Matthew 19:6 -“So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Being prepared for marriage is wise. Before you married, were you required to see your pastor, father or rabbi? Did you do any sort of premarital counseling? The pastor that performed our simple, backyard wedding spoke to us one time before the ceremony. I think it may have lasted 5 to 8 minutes. That simply was not enough time to get to know us as a couple, and I remember getting no homework whatsoever. I naively assumed that if the pastor had given us the go ahead, then we would be just fine.
Now that we have survived countless fights, episodes of screaming, sulking, ignoring each other, withholding sex, writing nasty notes, talking behind each other’s backs and more, I wished that the pastor would have at least offered a few nuggets of advice, or maybe even a few relationship books to read before we journeyed off into the unknown. We were not prepared for the ugliness that can come when two very different people are put into the same space…all the time…forever.
The beginning of our marriage was amazing. We were young, in shape, good looking and had very few bills. Our days were spent working out together and our nights were spent eating out or enjoying the company of other young couples. Eventually, we ended up in what I refer to as “middle marriage”. In this phase, we seemed to fight about everything. It seemed as if we were totally divergent personalities speaking different languages. Enter my two favorite books. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. These two should be required reading for anyone in a relationship. My summary will only scratch the surface of the direction these books can take a relationship. In The Five Love Languages, Gary proposes that there are five distinct ways in which we show love. We gravitate primarily towards one or two of those “languages” while our mate seldom “speaks” the same language. The languages include words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch.
As you can imagine, if my favorite language is quality time then all I really need from my husband is to know that he wants to spend time with me. That could include sitting in the backyard on a summer day, hanging out with me while I weed in the garden or any other mundane activity done together. But, if his love language is acts of service, he feels that spending his time chilling in the backyard could be used more wisely. He feels loved when I have a good dinner for him when he gets home from work, when the checkbook is balanced or the house in order. Except for having a good meal, I could care less if there are magazines and shoes all over the living room. Can you see where I was knocking myself out chasing him all around the house to just spend time with him and he couldn’t understand why I was chasing him all over the house instead of doing the two or three loads of laundry on the washer or cleaning out all of those gross little hairs in the bathroom drain? If I learn to speak his language and he learns to speak mine, we both win.
In the second book, Personality Plus by Florence Littauer, be prepared for a fun personality assessment that helps you realize your own nature as well as being able to identify other people’s disposition. Her four temperaments are right from a man she was inspired from (Tim LaHaye) who wrote about the four temperaments originated by Hippocrates. Her interpretation of sanguine, melancholy, phlegmatic and choleric are strikingly accurate ways to describe our make up.
My husband and I took the test in Chapter Two of the book and saw that we shared one trait while differed in our second strongest. His primary spirit was that of a melancholy: a person who sees the glass as half empty, wants to know the facts and figures, likes to be alone, very organized, doesn’t like chaos, to name a few characteristics. I, on the other hand vacillate between choleric and sanguine. The choleric likes to be in charge, can steamroll over people’s feelings, wants to get the job done yesterday, while the sanguine traits include not always following through, wanting to be the life of the party, often loud and the sanguine may not take him or herself too seriously.
This is where my personality loves dragging my husband all over town to do errands because I think it is fun and I am spending my time with him. But, in his perception, he just wants to be left alone to go for a run and do some deep thinking. He is annoyed that I found three people to chat with in line at the grocery store and added two impromptu errands since we were out and about anyway. My sanguine and quality time personality does not mesh with his melancholy, acts of service character.
Solution? I go and get our errands done alone while he goes for his run. The boring errands showed him my act of service toward him, and because he was able to complete his run, he now has some quality time left for me. Perhaps this example is a little bit trite, but honestly, understanding your partner is not that difficult. Often times we just choose to make it so. As we always have at least two choices in life, let’s choose to work on ways to love, appreciate and understand the one we are committed to.