My husband Dan and I are two very different people. He likes to tell people, “She is like the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and I am more like Full Metal Jacket.” I like Antiques Roadshow and he prefers The Walking Dead. He is very social and needs to connect with people to feel energized. I am more introverted. I need quiet, alone time to recharge my batteries. So how do such opposites make a marriage work? Glad you asked. I have a few tips for you garnered through our 37 years of marriage. I am writing this post to wives, but the same tips apply to husbands.
#1. When those moments come that cause you to look at your spouse and wonder why you ever married, make a list (write it down!) of all the qualities that attracted you to them in the first place. They must have many great attributes because you chose to marry them, right? Sometimes in the busyness of life, we forget to appreciate our spouse. I have been guilty of this many times, especially as a young mom.
#2. Think of at least one thing each day that you appreciate about your spouse and TELL THEM. Write a note and put it in their lunch or briefcase. Send them a text or email. Praise them in front of your children or others. BUILD THEM UP! Men especially eat this up. They crave the love and respect of their wives. That is the way God made them.
#3. Encourage your spouse in their hobbies. My husband loves guns and going to the shooting range. I was not raised around guns and I did not feel comfortable around them when we first married. I have gone to the range with him several times through the years (kicking and screaming) because he wanted me to learn to handle a gun. It is not for me. The last time we went I told him, “This is a man’s sport. It is loud and dirty and no one picks up after themselves.” We laughed. Now, while I don’t enjoy shooting, I want my husband to be able to enjoy his hobby. I encourage him to go to the range and have fun. I even introduced him to a co-worker of mine who has since become a good friend and shooting buddy. You have to, at least, try your spouse’s hobby a few times, then if you don’t enjoy it, you can still encourage them to pursue it on their own or with a friend. The good news is that once your spouse sees how you encourage their hobbies, they will begin to encourage yours, too.
#4. Accept that there is more than one way to do things, and your way (or your mom and dad’s way) is not always right. This one tip will save you so much heartache in life. I grew up with a dad who could fix or build anything. When I married, I just expected that Dan would have that same ability. It took many years for me to realize that growing up without a dad around meant Dan didn’t have the opportunity to learn those skills. It was unfair of me to expect him to be something he was not. I have learned that it is better to pay someone to do the things that Dan cannot do rather than impose impossible expectations on him. My husband is happier and knows that I respect him for his many other fine qualities.
#5. Learn to embrace imperfection. Learn to laugh at yourself and your silly expectations. I wish I had learned this long ago. I’ll never forget a Christmas dinner with my husband and young children sitting around the table. I put on some beautiful Christmas music, Nat King Cole singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” It was going to be the perfect Christmas dinner, just like my mom used to make. But Dan, with his silly sense of humor, started singing, “Rudolph roasting on an open fire…” I was so angry! Of course, the kids loved it, but at the time, I thought he had ruined our special holiday dinner. In truth, the only thing that ruined it was my bad attitude and silly sensibilities. Ugh. Sure wish I could go back and change that.
#6. Recognize that God brought you together for a reason. Your spouse has strengths that you don’t have. You have strengths your spouse doesn’t have. God brought you together for this very reason, to compliment one another. It is a very good thing my husband and I are not alike. I have often thought how blessed my kids are to have Dan for a dad. His gentle, loving presence soothed many stressful moments. He taught them (and me!) many lessons on forgiveness and grace. He truly is a gentle giant of a man and one of God’s greatest blessings to me.
#7. Learn to laugh at yourself. Don’t be so sensitive and easily hurt. One of the joys of a long shared history is that we can look back and laugh at some of the silly things we have done, or mistakes we have made. We are secure enough in our love for one another, that we can laugh at ourselves. Sometimes all it takes is a word to make us crack up laughing, or a song on the radio to bring us to tears.
#8. Pray, pray and pray some more. Make your spouse your prayer partner. It is hard to be angry when you are praying together. Keep God at the center of your marriage and make it your goal to serve and honor Him. God will bless your marriage!
If you are married to your opposite, don’t give up on your marriage! Learn to recognize and appreciate each other’s strengths and build on them. God brought you together for a reason.