Shelley and I are different. Very different. But she has never asked me not to be me.
I have more hobbies than I have time for. She hates even being asked what her hobbies are.
I am a morning person. She is a night person.
She likes her coffee with cream. I like my coffee black.
Her first major concert to attend was New Kids on the Block. Mine, well it doesn’t matter, because it wasn’t New Kids on the Block.
I am spontaneous. She needs a couple of weeks’ notice that we are going to be spontaneous.
All the clothes in her drawers are nicely folded and have a place. Mine are “strategically” placed in a non-folded random way in whatever drawer I can cram them into.
I am an introverted, idealist, future thinker. I think a lot. It is not unusual for me to spend time in deep thought, thinking about things that I want to think about. Sounds productive, I know.
Shelley is an extroverted, realistic, practical doer. She loves lists. She makes lists. She accomplishes what is on her lists. She has made lists of lists. She does get stuff done.
We are different. On paper, it seems like this marriage shouldn’t work but it does.
I would be lying if I said some of our differences didn’t cause a few challenges along the way.
The challenges aren’t necessarily big life altering moments. They come more in the day-to-day of normal life. If we aren’t careful we can let those little things become bigger than they should.
Here is one example of how our different brains have shown themselves. There has been more than one time where we have had a conversation like this;
Doug – We need to take a trip for a couple of days. Just the two of us. It would be so good to get away. I’m going to make it happen.
Shelley – Who’s staying with the kids? (We have never lived closer than two hours from family so this is always a question)
Doug – I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.
Shelley – Well, we need to find a babysitter first.
Doug – Walk away frustrated…..
It may not seem like a big deal but if we are not careful, those can be frustrating moments.
What is happening is that we are thinking about the trip from two different angles. I commit to the idea (in my idealistic way) and assume we’ll figure out the survival of our children later. She commits to getting some important details in place first. When those are covered, she is all in for the trip.
I used to get fairly frustrated in those conversations. The important thing that I have learned is that neither angle is wrong nor right. They are just different and both just as important.
What is not good is when either of us allow selfish frustration to lead us in those moments. The selfish me can think things like, “This time away together isn’t as important to you as it is to me.” “You should be jumping at this idea. I don’t get it.”
When she lets selfishness lead her thinking she can have thoughts like, “He is being irresponsible and not thinking this thing through. He needs to slow down. He doesn’t get it.”
When selfishness leads either of us, frustration is inevitable.
Our differences are still teaching me how to hopefully love and lead Shelley better. Here are a couple of things I am learning.
1) It is not fair for me to expect my wife to change how she thinks just to make it easier for me. My job is not to make Shelley more like me. I need her to be different than me. I need her to ask different questions than I ask. I need her to give a different kind of input. I need her to help me think about things more fully.
In marriage, we need to learn more about our differences, embrace them, value them, and understand they are part of what God desires for us. When we do that, our differences can work together in an amazing way.
2) Most of the things that frustrate us are really not worth being frustrated about. This may seem obvious, but, as a married couple we are not each other’s enemy. I am not against Shelley and she is not against me. We are for each other but we are different.
To put it very simply, I need to get over myself more and listen to my wife. If we could step out of the frustrating moment and listen to ourselves, I am fairly confident that we would see that most of our frustrations are not that big of a deal. Most of them are not worth getting worked up about.
As the husband, I believe it is my calling to lead the way in selflessness. (See, Spiritually Leading My Wife) I don’t need to be thinking or communicating to her that she needs to quit being selfish. I need to first, own my own selfishness. Just because she thinks different doesn’t mean she is against me or what I am thinking. Her thoughts and ideas are good and make us better.
I am thankful she has never asked me not to be me. I don’t want to take that for granted or ask her not to be her.