Whether you’re engaged or you’ve been married for 25 years, this post is for you. I’ve come to find that husbands and wives often, without meaning to, assume things about each other. These assumptions will shape how you judge, forgive, and accept each other for years to come in your marriage. In order to have a relationship where you and your spouse are really jiving and thriving, you’re going to need to understand each other on a very deep level. So, if you’re looking for ways to do that, this post is for you.
1 | Have both you and your spouse take the Meyers-Briggs personality test
If you’re reading this as a spouse, there’s about a 95% chance you’re the wife (thank you, Google Analytics). As someone who is one half of a married couple and being a friend to many other married couples, I’ll also trust that what I’m about to say is also (mostly) true: you will be much more willing to take a personality test than your husband.
I don’t know why. It’s just a thing. Most all the men I know tend to brush off personality tests. Josh, although he’s interested in our personalities and thinks the tests are credible, hates actually taking the time to go through them and answer the questions. So maybe that’s your husband too. Either way, make them take the test.
This version of the Meyers-Briggs test is only 25 questions long and I’ve found it to be very accurate! It even seemed to narrow down the personality of my conundrum of a husband when the original test couldn’t.
Why should you and your husband take this test?
I actually recommend that you watch each other take the test and see how your spouse answers the questions. But! YOU HAVE TO KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. As hard as it might be to say, “What?! No, you don’t do that!”- don’t. Let your husband answer for himself and make sure he lets you answer for yourself. The reason I recommend watching your husband answer the questions is because your eyes may be opened to things about his personality that you may have seen but never noticed before. Questions like, “Do you perform better under pressure?” or “Do you tend to live in the moment or visualize the future?”
If, after you find out you and your spouse’s results, you want to take the personality test again together to see what you get helping each other with the questions, be my guest. But only do it after they’ve had a chance to complete it on their own. The reason I say to do this is because sometimes I think we can be observant of personality traits that our spouse might not be. Either way, it’s important to read through the specific descriptions of the personality types after taking the test and see if you feel like you agree with what it says or not.
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2 | Be the first to open up
I might be the first to say (but you probably thought it before now) that couples often get used to a sort of “norm.” There are certain things they do, and certain things they don’t do. Things they say, and things they don’t say. Without ever even talking about it, couples can establish these norms right under their own noses and I’m sorry to say that they often keep husbands and wives from talking about things.
Say you and your husband have been married for 3 years now (or very possibly longer) and neither of you ever got used to talking to each other about sex. Sure it happens, but do you talk about it? Not really. At least not without code words and PG innuendos. You might wish that you and your husband did talk about sex more openly but he doesn’t seem to be inclined to change that anytime soon so… what do you do?
For lack of a less cliche phrase: “Be the change!”
In my experience, we often hype up the awkwardness in our minds when we want or have to talk about something uncomfortable. In reality, most things are often only as awkward as you make them. And sure, if you and your husband have an unspoken rule of things you usually talk about and things you don’t really discuss, the first time you talk about any of those things may seem forced or awkward. But what I have found to be a good practice when talking about hard or awkward things is to over explain everything! For example, if you’re going to bring up something more or less awkward, maybe start by saying something like, “So I feel like we don’t always talk about this but it’s something that I feel would be healthy to talk about. I want you to know that there’s nothing wrong and I’m certainly not mad, I just thought we could talk about it.”
Caution: don’t just leave it at that. If you open a can of worms, you better be the first one to dive in or else you’re basically going to just catch your husband off guard and scare him to death. If you start a conversation about sex for the first time, don’t expect him to carry the conversation. If it’s about something else like his tone when talking to the kids or he hours he spends at work- whatever- just make sure to over explain yourself and be willing to do most of the talking at first.
This brings me to my next point:
3 | Ask questions
I’ve said this 1000 times before in 1000 past blog posts but I will always say it again. Ask questions! But. Don’t just ask questions. Ask the right questions. I’ve always been keen on asking lots of questions to just about anybody (based on what I’ve learned from my Meryer-s Briggs personality type, I like to learn how people think and why they do what they do). There was a time when I had just started dating a boy in highschool. One night as we were texting, I thought we were having a totally normal conversation when comes back and says to me, “I feel like I’m being interrogated.”
Safe to say that relationship didn’t last long.
This is why the type of questions you ask matters. A lot.
If you want to understand why your husband comes home and has a short temper with you and/or the kids, as much as it may go against your gut instinct, try not to ask, “Why do you always come home with an attitude??”
