A Marital Affair: Grace vs. Ridicule
"Strength lies in differences, not similarities." Stephen Covey
My husband and I are opposites in a lot of ways. He's more introverted and recharges his battery best when alone. I am the extrovert in the relationship and have a higher tolerance for people. They don't drain me quite like they do him. Well, some of them do, but you know...in general, they don't.
I prefer things to be neat and orderly. I like to have a plan well in advance, and I like to follow the plan. Being prepared makes me feel more in control and calm. He flies by the seat of his pants most days. He works by a priority list of what has to be done right this minute. And if it doesn't have to be done right this minute, wait until it does.
He likes that shirt that says, "Procrastinators of the world unite....tomorrow." The truth in that quote makes me laugh.
I like to have things done weeks in advance, if possible. My quote is more like, "Why put off until tomorrow what you can get done today." Organization is my thing. He is organized in some areas of his life, but it is only because he has to be and not because he prefers to be. It is not his natural tendency.
One of the main argument themes throughout the course of our ten years of marriage has been over cleaning and housework. Seriously, that is what we argue about the most. In the grand scheme of things, it is silly. I like things so so, and a mess doesn't bother him. Don't get me wrong, he doesn't do nasty, but clutter doesn't seem to phase him. He reminds me often, "We DO live here, you know."
My OCD kicks in high gear sometimes..okay, okay, a lot of the time, and I feel a bit chaotic inside when I see things in disarray at my house. I have to remember to breath.
Case in point. Compare our bedside tables. I like mine neat and clean. I have a devotional book, simple coaster so as not to water mark my night stand, and a lamp. Everything has a place in my world.
His table is...well, a huge mess. He doesn't even care that it doesn't match our other bedroom furniture. It makes me a little crazy on the inside each time I get a glimpse of it. He has a basket full of junk...receipts, pens, DUCT TAPE, for the love, empty wrappers and who knows what else is in that basket. He has catalogs from work, a watch that has had a dead battery for months, an old binder from the nineties with baseball cards in it, and a glass he rarely takes to the sink. The remote controls are in disarray and scattered here and there.
I typically keep a running list of things that have to be done. I live by the calendar on my phone. I have a dry erase calendar on the fridge that I make notes on. My husband can sometimes have so many work related things on his mind that he forgets unless I remind him several times, so I have my list and his. It has irritated me to no end many times. MANY TIMES.
We have two kids, so I shouldn't expect perfection, but my heart desires perfection. It's one of my character flaws. I see a disaster and he sees a mess that will take maybe five minutes to clean up. Our brains are wired differently in that way. He reminds me that he fought perfection when he was a child, and he realized it wasn't worth it. I guess he's a faster learner than me. But I have been guilty of holding it over his head and knit picking his cleaning efforts never allowing them to be quite good enough. I admit, I have been downright hard to please.
Last week, I attended reCreate in Birmingham at Church of the Highlands with my church sisters. It was absolutely amazing. During Lisa Bevere's sermon, she talked about allowing our strengths to cover the weaknesses in our husband. Immediately, I felt extremely convicted. I have always known that God put my husband and I together to balance one another out, but I have taken it for granted and not really let it sink in as to what it really means. It was in that moment that I sent my husband an apology text letting him know that I was sorry I didn't allow God to use my strengths to cover his weaknesses with grace. But instead, I allowed my strengths to cover his weaknesses with ridicule. I have gotten really good at pointing out what he doesn't get right, and I vowed to be better at be thankful that we are different. I want to be better at saying, "God, thank you for giving me the gift of organization so that our family can live a little less chaotically."
When I got home, we talked about it face to face. It was a powerful moment in our marriage.
This weekend as I tidy up our bedroom, I smile, for the first time, at his bedside table. It's the same bedside table that annoyed me a few weeks ago, but I am not the same. The title of the reCreate conference was "CHANGED," and I can say that I have been. I accept that he doesn't have to operate like me. He was created and wired differently. He doesn't keep it this way to annoy me. It's just the way he is comfortable, and really, what harm does it do? None.
The mess reminds me that it's okay that we are different and that life is not and never will be perfect. It reminds me that things can be messy and the world won't end. It reminds me that I need to appreciate the good husband and father he is no matter how disorganized he may be. He is there where it counts. He loves us unconditionally, supports us, and leads our family to a deeper walk with the Father. He always helps when I ask him--you know--during those rare times that I stop being stubborn and ask him. He pitches in around the house to lighten my load, plays with the kids, and makes sure we know how much we mean to him.
After all, isn't that what really matters most?
I'm choosing to embrace the diversity we bring to our marriage. I choose to embrace the mess and thank God that my husband is still here by my side. Allowing our strengths to cover our spouse's weaknesses with grace instead of ridicule is a choice. Many years ago, I trusted God to send this man to me, and He knew what I needed. And we truly are better together.
P.S. If you have never taken a personality assessment, I encourage you and your spouse to do so here to learn more about what makes you do what you do. Understanding one another is half the battle.