The Strength of Opposites
Be honest. If we asked you to write down your spouses weaknesses, could you do it? For many people, their first instinct would be to look for a thick notebook!
But many of the "weaknesses" we see in our spouses today may have looked more like strengths when we first met.
Over time, our perspectives changed. For example, the spontaneity that was so fun and attractive about him in courtship may now seem like recklessness or a lack of discipline. That orderliness and attention to detail that made you feel so secure when you were dating her may now make you feel as though you're living with someone who is rigid or critical.
If you've seen your spouses strengths morph into "weaknesses," it might be time to re-evaluate your perspective. Begin by reading 1 Corinthians 12. The primary application of this chapter of Scripture is to explain how God has distributed different spiritual gifts throughout the church. God makes it clear that Hes provided each of us with different gifts, strengths and abilities so that were not all "eyes" or all "ears."
Yet there's more. Lets look at verse 18: "But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." In other words, God has not only created our differences, but He has also placed us alongside people who are different than us in order to bring optimum health to the Church. The body of Christ is made up of opposites.
And what is true about the Church is also true of married couples. Your spouse wasn't placed next to you to frustrate you, but to complement you. His or her strengths may help and even protect you.
A key to long-term closeness and increased marital commitment comes from understanding your spouses strengths. Focusing on your spouses strengths is also a key to dealing with four predictable areas of conflict every couple will face. These four areas relate to a couples natural differences in trust, aggressiveness, decision making and risk taking.
Are you trusting or skeptical when it comes to meeting new people or receiving new information?
God has given John and his wife different strengths, and as such, they would both answer this question differently. John is naturally trusting; his wife, Cindy, on the other hand, wants to verify facts and ask hard questions.
John's failure to appreciate Cindy's strength in this area led to an embarrassing (and costly) mistake when they were first married. Cindy had been an elementary school teacher for almost six years, and the day after their wedding, Cindy handed John her teacher retirement cheque. His job was to invest it wisely. So he met a financial planner at church and the very next day handed him Cindy's retirement cheque. After all, the planner was a Christian who said he could triple Cindy's money!
Unfortunately, John was so trusting he didn't ask hard questions before investing. He lost every cent of Cindy's retirement pension in less than four months.
Was Cindy happy? No. Did she finally let John back in the house? Yes. But guess what else? He learned a tremendous (and hard) lesson about why its crucial to understand a spouses strengths - and why God so often puts opposites alongside us.
Its obvious now why God would place Cindy next to John. Today, instead of looking at Cindy's strengths as frustrating, John realizes she has been placed in his life to protect and balance him. Hes never again failed to involve Cindy in any important financial decisions.
The second predictable area of conflict, and a second question to ask yourselves, is: Are you naturally aggressive or passive when it comes to solving problems?
Yes, passive problem solving can be a strength! Some situations call for a quiet, tactful approach. Try solving every problem in your home aggressively, and watch how many more problems you create. Having both aggressive and passive problem-solving abilities in your home can be a tremendous positive.
Do you prefer to go slow or fast when making decisions?
Some people prefer to make decisions slowly, wanting to understand the impact their decision will have on others. Others are more comfortable making fast decisions - even to the point where they come home and announce, "Honey, guess where were moving tomorrow!"
When each decision maker appreciates the strength of the other, the couple can act decisively - without being rash.
Do you want to follow rules and standard procedures, or are you more comfortable with taking risks?
Think about a basketball game. Let's say you're the coach, your team is down by two points and there is only time for one more shot. Would you go for the more predictable two-point layup to tie the game, or would you have your best player try a three-point shot to win?
Again, in the body of Christ and in a marriage, its good to have both kinds of approaches. There are times when we need people with the courage to take risks and other times when we need people with the wisdom to move carefully and thoughtfully.
Our prayer is that you'll realize God had His hand in creating your differences, and that you'll learn how to appreciate your strengths and those of your spouse. Perhaps those "weaknesses" will begin looking more like strengths once again. John Trent and Rodney Cox are co-founders of Insights International, a ministry that helps couples, families and teams learn how to lead with their strengths.