"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

Fundamental differences

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash
My husband and I are very different. In various ways, but some of them pretty fundamental. Let's start with the bleeding obvious - I'm female, and he's male. Pretty fundamental, I would have thought. But we have other fairly significant differences too.

Exploring our differences
In our first year of marriage, the church we were attending hosted a marriage course, titled "Devoted - for a lifetime". We jumped at the chance to be involved in some good marriage education so early in the piece, both still carrying some tenderness from the failures of our previous marriages. We knew that, at the core of things, nobody ever gets enough help, so we weren't about to look this gift horse in the mouth. We were IN!

The course ran for 6 weeks, and at the end of session two we were all invited to complete the Florence Littauer "Personality Profile" during the coming week. Neither of us had ever completed this particular set of questions before, so we were intrigued and eager to jump in, thinking at the very least it could be a bit of fun.

While we were not interested in being pigeon-holed, we thought we could probably gain a little more insight into ourselves and understanding of the other. What we discovered was not particularly surprising, but at least gave us some vocabulary for talking (and laughing, a lot) about what ended up being some fairly fundamental personality differences.

We all have strengths (thankfully)
My strengths are largely classified (according to the Littauer assessment) as Melancholy - I'm analytical, persistent, scheduled, a planner, orderly, faithful, detailed, musical, loyal, and I tend towards perfectionism (not necessarily always a strength.......). I do have some strengths from the other 3 of the Littauer categories -  refreshing (apparently), cheerful & demonstrative (Sanguine), strong-willed (some would say not always a strength.......), self-reliant & independent (Choleric), and balanced (Phlegmatic). But far and away my main strengths are Melancholy.

On the other hand, my husband's strengths are both Choleric and Phlegmatic - he's resourceful, confident, patient, obliging, diplomatic (very), tolerant (very), a leader and a mediator. He also has some Melancholy strengths (analytical, faithful, perfectionist) but he's not very Sanguine at all. The funny thing is, when it came to the list of possible strengths he wanted to tick more than one in each row. "But I think I'm all of those things!!!" (he said). "Well, that's against the rules, isn't it!! You can only choose one!" (said his bossy, fussy, impatient wife) - the one that you think represents you MOST.

It turned out to be quite a challenging task, but even the process of completing the assessment revealed things about us!!

Only some of us have weaknesses (apparently)
My weaknesses are a mixture of Choleric and Melancholy. And I have plenty of them. If I'm not careful I can be bossy (see above), impatient (see above), headstrong, argumentative, intolerant, fussy (see above), skeptical, suspicious, critical, and unsympathetic. Nothing I didn't already know about myself, but oh dear, to see it all written in black and white...........!!

My husband, apparently, has no weaknesses. Yes, I jest, but as predicted by the facilitator the following week, my lovely man had struggled to relate to anything on the "weaknesses" list. He wanted to leave that part blank, he really didn't want to choose ANY of them!! And apparently this is not at all surprising for someone of the largely Phlegmatic persuasion!

Obviously he needed his wife to help him identify his weaknesses - which she was more than happy to do, in the nicest possible way, amid much laughter on both sides, thankfully. The reason he struggled so much, is that the test requires you to select, from a list of 4 words, the one which BEST describes you. The problem is, when you're strongly phlegmatic, you don't think that ANY of those weaknesses (what's a weakness???) describe you. At all.

But guess what? It turns out he can be undisciplined, disorganised, indecisive, nonchalant, reluctant, too-sensitive, headstrong, and (overly) compromising. Even if he doesn't admit to any of it!! Who knew?? (ummm, his wife.......)

So what??
After all this ticking, and adding up, and categorising, and general hilarity, what did we actually learn that benefited our marriage? Well, we learned that when we operate predominantly from our weaknesses, we add unnecessary challenges to our relationship. We also learned that even strengths have the capacity to become problematic. For example, if I'm excessively planned and orderly but my husband is overly obliging, then we're going to have an issue. So-called "strengths" can so easily become "weaknesses".

At the end of the day we both understand that the adage "I'm a sinner married to another sinner" applies to each of us. We still have lots to learn about ourselves and each other, and lots more growing to do, and we're looking forward to it.

