Tomorrow is my special man’s birthday! This time two years ago, we were freshly home from the hospital just in time for his birthday party – a party I stressed about for a whole year. A party I almost had to cancel due to an initially small medical issue which turned into an eleven-day, three-surgery hospital stay. After that experience, any birthday without tubes, wires, and a husband writhing in pain is a happy birthday.
Because his unexpected hospital stay pushed up dangerously close to his birthday party date – a party I was trying to keep a surprise as much as possible – I did not have the time or emotional energy to implement some of the special touches I envisioned. Additionally, we were not sure he would get out of the hospital in time and I was concerned about putting down non-refundable deposits.
Thankfully, he was released the day before his party and my brother-in-law graciously drove him to the event site where my parents, sister-in-law, and I had been working for hours! (Side note: I have no interest in a party planning career. Those of you who have that gift, thank God for it! It is a blessing! ~smile~) As he slowly but surely dragged his tired body through those doors, he noticed the pizza boxes in the corner. Though he loved the game night theme (his favorite way to spend time with friends), he was confused about the pizza.
Pizza is my culinary love – definitely not his. He loves Asian foods – Vietnamese, Thai, Korean – so pizza served in his honor felt out of place and unthoughtful. I could see it on his face and I felt so bad. I wanted to give him the night of his life, especially after the horrible ordeal he had just been through. It was supposed to be perfect, but time and circumstances downgraded it to good (which was not good enough for me; usually I am fine with good enough, but not in this case). When he saw the pizza, I am sure he thought, “This is my party. She knows I am not a big fan of pizza. Did she put any thought into what I would want?”
Lord willing, his next milestone birthday will be fantastic (because I will hire someone awesome to plan it! ~smile~) and he will be able to enjoy the hobbies and foods he loves with his closest family and friends.
It can be extremely frustrating and discouraging for couples when their differences frequently come between them. No one wants to be forced into a box and told you must like what I like and behave like I do. And, when we insist on our own way all the time, it sends a message to our partners that we do not value who they are and what they enjoy. In essence, our actions say I do not love you very much or you are not that important to me – which is not the message we should be sending!
If you learn to understand and simplify your differences early, you can save yourselves years of late-night pouting, eye rolls, and “Do you even know me at all?!?” conversations. Take it from a woman who knows. It is worth the effort!
- Study your personalities! Eric and I are different – and, that is putting it lightly. Some days, we want to shake each other and say, “How can you possibly not get what I am saying to you?! It is so simple!” (Though, less as the years have gone by!) Taking quality personality tests and understanding our differences has been a relationship-saver for us. We will never be alike, but we have a strong foundation for understanding why the other person acts in such strange ~smile~ One of our favorite tests, which helped us get off on the right foot early in our marriage, is The PAIR Test and we love it so much we have been offering it to our clients for a decade!
- Step into each other’s worlds. When we got married, my culinary palate was, shall we say… dull – Pizza Hut, Golden Corral, and the occasional (Americanized) Chinese food. Of course, that would not cut it for Mr. Viets, so he coaxed me (or dragged me) into the wonderful world of ethnic cuisine. Now, I love trying new foods and we occasionally take vacations dedicated to eating! And, early in our marriage, Eric sacrificed hours of his life to Andy Griffith Show episodes and Disney/Pixar movies just for me. (I consider that love, my friends. ~smile~) The other side will not seem as strange and mysterious when you make yourself step inside, look around, and get comfortable.
- Learn to Communicate. There are hundreds of tools out there to help couples learn to communicate better, and many of them are wonderful. The more you understand about each other, the easier it is to communicate. Unfortunately, so many of us do not take the time to understand our partners. Understanding each other’s point of view helps us communicate even if we naturally see the world in completely different ways. When Eric behaves or thinks in a way I would not behave or think, I remember his personality type and better understand his defaults. Sometimes it scares me to think of us being in a marriage without having studied each other‘s personality type! We would constantly offend each other (though not on purpose)! Once you understand how your sweetheart sees the world, then you can learn to speak each other‘s languages. Once you learn to speak each other‘s language, you can communicate in ways which would otherwise be impossible.
- Go your separate ways – sometimes. Early in relationships, couples often make the mistake of assuming they should spend all their time together. To keep from feeling smothered, and to enjoy your differences, get away from each other once in a while. When we try to cram ourselves into every aspect of each other’s worlds, we get frustrated and annoyed – and our body language shows it. Rather than suffering through all of your sweetheart’s hobbies every day, make a point to spend some time apart doing what you love. Just make sure you spend twice as much time together doing what you both
- Do not ignore the negative feelings your differences bring. Instead, work on one issue at a time. Pushing issues aside leads to resentment and often break ups or divorce. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. When you get tired, take a break. Use a counselor if you need to. Lord willing, you will have a long time together to resolve issues. Do not feel the need to become perfectly in sync within the first year of your relationship.
- Use your differences as a classroom. Though it has been trying at times, having a husband who sees the world through a different set of eyes has opened me up to a whole new set of experiences. By looking at our differences as a chance to grow instead of a constant hindrance, I am able to change my attitude towards him and see him as a teacher rather than an adversary. His influence has helped me change my perspective and broaden my horizons. The less I see him as an enemy, the fewer conflicts we have. (Imagine that. ~smile~)
- Celebrate your differences. “Laughter is ten times more powerful than a scream.” – Monsters, Inc. I cannot count the times I thought, fussed under my breath, or cried out to God saying, “Why does he have to think the way he thinks?! Why can he not see the world the way I do! Why do we have to be so different? When is it going to get easier? When is it going to get fun?” And, sometimes I did not go to God in my grief but straight to Eric, spouting some version of, “Why are you like you are?! Why?!?!” As you can imagine, those conversations rarely (i.e., never) produced good fruit. ~smile~ Though this does not work 100% of the time, I realized if I find the humor in what frustrates me, I can digest it more easily. And, when I specifically seek out the good in Eric rather than finding fault with our differences, I am less likely to say or do something rash. Celebrating your differences will not always be easy, especially when you are angry. Trust me; someday you will be extremely furious with the man or woman you currently find perfect in every way. So, if you specifically look for the positive in your partner when you are not angry or frustrated, you will have an easier time retrieving those findings when you are discouraged, heartbroken, or breathing fire.
Opposites attract. If two people just alike get married, one of you is unnecessary.? Larry Burkett
Eric and I still have a journey to go in understanding each other fully and completely; but, thank goodness we are so much further along than we were in the beginning. There have been days when I thought, “I cannot do this anymore! We are too different.” We both give all glory to God for the fact that we are still together and still able to pour our lives into other couples.
Through some of our most trying seasons, special people in our lives helped us see the bigger picture and kept us moving forward. It is our honor to do the same for others when we can! This is why we do PreEngaged. We know the struggle all too well.
Happy Birthday to my strong, independent, lover of learning. My complete opposite. My comic relief. My husband, Eric. On the good days, the sorrowful days, and every day in between, you are a gift. May this next year be your best year yet!
Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other. – Tom Robbins
How will you simplify the differences in your relationship?