Several years ago my sister-in-law returned from a trip with matching jackets for my husband and me. When we tried on the army green fleece jackets, we couldn’t help but laugh at our reflection in the mirror. While it was cute for us to dress alike, it was obvious that the jacket looked better on my husband than it did on me.
Those matching jackets started me thinking about how a husband and wife bring their own distinct styles into a marriage. I’m not talking only about fashion, but also about personalities and preferences. One spouse may enjoy making plans while the other one thrives on spontaneity. One spouse may love going to parties while the other prefers spending evenings at home. Or one spouse may be a financial saver while the other is a spender. These are just a few examples of the myriad of ways spouses can differ from one another.
Over the years I have realized how challenging it can be to live with someone so different from yourself. However, it is important to recognize that while marriage does present its share of challenges, it is also an ideal place for growth. Both you and your spouse are unique and wonderful creations of God, despite how different you may be from each other. Your very differences present opportunities for you and your spouse to be refined and to have your rough edges smoothed out.
While I would like to believe my way of doing things is the “right” way, I cannot overlook the fact that marriage is a team effort. What I bring to the relationship is only one half of the equation; my husband brings an equally important contribution. More specifically, I value his go-with-the-flow attitude and his ability to enjoy the present instead of worrying about the future. Likewise, he appreciates my detailed nature and how I can locate “missing” items in the house. We are like two sides of a scale in the ways we balance each other out. This is why it is essential that we welcome the distinct “styles” each individual brings to a marriage.
Here are four lessons I have learned about accepting and not cramping your spouse’s “style”:
Don’t label. Be careful to refrain from giving negative labels to your spouse. Assigning words to him/her, such as lazy, cheap, impulsive or worrywart places your marriage on a slippery slope. Doing so only hardens your heart against your spouse and allows you to feel better about yourself at your spouse’s expense.
Reframe. Change your view of what you consider to be your spouse’s weaknesses. Remind yourself that the very things that frustrate you about him/her were likely the things that initially attracted you to him/her. Choose to see your spouse’s traits in a positive light, especially when talking to family and friends. How you present your spouse to others can build up or tarnish his/her reputation.
Be open. Instead of trying to change your spouse, try learning from him/her. For example, much to my husband’s delight, I sometimes throw caution to the wind and suggest going on an unplanned family outing. Much to my surprise, my husband now shops around for better deals before making a purchase. Being open to your spouse’s ways of doing things shows how much you value him/her.
Be patient. Don’t expect your spouse to suddenly become more relaxed or less forgetful or (fill in the blank) overnight. Change occurs over time and most often when there is positive reinforcement involved. Gently nudge your spouse now and then, but be patient. More importantly, voice your appreciation to your spouse when he/she attempts to do something more in line with your “style”.
Though my husband and I rarely wear our matching jackets, the sight of them in our closet serves as a tangible reminder of our uniqueness as individuals. When we decide to not cramp one another’s styles, we begin to appreciate our complementary styles as a couple. My hope is that all our marriages may be enriched by the different styles we bring to them.
Consider these questions about your marriage:
- How do you and your spouse differ?
- How do your styles complement each other?
- What can you learn from your spouse?
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