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Strengths Based Marriage: Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other's Gifts

Strengths Based Marriage: Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other's Gifts

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by Jimmy Evans

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Marriage expert Jimmy Evans and strengths expert Allan Kelsey show readers how to have a happier, stronger marriage by applying the concepts from the popular StrengthsFinder assessment to their relationship.

One of the biggest obstacles to a happy, strong marriage is a lack of understanding of yourself and your spouse. With Strengths Based


Marriage expert Jimmy Evans and strengths expert Allan Kelsey show readers how to have a happier, stronger marriage by applying the concepts from the popular StrengthsFinder assessment to their relationship.

One of the biggest obstacles to a happy, strong marriage is a lack of understanding of yourself and your spouse. With Strengths Based Marriage, MarriageToday cofounder Jimmy Evans and Gallup-trained strengths advocate Allan Kelsey give readers the tools they need to dismantle that hurdle and develop a deeper and richer relationship. Applying the revelatory concepts from the popular Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment to marriage (assessment itself not included in purchase price), Evans and Kelsey break new ground in helping readers understand themselves and others. With chapters on “Stopping the Cycles of Pain,” “Speaking Love to Your Spouse’s Heart,” and “Secrets of Successful Marriages,” the book details practical ways to apply these profound insights to your marriage every day. And as a bonus, with your purchase of the book you’ll receive access to more than two hours of exclusive video content revealing how to reach your marriage’s full potential. Utterly practical and deeply insightful Strengths Based Marriage will forever change the way you see yourself, your spouse, and your marriage.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Founder and CEO of the ministry Marriage Today Evans and Gallup-certified strengths coach Kelsey have woven together their areas of expertise to present couples with new ways to appreciate and relate to each other. They advise first taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, then looking at both strong and weak traits, and analyzing these in terms of relating to others within and outside of marriage. The authors then convey how to "speak love" in your spouse's language, and how tone, time, trust, truth, and team go a long way toward successful communication. Verdict A superb tool for those wanting to understand and be understood by others.

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Read an Excerpt

Strengths Based Marriage

Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other's Gifts

By Jimmy Evans, Allan Kelsey

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2016 Jimmy Evans and Allan Kelsey
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-8363-2



Allan Kelsey, Strengths Expert

The genesis of something always matters because the beginning of a journey inevitably colors what the rest of the journey will look like. The seed of something determines what will sprout from it later, so beginnings matter. The origin story of the strengths movement will give you some background and help reveal why it will be an important tool for your personal discovery and for your marriage.

Let us begin with an account popularly referenced by the Strengths Coaches at the Gallup® organization. The head of a school had concerns during the 1950s about students' reading retention and asked for the incoming freshmen to be tested. He wanted to know how fast they could read while retaining at least 80 percent of the content.

The professors tested the students and learned that most students were reading about 90 words per minute and retaining 80 percent of what they read. A small portion of the students, however, were reading around 350 words per minute and also retaining 80 percent of the content. Now, let us put that into a little context. Most books have between 10 and 11 words per line and 20 to 25 lines on a page, meaning most books have between 225 and 275 words on a page. That means the bulk of the students were reading less than a half page in a minute and retaining 80 percent, while a small portion were reading a full page and a half in a minute and retaining most of what they had read.

After the professors had reported their findings, they decided to put both groups of readers through six weeks of speed-reading courses and then test them again to see what would happen. As the weeks went by, the test administrators began to form their own little pockets of expectation. Some predicted that the students reading 90 words per minute were going to improve significantly, while those reading 350 words per minute would improve less because they were already reading pretty fast.

A second group of administrators also believed that the students reading 90 words per minute would show improvement, but they felt that the 350s were already reading as fast as they could. They predicted no more than 1 or 2 percentage points of improvement for the fast readers. A third group of administrators agreed that the students reading 90 words per minute would improve, but they expected the 350s to actually get worse based on a psychology principle known as "unconscious competence." Unconscious competence is just a fancy way of saying that when people are performing at a high level and are then made aware of their skill, they get nervous and their performance worsens.

After six weeks of speed-reading training, the results were tabulated. The students who had been reading 90 words per minute increased to 140 words per minute — a 60 percent improvement. But the next set of results was stunning: The students who had been reading 350 words per minute jumped to roughly 2,900 words per minute. Their reading pace absolutely shot through the roof. The students were reading 9 to 11 pages in a minute and retaining 80 percent of what they had read. The professors were baffled by the results. But they quickly agreed that something significant had been discovered about what people are capable of.

To be sure, reading roughly 10 pages in a minute and retaining 80 percent of what you have read is impressive! But a bigger point existed amid this discovery. The students who were reading 350 words per minute had been talented readers from the very start. They'd had a talent for reading before even being tested, but in all likelihood, they themselves did not know it. The study's findings prompted two questions: Do other talents exist that we don't know about? And is it possible to identify those talents specifically?


