About a month ago, my wife and I bought a game that our friends introduced us to when we were living in Boston. The game is called “Tickets to Ride”. The board is pictured above. You get one set of cards that assigns your your routes (ie: Los Angeles to Miami). You also get colored cards to put down trains to achieve your routes. Anyways…we love this game. When we first got it, we played religiously.
Something strange happened while playing that has never happened in 10 years of marriage…my wife beat me. She didn’t just beat me, she beat me bad and often. Right now her record against me is 20-3!!! Why is this strange? My wife sucks at games. She has never beaten me in Scrabble, Monopoly, cards, Uno, any video game, etc. Now all of sudden she is beating me like a drum.
I am very competitive (as is my wife) so I naturally start throwing temper tantrums. I would yell at the game. I would yell at her. I would make fun of the game because it would not let me win. After huffing and puffing for two weeks I whimpered to my wife, “Why can’t I win? This is so frustrating.”
Wife: You wanna know why I am so good? (she is smiling as she says this)
Me: Shut up!
Wife: No seriously, there are two reasons why I am able to beat you. First, when there are only two players (you can play with up to five) there are very few variables. I am better in life and this game when my environment is controlled not chaotic. If there were more players there are more variables. Second, we start off with 3 routes. You try to fill your routes as fast as possible. I look at the big picture and see if there is a way to fill all my routes in one continuous flow. Remember the person with the longest train line wins an extra 10 points. I guarantee that you would be better if we played with more people. Even though I am more big picture and think ahead more than you, you are more strategic when life and stuff comes our way. By the way…she was totally right. I made the older kids play with us, I fair much better because it gets crazy.
My wife hit it on the head. She articulated two things that got my mind going and thinking. She articulated why we thrived in our marriage and why we struggle so much in our marriage. Let me explain.
Tickets to Ride revealed that my wife is big picture. She is a thinker. She measures thrice, cuts once. Me…I am more catalytic and like to jump start things without thinking about it. I build planes while flying them. My wife is very slow to get things going. I am very fast. She is slower but makes fewer mistakes. I am opportunistic but I (or my wife) will have to pick up after my mess.
What’s the point? One of our strengths in marriage is that we have generally made good decisions and have stayed on the same path. How? My wife and I talk about everything all the time. We never make decisions without talking thoroughly with one another. We would love to tell you that we do so because we are great people. We are great people : ) but that’s not why we consult each other. 50% of why we consult is because we love each other. 50% is because we are both insecure in different ways. My wife is smarter but doesn’t like pulling the trigger. I am not as smart, but I have no problem pulling the trigger so my catalytic side has some use in our family. I go to her both out of love and insecurity. While I love pulling the trigger I hate the burden of responsibility and blame so I will ask and ask and ask and process so that the end product is not my fault.
Although we consult each other 50% because of our insecurities, we have made good decisions overall because we accidently relied on each other’s strengths.
The game not only revealed why we have done well in our marriage, it also highlighted why we have struggled in marriage. You see like lots of couples after 10 years of marriage we felt like we are fighting about the same junk over and over and over again. Here is the problem when this happens…you get more bitter and the fights get more intense, not less.
So what did this game reveal to us? My wife and I have very different gifts. I will end this blog with a resource for determining your strengths. For now, just know that we have very different gifts. According to Strength Finders 2.0 (my favorite talent assessment book) three out of the top five talents my wife has are related to thinking and intellect. Her other talent is that she is very responsible. This sounds so stupid but I will explain more about this book later. My wife can do things she hate. I can’t. If I don’t love it, I quit. How is this a strength? Well no matter how much you love something, you will hate aspects of it. My wife won’t quit. She is also an achiever which means she is a list maker and finds fulfillment in checking things off for a sense of progress and achievement.
I am catalytic, communicator, focused, strategic, and have a strong desire for significance. All this to say I am very different than my wife. So what is the point of sharing all of this? You see I have a beautiful quiet office that I go to and where I take my time and do my work. My wife has to drop off #1-4 by 8am. Then take #5 to another school by 9am. Then she has to pick up #4 and 5 by 11:30am. She has to go back to school at 2:30pm to pick up #3 and then wait till 3pm for #1-2 to come out. She gets home a little after 3pm and then feeds the kids a snack. Then she helps them with their homework. Starts dinner, feeds them, and cleans up. Then the kids get in the shower and ready for bed. She reads to them then tucks them in. An hour later I come home from the office and demand sex. Hahaha. Just had to throw that in there for effect.
I on the other hand, go into an office and stare at a computer for hours. Have meetings. Meet and counsel people. Teach classes. But what Tickets to Ride reminded us of is that I thrive in chaos. I have always been that way. I am addicted to chaos. I think this helped me to start a church, a non-profit organization while being a father to five kids and a husband to one wife. You see my strength, focus, helps me to get a lot done in a short amount of time. I am catalytic and focused.
The point is this…I was in an environment that my wife would thrive in. She was in an environment that I would thrive in. But what were we to do? I can’t stop my job as a pastor. She doesn’t want to be a pastor. As you can imagine we were really frustrated and torn wondering what we should do. Together we came up with a plan. My wife needs less chaos but also understands that chaos is a reality for us. But she expressed that it would help if her chaos was more contained. In other words she can handle chaos, just not all day long because she can’t think and prepare and execute.
I needed more chaos because sitting at a desk drives me crazy. So what was the solution? I no longer go into the church office in the mornings. In fact I don’t go into the office as much anymore. I work at home unless I have meetings or appointments. Most pastors are thinking,”How do you get work done with all the kids around?” Remember I love chaos. The schedule we are implementing (once my health improves) is that I will drop off #1-4 at 8am. My wife will do some planning and then drop off #5 at 9am. I work from 8am to 11:30am and then pick up #4 and 5. I hate working more than 3-4 hours at a time anyways. So I pick them up and eat lunch with them and the wife. After that I work from 12-3pm. I will hang out with the olders kids for an hour and half three times a week because my schedule doesn’t permit more. Then I go back to work or my meetings, or teach my classes.
This schedule helps me because it scatters my schedule (which I love). It helps my wife because she gets more than an hour to plan, buy, and execute all that she has to do with and for the kids. Tickets to Ride reminded us of our strengths and weaknesses. We learned that we have to create spaces for our strengths to flourish otherwise our strengths will become weaknesses. This happened for too long and far too often in our marriage. It put a lot of strain. It built up a lot of bitterness and hurt. But we asked for forgiveness and are now trying to take steps to maximize our lives.
Now most of you don’t have five kids, but even if you are a couple without kids or a single person, trust me the principle applies. You have to know who you are. You have to then create space for your strengths to be maximized. It doesn’t mean you change your job or circumstances. The economy won’t let you. Sometimes it is that. But most of the time it is learning to change how you do, not what you do. Sometimes it is both.
NOTE TO READERS: Due to the length of this blog I will write another entry about Strength Finders 2.0. I believe everyone of you should buy the book and take the test however I will need to explain a little because the results (like any assessment) needs processing to understand and apply.