As Mike and Suzanne’s wedding date drew near, their fellow missionaries in Estonia threw a reception in their honour. To the couple’s delight, they discovered keys to a successful marriage hidden within that culture’s wedding traditions.

The couple was first challenged to perform a series of tasks to prove their worthiness for marriage. Mike had to hammer a nail through a piece of wood to prove he was a handy husband who could take care of his family. Suzanne was required to cut a sock in half and then sew it back together to exhibit her homemaking abilities. These were considered valuable, basic strengths that prepared them for their future together.

In the next series of challenges, they discovered that relational strength could also be found in their individual weaknesses.

In order to demonstrate a keen knowledge of his bride, Mike was blindfolded and asked to pick out his beloved from a line up of 10 women. How? By touching only the index fingers of their hands. Suzanne, while blindfolded, had to select Mike out of a group of whistling men.

Mike and Susan both passed the challenge. How did they do it?

Intimate clues

Mike said the only reason he was able to select Suzanne’s hands was that she had complained earlier about a wart on her finger. It was not her beautifully manicured nails that proved she belonged to him; it was her unsightly wart.

Suzanne was wooed to Mike’s side because she knew his weakness in whistling. While all the other men whistled melodically, Mike sputtered.

Her warts and his whistles were the basis for a terrific marriage now in its eighth year. To know your spouse is to know his or her weaknesses. So how do you respond when your spouse sputters or grows a wart? Ultimately, your response can enhance or undermine your marriage.

Painful warts

All couples begin marriage carrying wounds from their past. If your spouse seems to be withdrawing or overreacting to an issue, it may be the sign of a past wound. Healing begins with communication and possibly professional counselling. The goal is to remove or at least shrink the painful wart through mutual love, gentleness and acceptance.

Early in my marriage, neither my husband nor I could understand why I got sad at predictable times of the year. Through prayer, Scripture reading, long talks and looking into my past, we discovered an area of pain that I had not dealt with.

Weak whistles

It’s important to ask yourself, Why does this weakness really bother me? The answer could be that you are looking to your spouse to fill a need or to make you feel less threatened by your own insecurities. If that’s the case, you need to begin seeking your identity and security in God, not your spouse.

Another question is, Can this weakness be turned into a strength? Weaknesses in finances, organization, mechanical skill or parenting can be strengthened by attending classes, finding a mentor or seeking accountability.

A final question is, Can this shortfall be overlooked? Read Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." We need to follow the Lord’s example. The strewn socks and missing toothpaste cap may be opportunities to overlook minor annoyances and praise God for your spouse’s strengths.

"Utilize each other’s strengths and protect each other’s weaknesses," marriage counsellor Jim A. Talley advises. "When you do the opposite – exploit each other’s weaknesses and ignore each other’s strengths – it leads to an unhappy marriage."

Suzanne’s wart is gone; Mike still can’t whistle. New challenges will come their way, but they know now that their weaknesses can ultimately draw them closer together.

Her warts. His sputtering. Together they make a terrific marriage.

Cyndi S. Schatzman and her husband, Todd, lived in Edmond, Oklahoma at the time of publication.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.

Our recommended resources

Join our newsletter

Advice for every stage of life delivered straight to your inbox