In an effort to discover areas of talent or true strength, a survey was designed with approximately two thousand questions. The survey was given to the highest achieving people in very diverse fields of endeavor, because the search was on to find the best of what people have to offer. NBA basketball players, hotel cleaners, airline technicians, doctors, dentists, lawyers, and others were all given a chance to be screened for impressive, repeatable talent. The assessment was distributed around the world and administered over a forty-year period. The hunt for talent had begun.

Talents are not abilities, such as a phenomenal golf swing or an amazing knowledge of stingrays; rather, they are inherent traits. These traits are uniquely, instinctively, and permanently yours. They are not just things you do but rather repeatable ways you see and approach life. In short, they help to make up who you are.


The two-thousand-question survey and its results helped contribute to the creation of the current Clifton StrengthsFinder® assessment, which reveals thirty-four talents as they occur in every human being. They occur in a unique sequence, revealing first the strongest or most dominant talents in your life. As the list progresses, the level of natural strength in each talent diminishes.

In the early days of the survey, people began to follow a somewhat predictable pattern after discovering their results: They would spend time looking at their number-one talent in order to understand it, then do the same with number two, then numbers three and four, spending less and less time with each trait. Somewhere around result number five, participants began skipping the middle-range results and going straight to number thirty-four — the last talent on their list — and looking at the ones that are least strong and spending time there. This was puzzling. Why focus on the weakest abilities when looking at results from a survey designed to find strengths?

When asked why they showed so much interest in their lowest scores, people replied with consistency: "If I am going to get the promotion, get the job, or get the girl, I have to fix where I am broken. I have to shore up or strengthen my weaknesses. You just showed me where I am not so strong. So, thanks a lot! I'm going to focus there and try to fix it." After watching the participants focus on their lowest results from the assessment, some very significant findings emerged.

First, it is possible to improve the rank of a particular talent that is low on your list of thirty-four talents. By dedicating effort to improving that talent, you can improve your lowest talent (which in my case happens to be the strength of Empathy®) and its position by roughly five to seven points. Hypothetically, I could move Empathy® from talent position thirty-four up to twenty-seven. But in doing so, what have I really done? The talent is never going to be in my top five, so moving it up marginally seems like a less than efficient way to spend my time.

Second, if I pour all that energy into improving my Empathy® ranking, nothing is happening where I am strongest. All my focus is being spent where I have the least capacity. This approach is certainly not the best use of my time. Furthermore, while this low Empathy® talent of mine can remain five to seven points elevated as long as I focus on it, the minute I stop my efforts, the talent repositions itself to its natural, lower ranking. From these observations, it seems there is little value to be gained from focusing on the talents at the bottom of my list.

These insights have come from observing people's behavior, but what scientific explanations support the idea of innate talent and the creation of it in the brain? Such information would potentially support the idea that people are not able to permanently and significantly improve their lower-ranking Clifton StrengthsFinder® talents. With the help of some brain experts, here are some of my explanations (in layman's terms) concerning recent discoveries about talent in the brain.


Let's take a look at the formation of connections in the brain during early development in order to understand our natural leanings. Forty-two days after conception, you are the size of a postage stamp in the womb. It is around this point that brain development begins, and for the next 120 days, that is primarily what is being built. By the end of the next 120 days — at an impressive rate of ninety-five hundred neuron constructions per second — your brain is already a gray blob with a hundred billion neuron intersections. These intersections are called nodes or neurons, and each neuron must connect with another neuron. These neurons are connected with a "string" called an axon, and once a connection is made, a pathway exists between two neuron points through which ideas can flow. Neuron connectors are also called synapses, and they map the nebula of the brain. The human brain contains billions of neurons, and each one makes about fifteen thousand connections. It is staggering to think about how the formative neuron-mapping process of the brain is complete by around age three.

The point of this short biology lesson is simply to illustrate that these connections exist; and some of them, for whatever reason, flow information better than others. If it were possible for us to somehow look into my brain while it is being used, we would find the equivalent of a huge tangled ball of wiring with millions of connections. Some connections in my brain are small and light and cannot deal with much traffic. These connections are like drinking straws: small and thin, capable of transporting fluid (or ideas), but not very effectively. Other connections are thicker, like garden hoses, capable of flowing much more information. Finally, you have the thickest connections in the brain, which are like the hoses that connect to fire hydrants. When you open up a thick connection, huge volumes of information can flow through it in the blink of an eye.

If we were to take out my thickest axon connection, then roll it over to see what is written on the bottom, it would say — written in God's handwriting — the word Achiever® (my number one Clifton StrengthsFinder® talent). In other words, that strong connection developed during my formative years.

Fact is, we have talents hardwired into our brains, and we were created that way on purpose. There is a biological reason the straw-size connection at position number thirty-four on your talent list cannot transport as much information as the fire hose-size connection at number one on your list. That's why it is not productive to focus on making the lower talents on the list perform like the stronger talents. There is just no way as much fluid can flow through a straw as through a fire hose! Similarly, there is no way Empathy® (which is lowest on my list of talents) will ever function as strongly as Achiever® (which is highest on my talent list). It could be said that there is a biological reason for why that will just never happen for me.

