Different By Design, Part 4: Processing Information With Your Spouse

Seeing Well With Two Sets of Eyeglasses

Roger and Darlene sat down at the table at the same time, each with a cup of coffee. It was halfway through the marriage conference and the couple had just returned from a break. Roger reached for his eyeglasses and put them on. Suddenly, everything was a blur. He looked up into the room, but everything was fuzzy.

couple wearing glasses

Image: Gallery Hip

Meanwhile Darlene flipped a page in her notebook, fumbled on the table for her eyeglasses, and slipped them onto her nose. The words on the page swam in front of her. Darlene felt dizzy – almost nauseous.

Roger and Darlene quickly realized they had picked up the other’s set of glasses. Once they switched and put on their own, Roger could see across the room. Darlene’s vision cleared and so did her stomach.

Roger and Darlene had just experienced what happens when spouses process information differently.

Are You Far Sighted or Near Sighted?

When it comes to processing information, each spouse wears a set of figurative “eyeglasses.”

Roger is an Optimist. When he gets an idea, he immediately shares it with Darlene. Excitement spills forth. Taken up in the emotion of the moment, Roger paints a picture for his wife about where the couple can vacation next summer or what sport their son should try next or what color they can paint their living room. His enthusiasm can be inspiring and his arguments can be convincing. Roger desperately wants Darlene to see his idea through his glasses.

Yet Darlene, a Realist, processes information differently than her husband. Darlene hears the passion in Roger’s voice but is afraid that he has skipped ahead of her too fast. She asks two or three questions about Roger’s idea, seeking to find more facts. Logic and objectivity are her “glasses.” She wonders why Roger can’t see his idea the way she can.

The Problem With  Processing Information in Marriage

The problem arises in marriage not when spouses process information differently – but when one spouse or both expect the other to take off their own “glasses” and process information using the other’s “lens.”

Roger and Darlene, for instance, had already learned their God-given differences were actually strengths in disguise and that each one solves problems differently.

But now the couple has another opportunity to grow closer in their relationship. As Roger waxes poetic about a beach vacation house he discovered online, Darlene asks clarifying questions. Soon Roger’s heart is in turmoil. To him, Darlene’s questions communicate a lack of trust, and he feels unsupported and disrespected. Yet all the while, Darlene grapples with confusion. She doesn’t feel part of Roger’s plans. Her husband has raced ahead of her, already envisioning his toes in the sand with tropical drink in hand, while she is simply ticking off in her mind the steps she needs to take in order to implement Roger’s idea.

This couple faces a choice: will they let their confused feelings reign – or choose closeness?

Two Sets of Glasses Work Together

Optimists like Roger tend to trust information and move forward quickly. When communicating with his Realist wife, Roger learned he needed to provide supporting facts – not just words and feelings – in order to earn Darlene’s trust. If he jotted a few points down and then asked to talk about them, Darlene felt invited into the conversation. Then she would be ready to consider a trip to the beach. Roger has processed information alongside her, using a pair of glasses she can “see” through.

Darlene, on the other hand, realized that when the couple faced a new idea, Roger needed her to express feelings. He wanted her to experience his passion and enthusiasm. She needn’t abandon her strengths in outlining the steps they needed to take and instructions they needed to follow to carry out Roger’s idea. Yet by simply expressing her emotions and excitement, Darlene used a pair of “glasses” that was suited to Roger.

God reminds us that, “Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Corinthians 13:5, ESV).

When each spouse values the way the other processes information, rather than resenting it, the couple is stronger. God has placed the Optimist in the relationship to see a vision of what a couple can accomplish together. The Realist is there to identify the steps needed for the vision to be achieved. By affirming the other’s strength, the couple draws closer together.

As Roger and Darlene heard how these different roles work together, they turned to each other and smiled. What a relief it was to know that they didn’t need to “switch glasses” in order to process information and ideas as a couple! Their different lenses worked together to accomplish tasks in a more complete way than they thought possible.

Use more than one set of glasses to process in information in your marriage. Both you and your spouse will “see” better.

Hundreds of couples have discovered their personal strengths, their spouse’s strengths, and have built stronger, more intimate marriages with the Different By Design curriculum. Learn more.

Marriage Series: Different By Design

Different By Design, Part 1: Surprised By Differences With Your Spouse

Different By Design, Part 2: Incompatibility – a Powerful Basis for a Great Marriage

Different By Design, Part 3: Problem Solving Together With Your Spouse

Different By Design, Part 5: Starter or Finisher? Managing Change With Your Spouse

Different By Design, Part 6: Facing Risk With Your Spouse

Different By Design, Part 7: Make a Plan to Use with Your Spouse From This Day Forward