When Jody and I began our courtship we were treated to quite a lot of advice. One of the things we heard quite frequently was that we were too different to make a good couple. Just what those differences were, well, differed according to the observer. Underlying this type of advice was the assumption that we needed a certain sameness in order to be compatible.
Jody and I are not the same. Not even close. She loves change and adventure. She wants excitement. I like things to stay the same. I’m pretty good about discussing exciting ideas. I’m less likely to be there when the creative ideas make me change my routine. She makes decisions quickly and intuitively. I tend to spend days tearing apart every little detail. So, yes, we’re different.
Differences do cause conflict. Thus there are many people who think that if we just clear up the differences we will have peace, tranquility, and comfort. And perhaps this is so.
But with the peace, tranquility, and comfort come stagnation and even a bit of boredom. Jody hates boredom. I’m OK with it, but only within limits.
There are several ways you might imagine a marriage such as ours to work. We could compromise on everything. She makes a decision in 30 seconds, I take four days. Easy! Give it two days to simmer, and then make the decision. I like Bach and Haydn. She likes contemporary praise music. Again, easy! Find a compromise service that uses elements of both. I like a lengthy, topical sermon that deals with the details. She likes a vigorous call to action. Surely we can find a preacher who mixes those elements!
Alternatively, we could go the conversion route. Either I convince her that decisions require more time and cogitation, or she convinces me that fast action is essential. She persuades me that in order to worship properly one must have active, exciting, “now” music, or I convince her that worship truly occurs only with the traditional and time-tested. We file down one another’s rough edges and try to become mirror images of each other.
We could consider the fact that we have different approaches to just about everything to be a strength, and embrace it. Or perhaps not merely embrace it, but celebrate it and nourish it. Are there moments when Jody’s fast, intuitive decision making is just what we need? At those moments, I need to listen to her. This decision needs to be made quickly. On the other hand are there times when an idea needs thorough consideration? Indeed there are.
It’s not easy to recognize which is the best approach at any given moment. The starting point is for me to recognize that quick decision making is a gift, a positive point, and for her to recognize that serious deliberation is also a gift. Notice that we do not give up our gifts in favor of the other’s, nor do we compromise and become something between. Rather, as a couple, we become capable of responding to a greater range of situations with a greater range of responses.
Tonight I’m going to interview author Bob LaRochelle about his forthcoming book A Home United, which is designed to help couples who come from different faith communities work through and benefit from their differences. Even those who come from very different faith communities can benefit from his advice, questions, and exercises.
For us, for example, the perception was that we would have difficulties just because we attended different worship services at the same church. There were definitely differences, but they were not problems. Rather, they were opportunities. And we continue to face these opportunities as we move along. It’s easy to see problems, and to hope the problems go away. If, instead, you are patient enough to discover how the differences can benefit you, you’ll reap great rewards.
Join me tonight at 7:00 pm central time (June 23, 2015) for this interview using the viewer below.
After we had been married for some years, we became partners in business as well. I remember friends asking me to make sure who is in charge so that we don’t have problems making decisions. This suggests that in the business relationship, one of us works for the other.
There are areas in which one of us rules. In terms of organizing events, scheduling, how much we can take on, and things that are related to that, Jody takes the lead. In terms of editorial practice (what format, punctuation, and grammar rules we enforce, for example), I take the lead. On any particular project, one or the other of us will be the lead editor. These areas are divided between us.
But on the big decisions we use a simple approach that has also worked in our marriage: Two yesses, one no. It’s consensus or we don’t take a move. If we’ve published your book, you should know that neither of us said, “No.” We don’t take on one of these major projects without agreeing. That doesn’t mean that we both like each book equally. Absolutely not! But we choose not to say that “no” unless we think it is really necessary. So there are “Henry” books and “Jody” books to go along with “both of us” books.
That’s three sets of strengths: Mine, hers, and the ones that result from the combination.
One little book that helped me understand how this works is PERFECTLY SQUARE™. I encountered this book before we were married, and just recently we’ve begun to distribute it. In the following video, you can hear author Dr. Dolly Berthelot do some readings from it and explain the basic concept. I think the “shapes” idea, especially when you think about combining shapes, helps understand how all this works.
And if you’re wondering how it is that so many of our books tend to fit what I want to talk about in blogs, I’ll admit that I’m often thinking about the subject of books I’m editing, so it’s not entirely unnatural that I want to write a few notes about it. That’s one of the benefits of my business! At the same time, one of the things that determines whether we’ll publish a book is the importance of its subject matter to people who are trying to live their lives and make things work.