, having differences is an opportunity to become an even stronger power couple.