Different By Design, Part 5: Managing Change Together

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How Do You and Your Spouse Pass the Baton to One Another?

Do you plan for change, taking a logical, systematic approach to working your way through tasks? Or maybe you allow change to drive your plans. As life events enter your world you get excited and move into a new activity spontaneously.

Chances are you tend towards one option that is more natural to you. Your spouse, too, has a tendency to manage change one way or the other.

Managing change is one area of differences that regularly causes conflict for two spouses in a marriage – and Roger and Darlene are no exception. You’ll recall this couple had agreed to attend a marriage conference at their church. At first they were surprised to learn that their God-given differences were actually strengths in disguise. Yet Roger and Darlene discovered that the ways they solved problems and processed information, though different, completed each other to make a stronger whole.

But now during the conference discussion about managing change, the couple remembered their confrontation last week about their upcoming vacation. Frustration washed over Roger anew as he pondered his wife’s need to plan. Meanwhile, Darlene re-experienced the sense of failure that haunted her every time the couples’ plans changed. Would they be able to enjoy this upcoming vacation together … or even have other vacations together in the future?

Managing Change: Are You a Starter or a Finisher?

Relay RaceWhen it comes to managing change, each spouse assumes a role in a figurative relay race team. Some runners are strong as starters. Others run best on the team as finishers.

Like a starter on a relay race team, Roger is quick out the gate. Ideas dart into his brain regularly and he wants to try them all. With so many irons in the fire, Roger has trouble knowing which activity to focus on. As a Dynamic, he is flexible, intense, and well-meaning. Yet his spontaneity has left a series of unfinished projects in his wake. In this instance, he had been in the middle of completing the tax forms when he received an email about a special offer for beach rentals.

Yet Darlene, a Predictable, manages change differently than her husband. Darlene hears the excitement in Roger’s voice as he points out the beach house they can rent for vacation. All the while, she is patiently finishing up the tax forms he started on the computer and making a To-Do list to plan for dinner with her in-laws that evening – a get-together Roger had initiated. Now, with Roger at her elbow urging that they put a deposit down on the vacation house, Darlene gets nervous. What if she forgets important details to give to their tax accountant? How will she have time to make her father-in-law’s favorite potato casserole? What if both she or Roger cannot get time off during the correct vacation week after they reserve the rental? When Darlene cannot fulfill what she thinks are her responsibilities, she feels like a failure. She is a finisher. Her heightened conscientiousness drives her to complete tasks. Like the final runner in a relay race, she senses a responsibility to help her team – her and her husband – get across the finish line.

The Problem With How You Manage Change

The problem arises in marriage not when spouses manage change differently – but in passing the baton to one another.

When it comes to change, Dynamics like Roger tend to throw lots of balls in the air and juggle them at the same time. He flourishes in a fast-paced environment. If one ball falls, Roger simply kicks it out of the way. Darlene, on the other hand, prefers a slower, sequential environment where she can finish activities she has started. If she “drops the ball” she feels like a failure.

As Roger becomes progressively excited about the beach house, Darlene grows more and more agitated. This new activity has brought an added twist into the responsibilities she already shoulders. She experiences a familiar resentment towards her husband – yet presses on stoically without a word. Yet what if she asked Roger which task of the three (taxes, dinner, or vacation) he would like her to address first? She would be able to “accept the baton” from him, not feel so overwhelmed, and have a sense of accomplishment in finishing the most important item on the list.

Meanwhile Roger has completely forgotten that his parents are coming for dinner that evening. In his mind, he is already body surfing and strolling down the beachfront boardwalk and wonders briefly why Darlene hasn’t caught his vision of sunshine and ocean breezes. Irritation looms as he thinks, “She never wants to have fun.” But what if he passed a different “baton”? Roger might tell Darlene to leave the tax forms until the next day and offer to set the table for dinner. When everything is ready, he invites Darlene to look at the summer calendar with him. Roger has learned that his wife does not resist change, but rather she simply looks for ways to implement new plans in the midst of other ones. He helps her by passing her the baton he wants her to take first.

Two Kinds of Runners Make a Relay Team

1 Corinthians 12:24-25 says, “God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (ESV).

God has placed the Dynamic in the relationship to get ideas and projects out the starting gate. The Predictable is there to help complete the race strong. When each spouse values the way the other manages change, the couple is stronger.

As Roger and Darlene learned that their different ways to manage change were strengths, they saw how each fulfilled a special role on the team. They could keep the balls in the air when they knew when to pass the baton to each other.

That’s the way you and your spouse can run the race of change and finish strong, too.

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 4: Processing Information 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