Some people might say that having a low Empathy® score is a negative hurdle I should actively try to jump. It is very true that having low Empathy® on my Clifton StrengthsFinder® list does not give me a license to be overly rigid toward people. I don't get to say, "Suck it up, cupcake," or be grossly insensitive just because my Empathy® ranking is low (even though I have been tempted to).

These talents are subject to my decisions and my governance. With this knowledge, I know that I will never be as great at Empathy as others who have it in their top five, so I can stop trying to compete with them. There is no need to feel miserable about my failure to measure up. I find this very liberating. I can instead focus on the things that I am actually good at, where I have true and measurable talent, and get busy improving those. After all, it's where I have the greatest potential and where some of my strongest contributions will likely come from.


What is the point of all this information? The point is that knowing where you have talent equips you to do something about it. For the rest of your life, whether you do something about it or not, you will have superior ability around your particular mix of strongest talents (the top- five talents on your Clifton StrengthsFinder® Assessment). It would be a shame if your talents equipped you to read 2,900 words-per-minute, but you did not even know it. In order to know what your strongest talents are, you need them to be succinctly and objectively identified.

Every one of us has the ability to produce world-class results in our lives because of the talents we have. What stops you is simply not knowing what they are. How can you do something with your strengths if you don't know you have that kind of capacity?

You have to find out where you are strong, where you are talented, and what tools God has given you so you can do something with them. That is the whole point of this exercise.

Remember, this is not just about what you do. It is about who you are. There is a difference. Consider the following example: I can type on the computer, swing a golf club, or spend time with my kids. Those are three separate and distinctly different activities; they have nothing to do with each other. There is, however, one thing common among all of them: me. I type on the computer. I take who I am and go play golf or spend time with my kids. I am the one who is doing it, so what I do comes out of who I am. All too often, we try to correct what we are doing instead of first working to understand who we are. But it is only after we uncover who we are that we can understand what we do. That creates a far more aligned balance for our lives and brings our daily actions closer to our true identities and the place of our strongest contribution.

Finally, you may ask, "Doesn't everybody have these talents? How many other people in the world can do what I do? How many other people are just like me?"

Let's answer this by asking a question: How many people would you need to talk to in order to find one other person with the same five Clifton StrengthsFinder® results as you, with the exact same talent sequence? The answer is roughly thirty-three million. The world population is expected to exceed 7.4 billion in 2017. If you do the math, that means there are fewer than 225 people who have the same five talents in your sequence. These people could include a little Australian Aborigine child, an old Malaysian guy, a Canadian housewife, or an African businessman. That statistic holds up all over the world, regardless of race, religious denomination, gender, or culture. Our talents transcend demographics. One person in thirty-three million is a pretty rare occurrence, I must say.

What if we looked for one person with the same top six talents as you, in the same order? There are barely enough people on the planet to find one person who shares your same top six. From here, statistically, it starts to get crazy. To find one person who has the same top eight talents in your order the number is somewhere in the region of seven hundred billion people. You get the picture. You are incredibly unique — irreplaceably unique. Remember, too, that this is not all of who you are. If you imagine yourself as a pie chart, then today we are just dealing with one slice: the Clifton StrengthsFinder® piece.

So what is the point? The point is, there is nobody else like you. Furthermore, not only is there nobody just like you on the planet today, but never has there been anyone like you in the history of time. And in case you were wondering, it is highly unlikely that there could be anyone just like you in the future. We now have statistical proof to show it.

This understanding has two important implications. First, if nobody else is like you, then who is your competition? Just think about that question for a minute.


Excerpted from Strengths Based Marriage by Jimmy Evans, Allan Kelsey. Copyright © 2016 Jimmy Evans and Allan Kelsey. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jimmy Evans is the founder of and CEO of MarriageToday. The ministry’s national television program, MarriageToday with Jimmy and Karen, broadcasts daily to more than 110 million households in North America and more than two hundred countries worldwide. Jimmy and his wife, Karen, live in Dallas, Texas.

Allan Kelsey is associate senior pastor at Gateway Church in Dallas/Fort Worth. The former CEO of a franchise business, Allan is a Gallup®-trained strengths advocate. At Gateway Church, he oversees adult education and leadership development of the staff and congregation. Originally from South Africa, Allan is married to Stephanie, and they have two daughters.

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Strengths Based Marriage: Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other's Gifts 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
JennGrand 4 months ago
This book is a MUST read for marriages! The organization I work for is big on helping their employees figure out their strengths and allowing them to work in an area that focuses on their giftings and strengths. I've gone through Strengths Finder a couple times, and have really enjoyed learning about myself and how I can use the unique way God gifted me. When I got married, I knew my husband and I were different from one another, but I never realized we were COMPLETE opposites until we went through Strengths Finder and some other personality tests. So when I saw this book, I jumped on it! Learning about each other and how to appreciate our strengths instead of become annoyed at how we're different has helped our marriage in enormous ways. We communicate better, love each other better and appreciate each other so much more. If you're married to someone who is opposite of you (or even if he or she is very similar to you!) this is a book that will do WONDERS to your marriage! I highly encourage everyone to read it, and even think it should be used in pre-marriage counseling to start off a marriage on the right foot!