Readers often ask me if it’s possible to have a healthy, happy relationship with someone whose happiness style is vastly different from her own. The good news is, YES. And the first step is, of course, identifying your style and the styles of those you love. Knowing your style helps you understand that how you’re wired isn’t weird; it’s wonderful. And knowing your loved ones’ styles? Well, that information helps you to understand how to love them better, too!
My friend Amy Smith is here today, to show us what this looks like in her life. Welcome Amy (a Thinker) to the blog!
Post by Amy Smith
I suppose I have always believed that this was true, at least on some level. And yet, I never cease to be amazed at all the ways this plays out in my every day life.
I met my husband when we were both seniors in high school. We bonded quickly over similar interests—music, biking, and a joy for humor and fun. (It didn’t hurt that he was, like, a total babe.) Still, it didn’t take long to discover that we were also incredibly different, and twenty years later I am still finding new ways our different wiring plays out.
I recently picked up Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book, The Happiness Dare. I was delighted to find a “Happiness Style” assessment in the back of the book. I found myself nodding as I read my results. They were scary accurate. I became curious, and asked my husband to take the quiz as well. While I wasn’t necessarily surprised at his results, I WAS surprised to find that he was nearly the EXACT OPPOSITE of me.
My hunky hubby is a Giver through and through. You ask him to do something for you, mention something you’d like to have, or tell him about someone needing help, and he is the first to offer his time, energy and resources to do whatever it takes to help. He has helped people stranded on the side of the road, fixed cars for free (he is a mechanic amongst other things) and filled up gas tanks for travelers close to home but with an empty tank and no money to fill it. He has bought lunch for homeless people, carried heavy things for elderly people, and honestly been one of the most amazing people I have ever known for as long as I have known him. Though he is very intelligent and even has two college degrees, he doesn’t really like to read books and he is a man of few words.
And then there’s me, a Thinker to the core. If I don’t know what something is, my curiosity demands I research until I do. Not because it tortures me, but because I love learning. Because my secondary happiness style is being a Relater, I want to share all the wonderful things I’m thinking and studying and reading about and learning. It baffles me when people would rather engage in small talk. I detest small talk and while I may be smiling, I am simultaneously wishing the ground would crack open and swallow me whole. I like to be in meaningful discussions with a small(ish) group of people, and I am challenged, not threatened when we disagree, but I cannot bear small talk. I describe myself as a friendly introvert, and I confess I usually stash a book into my purse in case the party is a dud. I scope out a quiet corner to read and think and pray. I can occasionally be coaxed out of my nook by cupcakes.
The Art of Compromise
These differences can require a lot of compromise in our marriage. For instance, vacation to me means sleeping in, sipping tropical beverages, floating in the ocean, lingering in a jacuzzi tub, or getting a massage. Trever would rather rise before the sun and water ski, cliff jump, or golf. He likes movies with comic book heroes that engage in fight scenes that literally make my eyes glaze over, and more than once I have considered whether I could get away with using the kindle app on my phone, but I didn’t want to be rude and I try to support Trever because goodness knows, that man has sat through every episode of Parenthood, Gilmore Girls, every Austen movie, and a million period pieces and rom-coms. Plus he buys me popcorn and junior mints every single time.
Sometimes it is challenging for me when I want to share part of my mind with the person I am closest to on the earth. Sometimes it works out okay and I feel fabulous that someone gets me, even if they think I’m slightly unhinged. (The most interesting ones of us are, friends.) But you know, sometimes I can see HIS eyes glazing over, as I talk and talk and TALK. I have had to learn, and it was not an easy lesson, that he is not me. He does not think like I do and he does not show love in the same ways I do. That does not mean he loves me less or even in an inferior way.
He brings me little treats from the market, he cooks dinner and washes laundry and helps our children with their homework. He manages to kiss me softly every day in a way that still makes my insides turn liquidy.
For Better or Worse, In Sickness and In Health
Neither of us knew, when we took our vows before God and witnesses, that I would develop chronic, painful and debilitating autoimmune disorders in my mid-thirties. In many ways, dealing with an incurable disease is like mourning a death—a death to the life you once thought you would have. The past few years have certainly been the hardest in my life, and yet my Giver/Doer has loved me faithfully, tenderly, and without a single complaint. I marvel that a man who is so different from myself seems to love and care for me better than any other could.
I think a danger in reading a book like The Happiness Dare (or the Five Love Languages, or what have you) is that while they can be incredibly insightful tools to help us gain some understanding about they way we are and what makes us tick, we can become short-sided and stop there. We begin to expect others to realize this is who we are and so this is how we should be loved. Instead, we should go further than realizing how we can capitalize on our OWN personal happiness, and use this precious information to better understand the people in our lives who may have an entirely different way of experiencing happiness. We can step outside of our own “happiness style” for a moment and, armed with this new knowledge, we can interact with others in ways they can receive it best, so they know we care about and love them.
My husband likes to tease that because I am a Thinker/Relater, and he is a Giver/Doer, I am always thinking up ways he can give/do for me. (He can be an absolute imp, complete with sparkling, mischievous eyes!) This beautiful man has, for twenty years, cared for and provided for me and our nine children (yes, you read that correctly- NINE CHILDREN!).
I think the key to any successful relationship, whether it is a marriage relationship, a familial relationship, or a simple friendship, is communication. Learning the ways your loved ones receive happiness and being willing to indulge them in that every once in a while can create some terrific memories and some precious intimacy. And who knows, you might end up having a lot more fun than you anticipated, because there is almost nothing as wonderful as looking at the person you love and watching them experience joy, then later listening to them retell stories of your adventures to others, reminiscing over pictures and ticket stubs and souvenirs from epic road trips.
Besides, I can always bring a book with me to read in the car.
Amy Smith is married to a handsome beast, has nine children who are also her closest friends, and radically and passionately loves Jesus above all else. She is a coffee aficionado, a baby whisperer, a grace clinger, and divides any free time she has in equal parts of reading, painting and writing. She also attributes her sanity to the chocolate she always keeps stashed in her underwear drawer.
She is a contributor to the newly released book Soul Bare. You can find her occasional musings at www.alovestoryinthelilies.blogspot.com.
Find Your Happiness Style
Have you discovered your Happiness Style? Take my quiz, and find out in five minutes or less what truly makes you happy. Invite your spouse, friends, and kids to take the test, too!
Click here to get to the quiz.
Do you know the styles of your family members/friends? How do you nurture the happiness styles of people in your life when their styles differ from your own?
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