Two Simple Things that Have Changed my Marriage

A couple of weeks ago, our family returned from a beach vacation.  Re-entry into real life was tough on all of us!  Jordan and I have both just felt so tired we still can’t quite get back into the groove of things.  At least 3498023 times a day we look at each other and ask, “WHY are we SO tired?!  What is wrong with us!?”

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Post-vacation fatigue aside, it has been sweet to reflect on our marriage since we’ve been back. It was so necessary for both of us to get away and have time to breathe and relax.

Although I believe every marriage is going to have its ups and downs through different times and seasons and it is never going to be perfect, it’s been a good year of marriage for us.  There are two very simple, practical things that I think have played a large role in this fact, so I thought I would share them:

1). Intent vs. Impact

We actually read this idea in an article about conversations on race, but we have found it helpful in marriage as well.

When someone communicates hurt, we tend to jump into defensive mode.  We naturally turn our focus to intent – “Well I didn’t mean to ______!”  “That was NOT my intention!” These defenses imply that the person hurt is being too sensitive and shuts the conversation down or turns it into an argument.  If we can swallow our pride and value impact over intent, it can really restore and deepen relationship.  If we stop for a minute and think, “Ok, regardless of what my intent was, this person is clearly hurt.  What I said or did had a negative impact, so let me figure out what is going on here” it can really change the whole conversation.  It helps us to take a posture of humility, where we listen and learn from the other person.  “Ok, you are hurt – tell me more.  I’m listening.  I’m sorry that I hurt you and I want to have a better understanding of what is going on here.”

Jordan and I have found that when we approach conflict like this and don’t dismiss each other’s pain, really good stuff comes from it.  As someone who represses anger, there have been many times where I feel really upset or experience some strong emotion about something – but I can’t always articulate what is going on with me.  When Jordan pauses and says, “I am sorry, something I said seems to be upsetting you.   What is going on?”  I sometimes feel frustrated that I don’t know the answer, but it invites me to take the time to process and figure it out.  And once I do, I always feel so much closer to my husband and I feel so appreciative of him – that he would love me enough to take the time to understand what is going on, rather than defend himself because his intentions weren’t bad.

And the same goes for the other way around.  If Jordan is hurt by something I have said or done, my reflex is to say “Oh come on, I didn’t mean THAT!” But if I can come off my high horse for 5 seconds, I realize that there is something there. That he is a person I am still getting to know, with so much depth in his heart that I do not yet understand.  This is a beautiful opportunity for me to apologize, ask forgiveness, and learn more about this incredible man that I have the gift of loving for the rest of my life.

People are complex.  We all have a past, life experiences, pain, hardships, false narratives, mistakes, fears and wounds beneath the surface. Sometimes something triggers us and brings these things to surface.  And sometimes we do not realize that something we say or do adds salt to these deep wounds in others.  I’ve learned that if we love one another, this is an invitation to take care and learn about what is going on.  And to be willing to see that we may have been wrong, and grow from the experience.

We are so quick to defend our own self-righteousness, and this is harmful.  Ultimately self-righteousness is damaging to our relationship with God, and it is also destructive to our understanding of ourselves (and of our depravity), and to our relationships with others.  Scripture talks again and again and again about loving one another.  And it always points to it requiring a giving of your life for the other – as Christ gave his life for us. We have to be willing to move out of our own way and to really see people, in order to love them.  This is something I have learned in marriage and it has really changed us and grown us closer to one another!

2). The Enneagram 

This is the part of the post where some of you roll your eyes because you’re sick of hearing about the enneagram and you think that there’s no way a personality test can really peg you and you don’t believe it.  And if that’s you, you’re probably an 8 ;).

If you can move past the current popularity of the enneagram though, I am telling you – it is transformational.

The enneagram is basically a personality test (the most accurate one I have ever taken) where there are nine different “types”.  Each person has one dominant type that they operate out of – and it really has to do with how you adapt to your environment, how you handle stress and conflict, and what your core felt need is.

Each of the nine types has a way that they reflect God – as we are all created in His image.  And they all have their own sin pull or sin tendencies.

(^This is all my own summary and interpretation.)

When Jordan and I both discovered what our types were, I think our jaws hit the floor as we were reading about them.

As we each read about our own type, we could not get over how accurate each of them were.  Sentence after sentence described so much of our lives and how we are each wired.  And sentence after sentence made us squirm and wince as we saw some of our greatest weaknesses and sin tendencies revealed and described in very accurate detail.

As we read each other’s personality type we were just shocked.  I remember thinking, “So this is a thing!?!  Wow.  You’re not just weird, this is like an actual thing that other people like you do too!”  We both realized how we are wired so differently, we relate to conflict very differently, and we have entirely opposite core needs.

And then as we read about our two types in relationship with one another, we were pegged right down.  I told Jordan, “It’s as if a little psychologist fly was on the wall during our last conflict and they wrote down, verbatim, what happened and how each of us responded!”

Jordan is a “1” – the perfectionist.  I am a “9” – the peacemaker.  It’s an interesting combination.

Since we function so differently, I have taken it upon myself to learn more about ones.  And I am not being dramatic when I say that it has changed the way I love my husband.  The more I learn about ones, the more compassion I have grown in towards my husband.  The things that used to drive me crazy about him I have realized have to do with him being a one.  So as I have learned more about what is going on there and what drives him, etc…  I have just grown in so much empathy for him.  And I’ve learned very practical ways to love him that I honestly would not have known otherwise.  And he wouldn’t have told me, because he just takes all the responsibility on himself (as a one does).  These things actually don’t drive me crazy anymore, now that I understand.  On the contrary, I find his perfectionist tendencies quite endearing :).

Used well, the enneagram does not just lead to self actualization.  It leads to repentance and growth.  It leads us closer to the Lord and helps us to see our own sin patterns.  It helps us understand others a little better and teaches us how to love them.  It can be a great tool for sanctification and spiritual growth.

There are so many resources out there for the enneagram, once you figure out your type.   A couple of quick ones that I would recommend are the enneagram institute website, and if you have instagram – follow the account “Your Enneagram Coach”.  That has been one of the most helpful resources for us!  I love how Christ centered Beth McCord is (the coach behind the account).  She takes the time to explore different elements of each type – areas needing growth and sanctification, how to know if you (or a your loved one) are operating in a healthy place or an unhealthy place, how to love each type, and she gives scripture that is helpful for each type, etc.   I think she has a test on her website – if you’re curious about what type you are and want to learn more.


So there you have it – two simple things that have changed our marriage! I am so thankful I get to be married to my husband and look forward to all of the ways we will grow closer and learn to love one another better with each year ahead.