There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage, but everyone can have a great marriage. Some struggling spouses may respond: “I don’t see how; my wife is the opposite of me” or “I just don’t understand how my husband thinks.” Hope lies in the fact that awareness and appreciation of individual strengths in the marriage can narrow any divide. Who knows? Maybe you will create a marriage that will be a shining light for others.
As a leadership coach, I help clients identify and drive on their personal strengths. The CliftonStrengths Assessment (https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/) can identify and force-rank 34 potential strengths. Your top 5 become your Signature Theme and can provide insight into what brings you the greatest fulfillment (Evans & Kelsey, 2016). Your Signature Theme also becomes the basis of your worldview—the lens by which you evaluate and judge people, their actions, and the happiness of your relationships.
People who are like you tend to “get you.” We typically gravitate to people who share similar worldviews except in those instances were feelings of love, newness, excitement, and romance can cause us to choose someone who is different than us. In these cases, when the “love chemicals” dissipate, it is not uncommon that spouses question how they chose their mate.
Hope is just around the corner! Differences in individual strengths can help explain the emotional distancing, but knowledge of Signature Themes can also be the bridge-builder to greater harmony and closeness. There are no perfect marriages, because there are no perfect people. However, couples who understand their own and spouse’s strengths can work as a team in bringing together the powerhouse of all their gifts.
How do you get started on this journey? Take the CliftonStrengths Assessment and get to know yourself. Share your top strengths with your spouse and learn theirs. The more dissimilarity in your strengths rankings, the more likely you will have different priorities, perspectives, and skills. Awareness building around strengths should increase patience with your partner, because you realize your partner is not stubborn, uninformed, or unreasonable. Your spouse is only filtering the information through their own lens.
The next step is to brainstorm how each spouse can use his or her strengths for the benefit of the marriage. My husband and I only share the “activator” strength in our top 5, which means we are impatient with pause and want to lead and make things happen. We are focused on performance. When we partner on a project, watch out world. Many people probably feel left in our dust.
My remaining four top strengths are classified as either strategic or executing: (1) futuristic, (2) learner, (3) strategic, and (4) achiever. All of Darin’s remaining strengths fall into either influencing or relationship-building categories: (1) communication, (2) woo, (3) connectedness, and (4) individuation. Yes, “woo” is a strength.
When you look at how we apply our strengths, I’m the business leader, and he’s the sales leader. When Darin and I disagree on a customer approach, I typically defer to Darin, because I know he has a greater strength to understand and connect with customers than I do. When it comes to business strategy, I will usually seek Darin’s input, but he defers to me as that is my strength. When we disagree, it doesn’t divide us. We are instead grateful that we have so much talent spread across our marriage.
Take the CliftonStrengths survey! Find out your strengths and share your top 5 with your spouse over a date night.
Evans, J., & Kelsey, A. (2016). Strengths Based Marriage: Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other’s Gifts. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books.
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops. She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com