One week before I got married, I bought a “muscle car.” My brother Tom and I spent a day and a half up in Pennsylvania rebuilding the engine. A few days before the big day, I showed up in Annapolis, Maryland, ready to ride off into the future with Darcy. For the gearheads reading this, it was a ’66 Pontiac GTO. It was far from new, but Tom and I got it running like it was.
I thought Darcy would love driving it. I was wrong.
She complained about the way it tended to peel a bit of tire off every time she popped the clutch going from first to second, and sometimes even into third. That’s why I bought it! I tried to explain to her how cool that was and how hot she looked doing it. She was not impressed. She wanted something tame, manageable, and quiet.
Within a year, I sold the GTO and bought a Volkswagen. It was one of my first major disappointments in my marriage.
Had I been quicker on the uptake, I would have seen the car as a metaphor of a bigger reality. I had married a woman who was cautious by nature. She preferred to know where we were going before we took off, and she liked to have some say on the route we’d choose (read: the one with the least unknowns). Darcy was a woman of forethought and deliberation. And she didn’t feel comfortable when she was put in charge of something that left her at the mercy of things she couldn’t control.
So you’re thinking, If that’s true, why’d she marry you?
Good point. I was a bona fide risk taker. I preferred pushing the envelope in fourth gear. Road maps were for amateurs. When Darcy and I found ourselves sitting across the table from each other every night and waking up under the same blankets every morning, our preferences started to grate on each other.
But even though my “Let’s see what’s down that dark back road through the woods” attitude often made Darcy nervous, she knew that was one of the things that attracted her to me. She was careful in how she lived out her day-to-day life, but she wanted to harness her heart and her future to someone who wasn’t intimidated by unknowns or rattled by foiled plans.
In the same way, I was drawn to Darcy because she was careful and calculated. I knew that for me to succeed, I’d need someone who could keep my feet on the ground and help me put planning and organization around my dreams. I also needed someone who was invested enough in me to get in my face every once in a while and tell me when I was being an idiot. Thus, the fetching Mrs. Kimmel.
Too bad that wasn’t the position we defaulted to. For the first few years, instead of graciously honoring each other’s hardwiring and accepting how our differences could help us operate as a team. Darcy and I marginalized each other’s preferences and mocked each other’s strengths. She considered me reckless, and I considered her somewhat embalmed. With each barb, our security fuel gauges moved toward empty.
I’ve seen couples miss the chance to refuel each other’s sense of security by carping about physical issues that aren’t in that person’s control. Criticism about our spouse’s body type drains their sense of security almost every time. Here’s a note you might want to make to yourself: Your spouse’s DNA tends to confine their options when they stand in front of the full-length mirror. Most of what you see is genetics—part of the wonderful artwork God chose for your spouse’s body. But if you criticize physical features over which your spouse has little to no control, it will be hard for them to feel a secure love.
Shrinking with each comparison
Comparison doesn’t help a spouse feel secure, either. In grad school, Darcy and I socialized with one of my classmates and his wife. At first we thought our friendship would be a good fit, but it was obvious his wife wasn’t impressed with her husband’s chosen profession of vocational ministry. Since I was heading down that same road, I assumed she wasn’t impressed with me either.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to live with her. Unfortunately, he did. She compared him to friends who had chosen career paths she felt were more prestigious. His confidence as a man shrank with each comparison. Not surprisingly, he only lasted a couple of years as a pastor.
This guy had all the stuff to be something great for God. The only one who couldn’t see this reality was his wife.
Meanwhile, Darcy and I figured out we were working against each other’s hearts. We weren’t showing each other much grace when it came to how God had configured us.
We were also disrespecting Him in the process. He made us with our unique personalities. He drew us together to help fill each other’s gaps. God could make us much more as a couple than we could ever be as individuals.
Once we started seeing each other through a lens of grace and allowing God’s grace to frame our words and actions toward each other, a wonderful chain reaction started taking place. I started appreciating and applauding her carefulness. She, in turn, started applauding and appreciating my daring and dreaming.
And there was another benefit of this decision to accept each other: It helped us mature beyond the downsides of our personalities. Over the years, Darcy has grown into much more of a risk taker. She now suggests the scenic route over the sure thing, the backstreets of emotions over the thoroughfare. And I’ve learned the wisdom in planning, risk factoring, and proceeding carefully.
Our love grows far more secure when we accept the things about our spouses that make them who they are. How are you doing in this area? Do you see your spouse’s uniqueness and strengths as something to me marginalized or applauded?
Listen to Tim and Darcy Kimmel talk about the three driving inner needs we hope to satisfy in marriage: security, significance, and strength.