Personality Differences

There are gender differences, but we are also different in the ways we see or approach our world because of our personalities. We know we have different personalities; we may even say, "My spouse has a lot of personality!" What we liked about our spouse and his or her personality can become a frustration after the marriage vows when we try to make everyday life work.

I like details and the experience of the here and now, while Gary likes vision and dreams and planning for the future. I remember in the first year of our marriage Gary started talking about taking a trip to Europe. We had absolutely no money. I had been on a plane only one time, and that was to California for our honeymoon. Now he was talking about flying to England, spending two weeks there and then another two weeks on the continent of Europe, for a total of a month. I felt fear from the tip of my head to the bottom of my toes. Where were we going to get the money? Would we have jobs when we got back? How would we drive around? And where would we stay? Who is this man? I did not join him in this crazy dream. Every detail of why we could not possibly do this came to my mind and out of my mouth.

We experienced several of these scenarios in our first year of marriage. It was a blessing to us that Gary was in his doctoral program. During his program he became familiar with different personality types in a personality assessment class. This helped us tremendously as we discovered that neither of us was out to destroy the other's dreams or security or privacy. We came to our world with different personalities, and what we needed to do was understand this about each other, affirm our differences, and work through them.

It is so easy to get mad when we don't see eye to eye. Personality is a huge area of difference that most couples simply do not understand. When our spouse reacts and thinks differently than we do, we may take it personally. I was very guilty of doing this early on in our marriage. I am a feeling person, which means I make decisions based on my feelings. When Gary did not always feel the same as I did, or even worse, had some rational, logical solution to offer, I felt misunderstood. I felt as if my feelings were not being heard. He felt very similar when I did not listen to and utilize his well-thought-out, very rational solutions to my problems or our problems. We ended up blaming each other for not understanding and learned fast what not to talk about, eventually hiding from the issues. (Not happily ever after.)

Jesus Brings the Happy into the Ever After

After about fifteen years of marriage (hopefully you will get this faster than we did), we began to really see what Jesus could do in this marriage of ours. You see, having tools and skills, listening and communicating, resolving conflict, and expressing emotions are all very helpful when trying to grow a marriage. But even when we try to implement these skills, we must remember what God had in mind when He created marriage. Most Christians would say that Christ makes a difference in their marriage, but most do not function in this manner. We don't wake up in the morning saying to ourselves, "Today I will be Christ to my spouse." But we are very aware of how our spouse is not being Christ to us.

We suggest starting each day with a prayer that goes something like this: Jesus, look at me. Show me my weaknesses and strengths. How am I doing loving my partner? Jesus, if I were kinder and gentler, what would that look like? I think I might speak more softly. I would listen to my spouse today. I would say "I love you," and I would touch this person you gave me. I would say I was sorry. Because you love me, Jesus, I might even be willing to face conflict with my spouse or take responsibility for something I said or did. I might let my spouse see my heart as I am doing with you now. Thank you for this mate you have given me. Help me to see what I need to change in order to love well. I know that you love me well in spite of myself. I believe that as I do these things and as I pray this prayer consistently I can work through my emotions better. I can look at not only how I feel but at how we both feel in our marriage, and that gives me hope for a deeper intimacy.