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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.

Strengths and Chuckles

After 11 years of married life, it isn’t hard to find situations where our personalities and gifts do not match up well. Moving, for example. Or me driving and Stacey giving directions, for a variety of reasons.

There are many other ways in which our personalities work really well together. On a recent trip, Stacey’s gifts as a planner once again balanced out my deficiencies in foresight.

Her planning gifts truly shine when it comes time to pack up our family of five for a trip. In an instant, she can see the logistics necessary to carry out any number of plans, as well as any contingencies that could conceivably arise. I can’t count the times when we’ve been away from home, and some odd situation has come up with the kids, and she reaches in a bag and pulls out exactly, precisely what is needed.

Me, I’m lucky if I packed enough underwear to last the trip. Not to mention what the kids might need!

I am an internal processor—I pull out various clothing combinations and sit and mull them over to see if they seem to match up right for the circumstances and weather I’ll likely face. Stacey makes these decisions and carries them out in an instant. She can decide and find and organize clothes for herself and three children quicker than it takes me to pack things for myself alone. She is a marvel to me.

I think one of the great gifts of marriage is the ways that our gifts complement one another and our strengths carry each other’s weaknesses. I find it a wonderful surprise that Stacey is not only gifted in a certain area where I am weak, but actually enjoys doing some of the things I would dislike and do poorly.

So, my job is to unpack, which is easy and fun for me. No decisions to make—just put things away. Kind of like doing a puzzle—I pull everything out of the bags and sort it all out. I think unpacking would stress Stacey out; I think she feels burdened by everything being out of place. She appreciates being able to just bring the bags in the house and know that I’ll take care of things.

Are there times when our strengths and weaknesses work against each other? Absolutely. The same strengths Stacey has in planning and structure turn into pressure points when it comes time for a quick decision. Often, I need more space and time to think and communicate. In general, though, we’re getting better at playing to our strengths when we can and working on giving each other what we need otherwise.

Being able to chuckle at each other’s personality helps, too. Stacey is amused when I’m confronted with what seems to her to be a simple, easy decision and I agonize over it, digesting and mulling. She sits back and pokes fun at me. To her, I’m sure I look like a turtle on its back.

By the same token, I’ll chuckle at her for making an instinctive judgment about how a situation should play out when all of the factors haven’t really emerged. I feel vindicated in my mulling when pieces fall together in their own time, but it drives her nuts.

We’ve learned to rely on each other when we can, and I’m grateful we know each other well enough that can laugh at ourselves together.