I’ve been thinking a fair bit recently about the fact that Joyce and I live and work together, partly because we will soon be recording a podcast with Ian and Tracey Earl to talk about this very thing. Then, last week, I was talking to a new business acquaintance of mine, Glenys Chatterley of EBN Networks, and she said that she and her partner had ‘complementary character defects’ and I immediately asked her if I could steal the phrase. So here we are.
There are many challenges and joys to marriage or long-term cohabiting life, and there are a surprising number of us who choose not only to live together and raise a family together, but to earn our money together. For Joyce and me, this just sort of happened. There is a story, but I don’t want to pre-empt the podcast.
I won’t say it is without its bad moments, but we’ve never had a row about the business. Parsnips, yes. Business, no. The joys far outweigh the downsides. Joyce is imaginative, a people person, she loves to talk, to advise, to stretch people. I am task oriented; I don’t like risks. She thinks it is easier to beg forgiveness than seek permission, I want my permission slips in triplicate. We both love to serve people and if we can make them laugh along the way, that’s a bonus.
My character defects are countered by hers. You could say that she is impetuous, and I am sensible, or you could say that I am fearful, and she is brave. Whichever way you couch it, her character strengths are my defects and vice versa. There are many couples like this, but they don’t always see the differences as a good thing, they try and make the other more like themselves, but that is like buying your dream house, knocking it down, building a block of flats and then wondering why it is not your dream house any more. Somewhere along the line, the point has been missed.
Of course, not everybody can work with their partners for money, some of us do it in our hobbies, and our households, but my question is, do you see their character defects as complementary to your own? The chances are that you compensate for each other in all sorts of ways, like two halves of an eggshell. Of course, you can fit them together to keep the egg inside safe, but this takes being aware of where the points and recesses are. Or, you can keep jabbing the sharp bits into each other in the hopes that their pointy bits will break off.
Hopefully this is just a phase, a re-adjustment to some change of circumstances, or simply the dross life can throw at us. Some couples do this a lot, as they work out how to make life fit, but my suggestion is that the solutions will not lie in where both sets of strengths sit, but in aligning your complementary defects.
If you are jabbing each other, think about contacting us for some mentoring so we can help you fit the shells back together again.