A few days ago, I wrote about how marriage is a mirror for your weaknesses. While I’m grateful for that fact, even if it makes it hard to look at myself sometimes, that’s only a small part of the story.
Marriage may be a mirror for your weaknesses, but it’s a magnifying glass for your strengths. Marriage, done right, has the uncanny ability to magnify the individual spouses’ strengths. Over and over again, it provides a context for strengths to shine. And, more than that, to combine in such a way that special things can happen. While, to some degree, I think this is true for any relationship (e.g. parent/child, employer/employee, friend/friend), it’s especially true in marriage.
Just a little later today, there’s a situation Kelly and I have to confront that will require both of us to bring our strengths to the table. Thankfully, we’ve been learning a lot about understanding and embracing one another’s strengths here in our fifteenth year of marriage. To tell the truth, we weren’t always so wild about one another’s strengths. Sometimes we resisted or resented them. There were a lot of times when I would look Kelly and wrongly conclude that she was weak because she didn’t possess my strengths. She thought the same about me.
So many couples struggle because they don’t understand how God designed their strengths to complement. Worse, they fight against one another’s strengths, some to the point of giving up on one another. There’s so much to say about this subject. For now, I’ll say that there are three basic commendations I could give to any couple that needs to grow in this area.
Three marriage recommendations
1. Don’t focus on your spouse’s weaknesses.
We all have them. We should want to refine and sharpen one another. But, as long as weaknesses are centered in lack of ability or a personality trait, do we really benefit one another by trying to strengthen a weakness? (Moral weaknesses, on the other hand, do need attention and accountability.) Wouldn’t we be better served to identify and refine one another’s strengths? What’s the result of focusing on weaknesses? Discouragement. Frustration. Friction. What happens when you focus on strengths? Confidence. Effectiveness. Courage. It makes much more sense—and it leads to a much more pleasant relationship—to focus on building up one another’s strengths and refusing to focus on weaknesses.
2. Don’t expect your spouse to share your strengths.
It’s rare that a man and a woman come together possessing the same makeup, talents, skills, perspectives and strengths. Usually, God pairs up two fairly distinct individuals. I believe he does this on purpose. I think God delights in seeing a man and a woman—two people who could not be more different—unite and function as one. It is imperative that husbands and wives understand that their spouses will always, at the core, be distinct. It’s highly unlikely I will ever be as compassionate, merciful or thoughtful as Kelly. Sure, she’s helped to chisel away some of my rougher edges, making me more sensitive in the process. In the same way, she may never exhibit the strengths I possess in the same measure. God wants unity, not uniformity.
3. Don’t be intimidated by one another’s strengths.
This is tough. But, it’s only difficult because it takes a dose of humility. And, we all know, that’s a pill we hate to swallow. There’s nothing that will shut down a marriage more quickly than pride and jealousy. Nothing. Why did you pursue and fall in love with your spouse? Beyond the surface-level traits, you were attracted to your spouse because of his or her strengths. He was so strong. She was so sensitive. He was so creative. She was so protective. He was so laid back. She was so energetic. We need to remember that we fell in love with one another because of those strengths and never resent them. We need to build one another up and never tear one another down.
In ancient days, King Solomon observed this important truth:
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble, (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Husbands and wives must be willing to focus on magnifying one another’s strengths, to understand how they complement one another, to recognize how they compensate for weaknesses, and to encourage those strengths to emerge to an even greater degree. If they do so, and if they are willing to unite their strengths for a common purpose, there’s really no stopping them.