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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

Another Difference?!

It goes without saying that Joshua and I are VERY different. I mean beyond the stereotypical male/female differences and even beyond the introvert/extrovert differences. Sometimes it seems as though we have significantly more upon which we differ than we hold in common.

The newest example of this happened just this Thursday morning. I needed to get my workout in, but I also needed to check in with Joshua about how the day was going to unfold regarding work and the children on summer break.

Now, I like nothing better than to multitask. Joshua, of course, likes nothing less than to multitask. Here’s what happened:

I go downstairs to start my workout and ask Joshua to come down and talk with me. He shows up. I then download my bullet points of things we need to check in about. He affirms and then turns as though to leave. I said, “Hang on…now I would love to hear where you are with all of this.” But he clearly still wanted to leave and said as much.

At this point, we got into The Discussion About The Discussion (TDATD). (That is what I call it in my head whenever this happens). I h-a-t-e TDATD where we talk about why one of us is fine with A-The timing of our talk; B-The content of our talk; or C-The tone of our talk — and the other is not fine with it. I guess generally I am the one that is fine, and Joshua is not.

In any case, in the midst of TDATD, it became clear that Joshua does not want to bother me when I am working out. He wants to give me space in times like this…which is exactly what HE would want most if the situation were reversed.

I, on the other hand, like nothing better than to have him with me while I am working out because it not only helps me pass the time during a workout, we are also able to be productive with the time for the family.

Ok, by the end of my workout, and certainly by the end of the day, I thought this entire scenario had reached resolution. But, I forgot one of the cardinal rules of marriage disagreements: the presenting incident is only what is on the surface, there is likely an underlying issue and underlying values connected to it.

See at the end of our TDATD, we came to an understanding about discussions during workouts. We resolved that incident. But we didn’t name, or even see for that matter, that it was connected to a bigger underlying issue — an issue that has actually come up fairly consistently since we moved.

Then, this weekend, we had another small incident (something about timing of family activities and some extra work that needed doing).

At one point in our discussion this weekend Joshua says, “I don’t organize time, I organize ideas.”

DING! Light bulb.

THAT is the underlying value that both of our discussions this week tap into. We were discussing the incidents as they came up, but the underlying issue is that we organize in two VERY different ways.

My default framework is time: how much we have, how to use it, what fits, what doesn’t, what our primary priorities are, etc…

Joshua organizes based on the value of priorities. There are ideas that need attending to and the most important ideas need either the most time or to be treated first…Or something like that. Frankly, it would be disingenuous of me to pretend like I understand, because I don’t. This simply isn’t the way that I work.

But it is the way that Joshua works, and it brings an enormous depth and richness to our lives. And probably could bring even more if, rather than struggle against what is lacking in one another, we choose instead to mutually value our differences. Those differences could be an opportunity for our family to thrive more fully.

Case in point: once we realized our underlying issue, I asked Joshua if he would like help organizing his priorities time-wise. He eagerly agreed. So, I named off two or three thoughts I had regarding how to distribute his work time throughout the week.

Now, these were thoughts that I had weeks ago. They seemed like obvious ways to use time efficiently and effectively. But they are not obvious for Joshua. He met each suggestion happily with a nod and appreciation for how it would give him the time and space he needed for work and also free up the rest of his time for the children, household matters, or me.

It is crazy to me sometimes how different we are.

But navigating the differences we discover with gentleness and a genuine regard for the gift that they could be to our relationship is making us better people. I can’t help but think that it is in dealing with our differences – in learning not to “tolerate” or “accept” but to LOVE even these parts of one another, that we become more Christ-like. Ultimately we are drawing one another closer to heaven…where I am hoping there are no issues about time and no disagreements about how to spend it.