Different By Design, Part 6: Facing Risk Together

Do You Color Inside the Lines or Outside the Lines?

As the marriage conference presenter continued to speak, Darlene glimpsed over at her husband. Roger had flipped his conference booklet page to the next page and was busily filling in blanks.

Darlene nudged him. “You’re not following the speaker’s directions,” she hissed.

Roger stared at his wife. “Why do I need to stay with him?” he whispered back. “I get what he’s saying. I want to get started on the exercise!” He shakes his head. Why was his wife so rigid about rules?

Roger and Darlene had just experienced the different ways they view structure and procedures.

You’ll recall this couple had been invited by friends to the marriage conference, never expecting the content to be meaningful. Both were surprised to learn that their God-given differences were actually strengths in disguise. As Roger and Darlene continued to listen to the conference speaker, they discovered that each of them solved problems, processed information, and managed change differently … yet those differences could make them stronger together.

Now Roger and Darlene were about to learn about the two very different ways they faced risk.

Do You Color Inside the Lines or Outside the Lines?


Image: Merge With Jesus

When it comes to facing risk, some people like to play it safe while others push the envelope. One way to discover how you view risk is to ask yourself how you view rules.

Darlene, for instance, is Structured. To her, rules are a source of protection – a way to manage challenges in an orderly, systematic way. As she listens to the speaker, she follows along point by point and fills in the handout blanks appropriately. Darlene likes to do things one way – the way the rules dictate. If the handout was a coloring book, she would use suitable crayon colors for each item and color inside the lines.

Roger takes a more Pioneering approach to risks and rules. To him, instructions, directions, and procedures are simply guidelines – even obstacles. He is more interested in accomplishing a goal than following the rules, even if doing so requires some risk. As Roger listens to the speaker, his mind jumps ahead with the desire to apply the information right away. While the speaker drones on, Roger thinks of different ways he can absorb the information and then turns the page to begin the individual exercises. If the handout was a coloring book, Roger would not only color outside the lines, but also make sure he tried every color in the crayon box.

Take Risks or Play It Safe – Which Is Best?

The problem arises in marriage not when spouses face risk differently – but when one spouse or both expect the other to color their way.

Roger and Darlene are a case in point. As Darlene nudges Roger to pay attention, she senses her anxiety rising. She and her husband might not understand the exercise if they don’t listen to the instructions! Meanwhile, Roger simply wants to find out how to communicate better and use the information, so he presses ahead. Darlene’s restraint irritates him.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (ESV).  Each approach to facing risk has value.

What if Darlene quietly accepts that Roger must forge ahead? She can keep her attention on the conference speaker, feeling assured, safe, and able to follow along the presentation accurately. Her careful notes will help the couple as they discuss the presentation afterwards. Meanwhile, Roger can begin to work on his answers before instructed to do so, using the extra time to think about his wife. Elements of her personality have helped the couple manage their home in an orderly way – something which would be impossible for him to accomplish on his own. He will be ready to share that affirmation with her when they move to discussion time.

Inside the Lines and Outside the Lines Work Together

God has placed the Pioneer in the relationship to explore new options. The Structured partner is there to help the couple to create order. When each spouse values the way the other faces change, the couple is stronger.

“There is a time to embrace risk and move forward in different ways,” the conference speaker continued. “And there is a time to evaluate risk and take a more systematic, orderly route.” Roger looked up from his scribbling. He turned to Darlene and they both smiled.

Roger’s pioneering ways and Darlene’s structured approach work well together, the couple realized.

How do you and your spouse each handle structure? Take some time to color together … and find out.

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 5: Managing Change Together With Your Spouse

Different By Design, Part 7: Make a Plan to Use from This Day Forward