Do you dream of understanding your spouse better?
Wouldn’t you love to be fully understood?
- Imagine if your motivations were never in question!
- What would it be like to make your spouse feel deeply loved?
- What if you could understand each other’s underlying needs and be gracious in meeting them?
- What if you could find a way to enlist the enthusiasm of your spouse in areas of your own interest, while stretching into new ways of being and doing that thrill your sweetheart?
Last week, we talked about the Five Clues to Talent and how to watch for them–and then how to use that priceless information to call out the best in each other.
Today we’re exploring how to “speak into” each other’s worlds
—again, through an understanding of talent—
in order to generate new levels of intimacy, understanding, and trust.
(I’ll give specific examples after I explain the concepts and potential of this awareness.)
Here’s the key:
Once we get a clearer picture of God’s design in our spouse and grasp its importance, we can begin to fine-tune the delivery of our communication in simple but game-changing ways.
We can easily craft our communication to
- offer greater clarity of intention,
- create a feeling of safety for each other,
- elicit a more transparent and enthusiastic response,
- show our commitment to appreciating each other, and
- increase the spirit of freedom and fun in our marriage.
You see, as people loved into being by an infinitely creative and merciful God, each of us possesses a “unique and unrepeatable soul” (CCC 2275); so knowing how to communicate into each other’s worlds is like knowing a secret code that unlocks authentic connection and trust at a whole new level.
Stop and consider:
- If God’s design of each human being is good (Genesis 1:31), then to embrace each other’s natural way of being is also good and honors the Creator–as well as your marriage.
- If understanding each other’s design can root out misunderstandings, then we have the opportunity to offer each other a foretaste of heaven, where we will have the joy of seeing and being seen with perfect spiritual vision and love.
Here’s the upshot:
The very differences that often divide us are actually powerful keys to intimacy, if we take the time to discover them.
How to begin:
Now, many reputable assessments, resources, and programs can help us to understand each other better, and I recommend a few of my favorite ones, below.*
But of course, I’m going to encourage you to take the incredibly nuanced and personalized CliftonStrengths® assessment that has changed so many lives so powerfully, as a foundational tool that will turbo-charge everything else.
The CliftonStrengths® profile can help us quickly decode the following:
- What kinds of word choices makes a person feel most accepted
- What sort of praise rings authentic to them
- What’s really fun and energizing for them
- What drains or threatens them
- What stresses them out, so they tune you out
- How to build on your differences in ways that stretch you both enjoyably
- How to frame your own needs in ways that ignite their enthusiasm for filling them
- Ways to support you’re your spouse where they are naturally weak, without making them feel criticized
- The best timing for important communications
- Optimal approaches to conflict resolution (see next post)
- Ways to enhance marital intimacy for greater enjoyment and satisfaction (see last post)
Here are some examples based on real people
that I hope will give you a flavor for what’s possible.
Let’s say your wife has Empathy® and Activator® high in her talent themes. That means she has strong intuitive gifts and may be quick to jump into new friendships. She may be eloquent at self-expression and extremely accurate at identifying people’s emotional states. She’s probably a “deep sea diver” when it comes to relationships—establishing genuine intimacy with new acquaintances very quickly. Her natural enthusiasm probably makes her a charming influencer in her social circles.
Some tips for making this sensitive lady happy:
- She’ll be delighted if you encourage her to vent her emotions and recount her experiences, especially after a busy day full of both positive and negative experiences. Try, “What was your day like?” and then really focus on listening.
- If you want to know what she’s thinking about anything, ask “How do you feel about…” (rather than, “What do you think…”). The word “feel” intuitively takes her to her natural intelligence, and she’ll be more confident responding.
- Honor her need for the freedom to go with her gut when making decisions, but let her know that you’re there for her, if she’d like to talk through options. “Wow, that’s exciting/concerning/important. Let me know if you feel like throwing around options!”
- Other people’s emotions can drain her, so encourage her to unplug her exhausted feelings at the end of the day with some light TV viewing or quiet time alone, especially if she’s been socializing in a group. “What would relax you?”
Here’s another example based on experience:
Your husband has Deliberative® and Analytical® high in his talent themes. That means he loves to gather data and will make decisions with great care. He’s not satisfied to merely scratch the surface, either. He will contemplate his findings with serious attention to the underlying meaning of what he’s analyzing. He may manage the family budget with care, be diligent financial planner, or a great comparison shopper. He can stay calm and rational in the face of other people’s emotional outbursts, so he makes decisions based on solid facts, rather than impulse.
Ways to affirm and bring out the best in this careful thinker:
- Give him time to answer questions. If you spring an urgent decision on him, he’ll be stressed, so it’s best to give him a heads-up before the actual conversation takes place, and then be ready to answer a slew of questions. (He’s not being difficult. It’s how his mind works.) Try, “It looks like we’ll need to evaluate the situation. When is a good time to look this over?”
- Rushing him will interrupt his thoughts and feel threatening, so if you can’t give him a lot of time, say, “I’m wondering about something ….” (rather than, “What do you think?”) It’s less demanding and will pique his curiosity.
- Bring him thorny questions that need careful consideration. He’ll feel valued and respected. “The options are fairly complex. May I lay them out for you and get your thoughts?”
- Give him hints ahead of time, if you’re going to want time alone with him. He may need to prepare himself mentally for emotional conversations or physical intimacy. “Hey, I miss you. Let’s carve out a little time together, later.”
All of these strategies are built on respect and understanding, not manipulation. If you use this information to manipulate and control each other, you may well destroy the trust you’re aiming to build.
And that would be a disaster.
But lovingly studying each other’s strengths, struggles, and needs through the CliftonStrengths® model gives you the chance to take the two distinctive worlds that you currently inhabit and weave them together. You’ll be building a totally unique romance that will continue to deepen and unfold in beautiful ways for the rest of your life together.
Next week: How to put false conflicts to rest for good, and turn them into productive, affirming conversations!
Leave me a comment, ask a question, or share an insight!
* Also check out the following resources:
Strengths-Based Marriage: Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other’s Gifts, by Jimmy Evans and Alan Kelsey
Joyful Ever After marriage enrichment programs by Damon and Melanie Owens
For Better…Forever: A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage, by Dr. Gregory and Lisa Popcak
The Five Love Languages
The Four Temperaments