If you do, get ready to say hello to Mr. Defensive, because he’ll be the one answering that question.
Instead, try to first think of reasons why your husband may be coming home in a bad mood. Maybe work is stressful, maybe he’s tired, maybe he’s just hangry. Rather asking questions like the one above that mostly focus on how his actions make you feel (remember, we’re going against our gut instincts here) try to ask questions that get to the bottom of how your husband is feeling.
At this point, some of you will inevitably be thinking that your husband (if it is the case that he is chronically in a bad mood or something) is responsible for his own actions and that it shouldn’t be up to you to make him better. Maybe in a perfect world. But you, an imperfect person, married an imperfect person. And you have the ability to make most situations worse or better. So let’s work on the things we can control and the things we can improve.
4 | Read a book together
Now you might be thinking that I’m suggesting you read a devotional together. Sure, do that. But that doesn’t have to be the only kind of book you read together. Even reading a fiction novel together can be a great way to create conversation and see into the mind of your spouse. Just as long as you two are able to talk about it together when you’re done reading. If you’re finding that hard to do, maybe you should find a better book!
Here are a few of my favorite marriage books:
- This Momentary Marriage
- Sacred Marriage
- For Women Only and For Men Only
- Love and Respect
- Crazy Love (ok, not a marriage book but I guarantee it’ll change your marriage after it changes your life).
- The 5 Love Languages
Speaking of that last book…
5 | Learn his love language
Honest to goodness, when I am at my most caught up with myself, Josh’s love language is one of the most annoying things. Do you know why? Because it is almost what I imagine to be the complete opposite of my love language. And for a long time, I didn’t realize what his love language was, I just thought it was a weird quirk that annoyed the gardenias out of me. His love language is quality time, which is almost a complete nightmare for someone who’s love language is acts of service, like myself.
I’ll paint a little scenario that happens frequently to help you understand:
I come downstairs and see the house is messy. I’m already stressed out by the work I have to get done that day but who can focus with this mess?! So I start angry cleaning. Josh, who knows exactly what’s happening, senses that I need a little extra love in my life. So the quality time/physical touch person that he is stops me in my tracks (ie. hands wet and greasy from washing the dishes), turns me around, and forces me to give him long a hug. Now, in his world, this is totally making me feel better and less stressed because it would totally do that for him. But for me? I’m just trying to keep my stress pot from boiling over because now he’s keeping me from my angry cleaning.
“Deep breath deep breath deep breath.”
“He loves you he loves you he loves you.”
“Why the HECK isn’t he just helping me clean?!”
“Deep breath deep breath deep breath.”
I can sometimes get so caught up in my angry cleaning and the “fact” that his long hugs help nothing that I almost forget to hug him back rather than just stand there like an awkward robot. I try to remember that he is showing me love the way that he feels love and, although imperfect, is pretty sweet in and of itself.
6 | Spend time with his family
I’m hesitant to say this because it could go one of two ways. You may end up being annoyed by the fact that some of your husbands behaviors have been shaped by the way he was raised or it may just help you understand. When I first met Josh’s family, I was taken back by how open and forward they were with each other because my family was definitely not that way at all. At first, I thought that they were just pretty rude to each other but over time I realized that they all were really good at taking a joke and when they lovingly teased each other, the teased party almost always felt loved rather than offended. This helped me to chillax a bit when Josh would tease me because I could see that he was doing it simply because he wanted to have fun with his wife, not tear me down by pointing out my quirks.
7 | Pay attention to his intentions
Josh and I met at a Christian college where we had convocation every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, each time with a new and interesting speaker. One time, Stephen Covey came to speak, (he’s the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and I’ll never forget one thing he said: “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.”
That quote stuck in my mind from this day until now because it is so dang true! How many times do I leave my clothes lying around and figure I’ll come back and put them away later, but I nag Josh and get frustrated when he forgets to clean up after himself when he makes a sandwich? How quickly am I to jump to playing the self-righteous victim?
If you want to understand your spouse better, you’re going to want to understand them. This is going to have to mean giving them the benefit of the doubt, looking at their intentions, and seeing yourself in a very realistic light (rather than going with a gut instinct of that we are the better person and our spouse is incompetent).
So tell me what you think? Do you have a story where you were really able to get to know your spouse on a deeper level and understand them? How did that happen? What are your biggest struggles when it comes to understanding your spouse? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!!