Jump directly to the Content

He Said, She Said

He said: "She misses all the fun." She said: "He takes foolish risks."

Dan's Side:
Years ago when Sue and I started dating, I noticed she always ordered vanilla ice cream with no sprinkles or nuts. When we became serious, I knew that Rum Raisin Dan was about to spend the rest of his life with Vanilla Sue.

The way we approach money is a good example. When I was single, I lived to see what I could do with what was in my bank account—if I even knew how much was in it. For me, money represents an opportunity for potential discoveries—not potential disasters. But Sue is different: She's genuinely overjoyed if the checkbook balances.

She's also more concerned than I am about the possible outcomes of certain activities. I believe gloom and doom notions squeeze the joy out of living. For instance, when the kids and I go to the sledding hill, I think, "Why just sit on the toboggan? Why not try it alone, standing up like a surfer?" So what if I fall off? At least I gave it a try.

Sue would prefer going to the beach together, with me sitting quietly on a big rock enjoying the sunset. I'd rather get out a mallet and a chisel and try to turn the rock into Michelangelo's David. Even if I smashed my thumb, I might create something we both enjoyed.

I felt Sue's realism was dampening our life, and I was determined to win her over to my adventuresome style. But that wasn't happening.

Sue's Side:
I'm a realist, so it's natural for me to spot potential dangers and possible losses. I slow down for yellow lights, and in the winter I reduce my speed on snow-covered roads. But my husband is just the opposite. Five years ago, we started a "maniac list," which gives each of us the right to note when the other is driving like a maniac. We've started volume two for Dan.

When I take our kids to the swimming pool, I hold them close and help them get used to the water gradually. Dan believes in the jump-in-all-at-once method.

His risk-taking approach even trickles down to our checkbook. For instance, he wanted to build a boat and said it would only cost a few hundred dollars. Maybe it's my training as a bookkeeper that makes me see life as full of unforeseen costs, but I doubted the accuracy of his cost estimate. And I was right. First it was a few hundred for fasteners. Next a motor. Then repairs on the motor.

Dan thinks it's fun to risk life and limb to venture into the unknown. One time while water skiing, he tried to put the tow rope on his foot like he did when he was 18. That night he alternated between writhing in pain and making jokes about having to limp through the remainder of our vacation. To me, his adventure wasn't worth the insomnia. But worse, his untempered optimism and risk-taking were making it difficult for me to trust him. It was time for us to find a balance between caution and adventure.

What Sue and Dan Did:
The Sheards realized that if they could balance their opposing perspectives on risk-taking, they'd cut down on their disagreements and keep resentment from gaining a foothold in their marriage.

"For me, a conscious move toward the middle began after our second child was born," says Dan. "Our family was growing, and I realized how much more was at stake. Besides, it's tough to be a daredevil when you work all day and stay up all night with young children.

"I now realize that staying home and watching TV is sometimes a better option than climbing mountains in the rain. However, when I think such things I often wonder if I'm not coming down with something."

For Sue, the realization that risks can have benefits began somewhat earlier. "We climbed Chimney Rock in North Carolina with our one-year-old daughter in a backpack, and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of venturing out—even with small children," she recalls. "I saw that taking risks added a healthy spice to our marriage."

Knowing that Dan would always be a risk-taker at heart, the Sheards set some guidelines for his dreams. They agreed that the family as a whole was more important than any one part and that Dan's actions could not endanger the family's financial health or physical well-being. For instance, recalls Dan, "One year, before our annual men's ice-fishing trip, Sue reminded me that venturing out on thin ice could leave her a widow and the kids without a father."

He says long-range planning and shared decision-making also helped him develop a more balanced lifestyle. "While my positive outlook on life encourages us to explore new experiences, the cost is often more than I bargained for. Sue's conservatism helps me keep family security a top priority."

And while Sue's realism has rubbed off on Dan, his adventuresome spirit has altered her outlook as well—leading to a major change for their family.

"I would have never considered going on the mission field with a family," she says, "had it not been for a husband who knows that godly faith often involves moving beyond your comfort zone."

Prayer was a major factor in helping the Sheards find common ground. Before they began the application process for foreign missions, they prayed about the decision for nearly eight months and didn't move ahead until they both heard from God.

"We now pray before we act," says Dan. "The security of working through matters spiritually before we invest our time and money is comforting."

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter to help you make sense of how faith and family intersect with the world.

Conflict; Differences; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Summer, 1997
Posted September 12, 2008

Read These Next


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Us

More Newsletters