By Steve & Michelle O’Leary
Editor’s note: The following blog is a submission from the Worldwide Marriage Encounter and focuses on being aware of difference and how to communicate.
We are two separate beings with individual backgrounds, tastes, experiences and personalities. This merger of individual identities is the confluence that blends two separate streams of consciousness into the river of marriage. Even though I respect and admire Michelle more than anyone I have ever met, she still frequently frustrates me to the point of exasperation. She is a bewildering mix of quandaries, enigmas, contradictions and vexations. And I am no better. We are two unique individuals with opposing personalities and habits.
One glaring example is the time we spend in the bathroom. In the morning, Stephen typically showers, shaves and gets dressed all in 10 minutes or so; 15 tops if he is taking his time. But I, however, use considerably more time and resources getting ready for the day. Because I like my showers so hot I sometimes overheat, so of course I need to cool down before I start with my hair or getting dressed. This time when I appear to be doing nothing frustrates Stephen, especially when there is a deadline.
Of course, the end result is a lot nicer than how I turn out. In many things we do, we are diametrically opposed. For instance, whenever we go to a large gathering, I can promise you that the absolute strangest person in the room will approach Michelle and talk to her. She really enjoys chatting with different kinds of people who approach her. I, on the other hand, tend to discourage these interactions. Frankly, they make me a little nervous.
I can be really disorganized whereas Stephen likes to know where everything is. Being late is not something about which I get worked up and Stephen feels anything later than 5 minutes early is disrespectful. I like fruits and vegetable and Stephen prefers meat and potatoes. I am more loving and intuitive and Stephen is more analytical and logical. I am flexible to change and comfortable in the face of surprises, but Stephen needs to be prepared and organized in order to feel comfortable.
However, because we recognize the value of these differences, we are able to our own strengths to compensate for and even complement the other’s weaknesses. It makes us a formidable team, both in our ministries as well as in our marriage. We believe that as a team, we are stronger than as a sum of our parts. While her differences may annoy me from time to time, I have come to understand the value they bring to our relationship. We have worked out our roles in marriage so they are complementary, allowing us to thrive by working together instead of against one another.
This does not mean that we are not equal partners, or that one is more dominant than the other. Equality in our relationship does not mean sameness – it means each of us is valued for the contribution we bring to the table. In fact, the very differences we have are perhaps our greatest strengths when they are recognized and used effectively instead of being at odds with one another.
How do our personality differences impact our ability to work as a team? Describe in Loving Detail.