As we continue on, we both want to become more and more like Jesus, our Saviour. While we don't want to use the knowledge acquired through this exercise to become an excuse for unhelpful ways of behaving, we realise that the insights gained can actually help us to grow, and in the process to extend grace to each other, as we "press on toward the goal".

14 comments

  1. Wonderful you both see the need to improve not only your marriage but your personally life in general. Found you on Blogger's Pit Stop Link Party.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We both understand that we are works in progress! I'm thankful to be married to a man who is also keen to grow and be sanctified by the Lord. We both know it's going to take time (umm, the rest of our lives........) so it's good to be able to have some fun as we progress! Thanks for your comment xx

      Delete
  2. ahhhhh - the opposites attract syndrome Sue! My husband and I are opposites too (I think we fit the opposites to you and your husband - I'm Sanguine/Choleric and my husband is Melancholic/Phlegmatic) so I choose to look at it as balancing each other out. His strengths balance my weaknesses and vice versa (and I try to remind myself of that when we're driving each other crazy at times!) God knows us and our partner and he is always there cheering us on as we battle through the differences to find the connections.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What first attracted me to Richard was the gentle, intelligent and humourous way he wrote, Leanne - we met online, after all, lol. Then it was his kindness that kept me interested. I'd never met a man who lived by the adage "there's never any reason to be unkind", it was eye-opening for me (and truly lovely). While we are definitely opposites in many ways, and therefore our relationship may appear "balanced", we are both aware that our weaknesses can be sinful responses, and we want to bring these before the Lord, who continues to pour out his grace and mercy within our marriage, and sanctify us both. Works in progress, as always!!! Thanks for your comment xx

      Delete
  3. It sounds like you got off to a good start in your marriage--learning about each other and laughing together about what you learned. I find those kind of personality or trait tests to be pretty entertaining and often educational. Doing it together with your husband sounds like great fun. I found your post on the Bloggers Pit STop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was lots of fun Christie, but as you say, also educational, and gave us a lot of understanding about why we each responded the way we did in particular circumstances. It also gave us vocabulary for talking about our struggles and sinful responses. It took me a while to realise that being impatient, being argumentative, being intolerant is actually not okay just because some personality test says that's "who I am". These are the things that I continue to confess and work on with God, who wants me to keep growing in wisdom and understanding of myself and others, but most importantly in my relationship with Him! Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment xx

      Delete
  4. It is eye opening to take these tests with your spouse! My husband and I did this and although I don't love putting a ton of stock in them, like you said, they're helpful in working together and understanding each other a little better. Fun post :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was a bit of eye-opening Susan, but also plenty of sheepish moments where we acknowledged that we already knew those things - good and bad - about ourselves. It was a fun task to complete together, but also sobering at times as we thought about how many years we'd just considered our weaknesses to be "personality traits" and therefore without too much thought we'd accepted them as unchangeable aspects of who we each are. We're now thinking differently about all this, which is challenging in its own way! Thanks for your comment xx

      Delete
  5. I took a CLASS Seminar years ago with Florence and Marita. I love her personalities study. I'm a Sanguine/Phlegmatic. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses really does help our marriage and truthfully our other relationships as well. Great post! Thanks so much for linking up at Counting My Blessings! God bless you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Deb. While it was a good "taster" I'm sure doing a seminar with the woman behind the insights would have been amazing! Thanks for your comment and hope you have a lovely day xx

      Delete
  6. Such an interesting post, Sue. I love your style of writing that is both light hearted as well as beneficial to our own growth. You are proving to be very popular on the Blogger's Pit Stop and we will feature this post in the next Pit Stop.
    Kathleen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so kind Kathleen, thank you! I really appreciate your encouragement and support. Hope you have a lovely evening xx

      Delete
  7. My husband and I have never done a personality profile together like that but I'm sure it would be interesting! I don't think we are as opposite as some couples but definitely still have our differences. I think God uses these differences as a way of sanctifying us - rubbing off our rough edges so to speak! I think it is great that you and your husband recognise this and seek to use it for your growth and development, it encourages me to do the same :-). Xox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm more and more convinced that this is exactly what God is doing, and I'm grateful for this process! All fun aside, it was also the beginning of a journey of viewing my "weaknesses" in a different light, as God has shone his truth (helped by a particular book I've been studying with a dear friend for the last few months, if you know what I mean.......). Thanks for your comment (and your friendship) xx

      Delete