What are your spouse’s greatest strengths? If you were asked to think for no more than two minutes about three to five of their strongest attributes or abilities, what would you say? Knowing your partner’s strengths and gifts is necessary in every marriage. You should be working hard to develop and highlight them in your life together. Sometimes your strengths and your spouse’s strengths are polar opposites. The key is not necessarily marrying your opposite or finding someone just like you. The key is understanding your spouse. In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter instructs husbands to “live with your wives in an understanding way.” The same applies to wives. God encourages us to ask Him for wisdom and understanding in all of life, including our spouse. You should know your spouse’s best strengths for various reasons.
First, your spouse will begin to make so much more sense to you. Maybe they have a tendency to excel with small groups of people but shy away in large groups. Or maybe they have an ability to gather a crowd but not always connect with individuals very well. Knowing your spouse’s tendencies and abilities will help you understand your them better. Next, your spouse’s areas of passion becomes more exciting. When you see how God has wired your spouse for connection, leadership or counseling, you can encourage them in a more specific way to excel in the things they love. Third, when you know your partner’s strengths, you will understand the weaknesses inherent in them. When you are conscious of this, you can help them channel their weaknesses back into a strength. Finally, when you know one another’s strengths, your marriage will grow. You don’t need to get caught up in the traditional roles of what you believe a husband or a wife should be doing. Whoever is more organized in the marriage should probably be the one balancing the budget. Whoever is a better with strategy should be the one routing and planning your family vacation. Play off each other’s strengths to build your marriage up.
If you want to build a strengths-based marriage, it’s important that you learn the different ways strength shows up in the world. First is in the form of underused strength. When people are unaware that they have a strength, they do not see a connection between the talent and the reward. They have trouble understanding why they act the way they do. As a result, their talent could be really effective and powerful, but it is underutilized. People often don’t enjoy the benefit of their strength because it is simply underused. You can call this a talent because it is loaded with potential but has no purposeful expression. Second, there is healthy strength. The person with this strength usually shows healthy levels of self-awareness and has applied effort to grow the talent they have into true strength. This becomes a win not only for the person, but those around them. Third, there’s overused strength. Low self-awareness is often the culprit of this. The person with this strength gets such a high from exercising their talents that they are willing to practice them, even when they hurt others. It often becomes bothersome to those around them. Finally, there’s strength counterfeit. In this situation, this person is not making the most of their strength. The challenge is knowing when you are confronting a counterfeit and not making the most of that strength.
After learning the different ways strength shows up, it’s important that you and your spouse challenge each other. Identify the strengths you have in common. If you have any, talk specifically about how you use that shared strength in your lives. It’s important to note that differences of strength are OK in your marriage. Differences are precisely what you need to become the person God created you to be. As Solomon noted, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 24:17). Differences can add richness, depth and texture in your marriage if you embrace them. Your differences can be your biggest asset as a couple if you acknowledge, identify and leverage them.
Next, look for strengths that might point you and your spouse in opposite directions and talk about how that plays out in your marriage. Ask yourself how differences cause misunderstandings in your marriage. A lot of couples see conflict as a time to bail – either because they were already looking for a way out or because they freak out and feel threatened. When our ego feels threatened, it activates our flight response. At this point, it can become even harder to get resolution on a conflict, only making matters worse. But instead of seeing conflict as a threat to a marriage, what if we saw conflict as an opportunity and a sign of growth in a relationship? This can only begin when we understand that conflict will inevitability occur in marriage. Because of this, we must focus on communicating in ways that are productive and loving.
Finally, talk together about where your strengths-based joy is, especially in the behaviors that seem so opposite, so that you can see where the good in each strength lies. You can start each day by acknowledging your gratitude for each other. Try sitting down with your cup of coffee in the morning and thinking of one strength your partner has and why you are grateful for it. What really energizes you about your spouse? What brings you joy? You may choose to keep a journal of your daily thoughts or keep a mental log. This will help you focus on the many reasons you have for being joyful in your marriage and show your spouse why they matter so much to you.