Last weekend, Jordan and I got out of the city, along with 28 other married couples from our church, for a marriage retreat. It was a welcomed time of relaxing, laughing, reconnecting with each other, and getting to know people from our community in deeper ways.
A big component of the retreat was participating in workshops led by our friends, James and Natarsha Roberson. They started a church in Brooklyn, just six months before we started ours in Harlem, and they’re all-around awesome people.
The workshops covered a range of topics, like how to have an “us marriage,” vs. a “you and me marriage,” how our family histories inform our present behaviors, and how to navigate conflict well.
The concept that stuck out the most for me was the idea that your spouse’s strengths and their weaknesses are uniquely designed for you.
I think most of us have an easy time getting the first part of this concept. When I look at Jordan and his strengths–things like his leadership skills, his compassion, or his ability to make new friends–it’s easy for me to see how those traits are a gift from God to help make me better or enrich my life.
But when I’ve thought about his weaknesses, I’ve generally seen them as things to be managed or perhaps even negotiated/trained away. That there’s no such thing as a perfect person, and hence, I must learn to take the bad with the good.
And then this weekend’s retreat challenged my thinking. If my spouse is uniquely designed for me, and he is a whole person made up of strengths and flaws, wouldn’t that mean all of his personality is useful and a gift to me.
One example James and Natarsha used to bring this concept to life was to go over the various responses every person has when encountering stressful situations or conflict. Some people go into fight mode — they confront, they argue, they get after dialogue, no matter how tense. Other people go into flight mode — they hope to keep the peace by changing the subject or even fleeing the scene. And other people go into freeze mode — becoming very quiet as they process the situation and decide what to do next.
In my own marriage, Jordan tends to fight, and I tend to freeze. In these moments, we can both find the other person to be pretty frustrating. But then James and Natarsha pointed out that there are positives to each response — fighters might be confrontational, but in other circumstances they are often assertive and strong decision makers. Flighters might have a tendency to retreat, but in other circumstances they tend to be very accommodating and flexible. And freezers might take a long time to process their thoughts, but they can be very strategic problem solvers.
For the first time, I saw how the thing I’ve found frustrating–Jordan’s argumentative style–is the same trait that pushes me to take risks and ask for what I want and be more decisive. And Jordan was able to see how the thing he’s found frustrating–my propensity to process internally–is the same trait that helps him create strategic plans whenever he has visions for a dozen different things swirling around in his head.
It got me thinking that perhaps even some of Jordan’s other weaknesses — like his propensity for leaving his clothes around the living room and his aversion for trash cans (seriously, what did a trash can ever do to you, my dude?) — might not have a positive side to them, but that doesn’t mean those weaknesses can’t still be used by God to create something positive in me. Jordan’s messiness challenges my desire for control and often pushes me to shift my perspective to focus on what’s most important.
My spouse’s strengths and weaknesses are uniquely designed for me.
Somebody cue John Legend’s “All of meeee, loves all of you. Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections…”
Really grateful for another amazing marriage retreat, which will hopefully help us to love each other well. How do you see your spouse’s weaknesses?
If you’re interested in more on marriage, you can check out 5 Lessons from an Amazing Marriage Retreat, my post from last year’s retreat.