My husband, Jason, and I just returned from what our church likes to call a marriage retreat. I like to call it a weekend of seminars, desert sun, awkward round table discussions, group dates, and some hotel room baby making. This is the second of such retreats me and Jason have attended in our eight years of matrimony.
The first time, we were still living in Las Vegas and reeling from the effects of what was nothing short of ignorance, combined with raging stupidity in what we expected our marriage should be. I can still clearly hear the sound of my own voice and see the hurt on his face, the moment I said the words, “I’m not in love with you anymore.” My own heart aches when I remember the disappointment of his promises to change, only to see the behaviors that lead to those words in the first place, continue as if my pain didn’t matter. That first marriage retreat ripped us open, filleted us like fish and wouldn’t let our insecurities, fears, and anger that bordered on hatred keep us from really looking at who we were, as both individuals and a couple. That marriage retreat was one of a thousand moments in those very dark months that reminded us we committed for a reason. And that when you broke me and Jason down to our barest, most naked selves, we had one sure thing in common - Jason and I don’t quit.
So it was no surprise to us, when a love based personality test, offered at this year’s retreat, revealed that we are cut from the same cloth. It’s called Love Styles. It’s based on the same format as D.I.S.C., a personality test many in the corporate world have used for years. The test asks a series of questions and at the end files you into a L.O.V.E. category.
L - Leader: The Take Charge Spouse
O - Optimist: The Encouraging Spouse
V - Validator:The Devoted Spouse
E - Evaluator: The Careful Spouse
We were asked to take the test before the retreat and bring our results to the Saturday morning session. If you haven’t already guessed, the dominant aspect of my “Love Style” is Leader. I’m a take charge spouse. According to the report, I want to be seen as one with authority, I work hard to play hard, and in my marriage, I’m tenacious and like to challenge the status quo. I like efficiency in communication, but I can also be a selective listener, argumentative, and can become impatient with routine people. I see myself as assertive and confident, but under pressure, my spouse can see me as demanding, abrasive, and even controlling.
When it came time for the session, my husband and I grabbed our printouts and took our seats. The speaker, a pastor from our church, explained the point of the exercise wasn’t just to get a good laugh at our differences, but to better understand where our spouse is coming from. He started with the “L’s”.
“If you tested highest in the “L” category, I want you to go ahead and stand up,” he said.
I stood up and looked around. Out of, what I guessed to be about sixty people in the room, there were maybe six people standing, including myself.
“Go ahead and look around the room guys,” the pastor instructed. “These are the leaders of the marriage.”
Then the pastor looked my way and immediately realized I was standing very close to the man next to me.
“Oh wow,” he said smiling. “Are you two married?”
“Yes,” both Jason and I answered.
“Well that’s something!” he exclaimed. “Two leaders in one marriage!”
The entire room started laughing. The guy sitting at a table across from us joked about the fireworks that must be present in our marriage.
Jason tested highest in the “L” category as well. He’s also a take charge spouse. His report says he’s motivated by an audience to perform to and entertain, he wants freedom from controls and limitations on creativity, and in our marriage he shows perseverance and is results oriented. He communicates with motivation and persuasion and expects acceptance, but can sometimes dictate and ramble on. He sees himself as energetic and alert, but under pressure I can see him as disinterested and pushy.
Yet, in front of that room full of people amazed at how two “leaders” could possibly survive, much less thrive in a marriage, Jason and I didn’t feel made fun of, or out of place. We felt honored...and maybe a bit special.
We both know, that even though we have very, very different ways at falling into the “L” style of love, it is that style that prevented our divorce. The fact that I had fallen out of love didn’t keep his take charge personality from fighting to get my love back. His faults wouldn’t force me into filing paperwork, since it was just as much my marriage as ours.
So we fight. Both for our marriage and within it. We could’ve bought a BMW for what we spent in counseling, first together,and then individual. We cried to friends and family and found solid support. We ripped each other apart with our words, but we don’t leave. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we ended up leading each other in the same direction. We became a team. Both strong and dominant, but now allowing for vulnerability and trust.
While this year’s marriage retreat was much more light-hearted for us, more focused on meeting new people and relaxing, than opening up our vulnerable souls, I still discovered something new.
Jason and I never want to go back. To the point, that when we hit one of the screaming, four letter word using, Iphone smashing against the wall fights, we fear we’re at the brink again. We lose the trust in each other. We forget how far we’ve come.
This year I heard it said, “No marriage EVER gets fully fixed in this life.”
Our “L” style personalities see problems, and immediately wants to make fast changes to fix them, but we forget that Jason and I are still broken people. Even though we aren’t as stupid as we once were, and now know how to love each other better, we will never do it perfectly.
Sometimes it’s okay for even the most motivated leaders to take a breath, to stop trying to get somewhere, and embrace the moment of where we are.