What is the difference between a skill and a trait? A skill is developed, while a trait is an innate quality. Some traits make particular skills easier, while some skills come more naturally to us than others. An assertive person may find it easier to present, sell, and speak in public, while a creative person may excel at writing books or designing clothes.
One of my favorite assessment tools for discovering your strengths is Via Character. As they explain, we are born with all of the traits, just in different proportions. Via encourages people to work from their strengths. I am creative; thinking quickly of multiple possibilities or solutions for problems is easy for me. Instead of wondering why Derrick cannot do the same with such ease, I can appreciate that creativity is one of his lesser strengths, which means it will probably take him longer to do the same. Likewise, a lesser strength of mine is prudence. I can carefully make choices, but I’m more likely to consider all of the smart risks first, where I can rely on Derrick’s gift of prudence to balance out some of my riskier ideas. Knowing your greater and lesser strengths enhance your relationship with your partner because your why, the reason behind your actions, is exposed. When you are both operating from your strengths, that's when things fall into place.
When asked to consider what’s required for a healthy marriage, a group of engaged couples shared the following list.
Patience Gratitude Intentionality Communication Respect Love Acceptance Support Affection Commitment Empathy Faith Fairness Honesty Vulnerability Responsibility Intimacy Humor Flexibility Integrity Forgiveness Compromise Teamwork Values Openness Sensitivity Connection Companionship Fidelity Trust
Which of these are skills and which are traits? While some are both, they are all skills that can be learned. The question is, do we spend time honing these skills to enhance our marriage? We invest time learning how to excel professionally, personally, and parentally. Do you invest time learning how to be a better spouse? How do you do that, and at what frequency? Is it based on your needs or the needs of your spouse? What experts do you consult?
Consider your attitude toward a poorly developed skill. Do you ‘accept’ that you are a poor communicator or challenge yourself to become better at communicating for the sake of your relationship? If you have been hurt, making it a challenge to be vulnerable, do you say, “that’s just the way I am,” or do you seek therapy to heal from that hurt to enhance your relationship?
While you fell in love with the person he or she was, they are not complete or finished growing into the people they were created to be. We should challenge each other to love and grow. That requires providing a safe space for vulnerability, mutual respect, accountability, support, love, and trust. Helping each other become the best version of yourselves is worth the time, attention, and effort necessary for success.