What if your differences are actually a good thing?
We all get stuck focusing on our differences at times.
No matter how in love we are, there's still those little things about our partner that drive us nuts. And the farther we move along in the journey, the bigger those little things get.
What used to be a minor annoyance becomes a major repellent. Then we start noticing other things that irritate us even more. Sometimes we find ourselves looking back wondering how we ever connected in the first place!
The truth is, your partner is different than you. The first step to accepting those differences is to stop focusing on them — check out last week's article to learn 3 simple ways to do that.
Next, you've got to evaluate the positive ways your differences contribute to your family because realizing how you balance each other promotes unity.
It's your differences that make you a good team!
From Envy to Enemies
When Kim and I began dating, I loved how easy it was for her to "go with the flow". She seemed confident and carefree. A change in plans never bothered her. She adapted quickly and easily in most any situation.
I'm not like that. I am a planner and can easily get stressed when things don't go as planned. I envied her ability to easily adapt. I secretly wanted to be more like her — and sometimes still do! (I guess it's not so secret any more)
But, as the years have passed, I've noticed something different about her carefree approach to life. This same strength of hers has a downside. Sometimes Kim loses track of time and that puts us under pressure. Her "go with the flow" attitude can make us late for appointments — which drives me crazy. And on occasion her seeming lack of urgency is interpreted by me as simply not caring about what I find important.
This same quality that I was envious of in the beginning of our relationship sometimes turns us into enemies in heated conflict!
The truth is, our home absolutely needs her influence in this area. Otherwise, I would be running a bootcamp rather than raising a family. She has helped me learn to adapt to changes, loosen my grip on control and relax a little more.
This is just one area that makes us a good team — but we had to learn a few things to use our differences to our advantage.
Here are some ways that you can practice this too:
Identify Your Partner's Strengths
First ask yourself a few questions:
- What do I admire about my partner?
- What qualities did I used to enjoy about my partner that irritate me now?
- What qualities do I see in my partner that I secretly wish I had?
These questions are not always that easy. They are often hard to identify and difficult to admit.
Take some time to think through these questions when you're in a calm, positive frame of mind. Go to a place that makes you comfortable and happy. Maybe you need to take a walk, go to your local coffee shop or just hang out quietly in your living room.
Write down your answers and come back to review them often. Taking this simple first step can begin to change the way you look at your partner.
Once you identify these strengths in your partner — TELL THEM!
It's a great thing when you can admit to yourself that your partner has strengths that you don't have. It's even better when you can admit to THEM that you realize it!
Every one of us needs to be recognized for our contributions. Whether that's at our place of work or in our family. Some of us need affirmation more than others, but ultimately affirmation is a universal human need.
This goes beyond a simple "thanks" for something they did.
- "Thanks for making dinner"
- "Thanks for picking up the dry cleaning"
- "Thanks for not embarrassing me at that party last night"
That's not what we're talking about.
Affirming your partner's strengths focuses on their inherent qualities and their character. They sound a little more like this:
- "Thanks for the way you keep our family organized."
- "Thanks for how you always make time for the kids and for me."
- "Thanks for taking the time to think about doing the right thing when we are facing challenges."
When you see their strengths in action, tell them how you appreciate them in that moment. And here's a challenging question: How many unspoken affirmations exist in your relationship?
Don't let the opportunity for you to speak up pass you by.
Own Your Ups — and Your Downs
OK, now that you've identified what your partner brings to the table — be honest with yourself about your own strengths.
If you want to be a good team when it comes to parenting, dealing with Ex's or navigating your marriage — you have to know your own strengths as well as your partner's.
Identifying and owning your own strengths will help you have confidence when it's time for your strength to shine. Stepfamily leadership is a team effort, so you both need to contribute at the appropriate time.
In my example above, there are times for Kim to take the lead and help me relax and adjust. Other times, I need to step up to the plate and use my planning and organizing skills to accomplish what needs to be done. When we each own our strengths, it makes us a better team.
On the flip-side, we need to be humble enough to own our down side too. When I under-value Kim's strengths it is usually because I'm unwilling to admit my own weaknesses. But, when I own those weaknesses I can step back and let Kim shine in her strengths.
Take the time to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. Then compare it to those strengths you identified in your partner. Chances are you complement each other in a few different areas and that can make you a great team!
From Enemies to Enjoyment
Kim and I have had seasons in our marriage where we were in all-out war. We were enemies centered on our differences. Our conversations were peppered with conflict and annoyances
We've learned to recognize each other's strengths, speak affirmation to each other and we've been honest about our own ups and downs. Doing these three things have moved us from viewing each other as enemies to genuine enjoyment in our marriage.
The same can be true for you!
Take the time this week to work through these three team building steps. You won't regret it. Then come back next week for one more installment of this three part series where we'll focus on the value of commitment when our differences wreck our "fairytale".
QUESTION: What's one strength you admire in your partner? Leave a comment below…