At the end of my post The Strength of Strengths, I wrote:
Just being aware of our different strengths lets me see two virtues clashing. It gives me a chance to look beyond my own strength and ask how I might be an even better (and happier) person with both our strengths at my disposal.
Recently, a kind reader, Lindsey, left a comment on that post:
I get, and really identify with, these sorts of strength vs. strength conflicts. I would LOVE a whole bunch of examples of this idea introduced in the last line.
So here, for you and for Lindsey, are some ways we might benefit from our life partner’s different character strengths.
Marissa is a trial lawyer fighting for the civil rights of her clients. She loves parties and often brings her camera to take pictures. People love the photos, but she knows she uses the camera to avoid talking to people, because they seem to wilt under her questions. Her new wife’s top strengths include a keen social intelligence, the ability to put others at ease and figure out where their interests lie. Now that she gets to know people first, her photos are so authentic that she’s being asked to shoot weddings and family reunions.
Dev is a hardworking man of impeccable integrity, but he gets so stressed when things don’t go as planned at work. Fortunately, he’s married to a woman drawn to the awe of nature’s great beauty. When he walks out his front door in the morning, it’s through a beautiful garden. On weekends, she’s rented kayaks for a trip through a gorge or found a new waterfall for them to hike to. He doesn’t always experience the elevation she feels, but he does forget about work long enough to relax and enjoy life more.
Jana is very creative but has always been a bit of a loner, marching to the beat of her own drummer. Fortunately, one of her husband’s greatest strengths is teamwork. He’s in charge of chores and outings with their four children. He makes the necessary organization and cooperation enjoyable for her and the kids, and he enjoys drawing on each family member’s strengths to make their time together more fun.
Ray is kind-hearted, always willing to drop everything to help someone in need. He married an entrepreneur, always trying to find one more dollar to invest in growing the business. There were some ugly battles at first, but now they have a philanthropy budget that’s more than Ray’s annual salary as a special ed teacher, and he’s having a ball seeing how many people he can help with it.
Chloe loves the internet. She got the energy and optimism, as well as the curiosity, to keep trying things to see what might make them enough money to move to Paris for a year. Her husband sees himself as more of a realist and doesn’t want to get involved. However, his great strength is an incredible love of learning. Chloe just mentions a technology problem, and he’s downloaded two manuals to read and set up a test platform to experiment with it. Once he’s answered her questions, he’s free to move on to learning to fly or speak Portuguese, and she’s that much closer to their Paris year.
Chloe’s husband really looks forward to all he can learn if they get to Paris. His job doesn’t normally offer sabbaticals, but he will be able to take a year-long leave of absence, and he expects to come back a new man.
Ray’s wife is tough as nails, but she’s learned to really love coming home to such a kind-hearted man now that they are done fighting over nickels and dimes.
Jana’s husband is on the local school board. He coaches soccer. And he’s a member of a little theater group. He cannot count the number of times Jana’s creativity has boosted the efforts of all these teams he enjoys.
Dev’s wife really appreciates how easy it is to trust a man like him. She also loves the income his industriousness brings in, because, like so many whose top strengths include awe, she loves live musical performances, which she attends with friends and her sisters, and decorating their home with really excellent art.
Marissa’s wife is proud of Marissa’s legal work and her photography, and she’s really glad for the life coaching clients they help her land.
Every one of these couples could devolve into fighting over whose values really matter or into condescension for a mate lacking a skill that comes so easily to any of them. Or they can be a source of respect and a definite advantage for the partner who lacks them. It’s all in how you see them.