Have you noticed that you're better at some things than your spouse is? Have you noticed that your spouse is better at some things than you are? Have you thought that this is just great? Or do you find it to be terrible?

When people first choose a marriage partner, they perceive differences with tolerance. They might even find those very differences attractive! However, once a couple lives together in marriage, those differences take on a new, less favorable, appearance. In fact, many people are upset and troubled by discovering that their partner has different competencies than they do.

For example:

  • "I have patience with the children – why can't my spouse have the same kind of patience?"
  • "I can clean the kitchen in ten minutes – why does it take my spouse hours to do the same little task?"
  • "I find it easy to put the kids to bed at night– why is it a big deal for my spouse?"
  • "I can be social with people – why on earth does my spouse find it so difficult?"

Differences that were originally viewed through starry eyes now instigate conflict and disappointment. They can seem larger than life, casting a negative shadow across the marriage. Eventually, they can even blind us to our partner's good points, as stated by Moshe Ibn Ezra, "Love blinds us to faults, but hatred blinds us to virtues." Without acceptance – even a celebration – of differences, marriage is doomed to suffer.

The inevitable fact is that spouses bring different competencies to a marriage. In fact, this is just as it is meant to be. The Talmud tells us that G‑d specifically made Adam first, an individual, so that we would appreciate the significance of each person's unique contribution in the song of creation. No two people are alike. In marriage, one is just great at balancing the checkbook (and one isn't). One is a social organizer (and one isn't). One is great with a hammer and nail (and one isn't). In fact, it's really quite nice to have someone right in the same house who can pick up the slack for you. It eases your burden a bit. Each of you can "specialize" at what you naturally do best, and thus compliment each other.

Every marital responsibility can be divided according to natural inclination, talent and ability. Let's look at food shopping, for instance. One partner may enjoy walking the aisles, picking out produce and products. It doesn't have to be the same person who unloads the car and organizes the pantry. The shopping task can be broken down so that each partner does what they do best (or, if they're equally competent, they can alternate errands weekly). Let's look at childcare. One partner may find it easier to get the kids out the door in the morning while the other finds it easier to get them into bed at night. Or, when both are needed to get them into bed at night, one may find story time a good fit, while another may succeed at bath time.

Is one partner better with money? Perhaps that partner can take a leading role in the family's finances, while the other does routine jobs of handling monthly payments. Is one a better communicator? Perhaps that partner can teach the other a few rudimentary communication tricks while allowing the other to express their concern in other ways (i.e. cooking, buying gifts, arranging play-dates and so on).

Appreciating the natural, unique abilities of your partner and putting them to work can enhance respect and love. Instead of trying to turn your spouse into someone else, you can let your spouse be his or her best self. Indeed, when each partner can play to his or her strengths, the marriage will experience minimum stress and maximum strength.