Every marriage has a “How” person and a “Wow” person. Discuss.

every marriage needs how person wow person

My husband and I spent the weekend in Nashville at Jon Acuff’s Quitter Conference. It was a great event with lots of food for thought, and I’m excited to share more about it with you as I process the weekend’s events.

Today I’d like to get your thoughts on one thing.

Saturday morning, Jon emphasized the importance of seeking support from our significant others, friends and family, and peers in order to accomplish anything great. Something he said stuck with me:  “In every marriage there are two people: a “How” person and a “Wow” person.”

This wasn’t an unfamiliar idea to me. A favorite college prof said the same thing, basically: in his marriage, he was the one constantly saying, “I have a VISION!”  His wife was constantly talking him down with her repeated, quiet suggestion: “Let’s be practical.” They made a good team, he said.

(Don’t you worry about them. They followed through on some of those visions, and the results are glorious. But they agreed they didn’t go bankrupt or crazy in the process because they balanced each other out.)

The thing is, I just don’t know that this is true for my marriage.

I’m an idea person. I tend to live in my head and think about Deep Things. In that way, I’ve got a whole lot of Wow in me, and my husband spends a lot of time talking me back down to reality. When I’m on a Vision streak, he’s the one who tells me to be (at least a little bit) practical. The How.

My husband’s an idea person, too, yet his ideas are more likely to require tons of cash and radical life change to enact: that’s Wow, for sure. That makes it my turn to be the “How” person: the practical one.

Maybe it’s true to say that our marriage has a “How” person and a “Wow” person, but as to which is which? It depends on the day.

What about you? Do you think every relationship has a “How” person and a “Wow” person? Has it proven true in your relationships?


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  1. Hmmm, this is something to ponder! In our marriage, I’m all wow, and my husband is all how?

    But I also know of marriages with two ‘how’ people who are racked with indecision, and marriages with two ‘wow’ people which are scary crazy rides.

    So perhaps balance is key. I totally think you can both be a bit of each though. I guess you just don’t want two extremes of the same thing together, or else, you’d never go anywhere new, or you’d never get the mortgage paid on time!

  2. I think we’re like you! We switch back and forth. We definitely help balance each other out, but we’re not always on the same side of the equation. However, if my husband has a true vision, he is more likely to stick it out and do it. I tend to have lots of good ideas and not as much willpower to see them through.

  3. Beth @ dot in the city says:

    I don’t know if every relationship has this quality, but as soon as I read the title of this post, I knew which category I fell into and my husband is the opposite! It’s certainly helpful to balance each other, though it can create tension. As the practical one, I find myself having to learn not sound like a dream crusher when my husband shares his vision/hopes with me.

    • Anne says:

      “As the practical one, I find myself having to learn not sound like a dream crusher when my husband shares his vision/hopes with me.”

      That’s a theme that was discussed a lot this weekend! It’s great that you’re aware of the possibility of that happening–for both your sakes.

  4. For the most part, I am the “How” and my husband is the “Wow.” However, I think the “How” person can catch the vision and shoot off from it, too. Maybe we all have a little bit of both in us, and we use the one that’s needed most in any given situation.

  5. My husband and I were discussing this the other night after I saw your tweet about it. He immediately said, “I am ‘how’ and you are ‘wow/how.'” I think he is right.

    All marriages? I’m afraid I know a few couples who are both, I dunno, “bow-out”? They don’t seem to have any vision, and guess what? They don’t produce much, either. We had a meal with such a couple recently. Sigh.

    • Anne says:

      Before marriage, I was told people shouldn’t marry someone just like themselves: they’ll either bore each other to death or explode, depending on their personalities. I was also warned of the danger of marrying your exact opposite: a little different is good, but *too* different won’t work.

      Interestingly, I do know people who have married their MBTI opposites, and many of them are doing just fine. I suppose it goes to show there are endless factors that go into successful relationships.

  6. This same idea has been on my mind lately. More than once, my husband has walked through the door and been bombarded with one or more of my big ideas. He’s never unsupportive, but he is always the one to step back and say, “Okay, how would that work–in reality?”

    It brings a wonderful balance to our marriage. We both have visions, but he makes sure we have a plan. It actually makes me feel safer to dream big when I know he’s behind me, helping work out the details. And I like to think he’s appreciative of my ability to keep him on his toes.

    I’d love to hear more of what Jon had to say about this!

  7. Great concept, but…. I think we’re another of those couples that each are a little of both. His visions might be a little more dramatic, but we both have them. And we both respond to the other’s dreams with a very practical “How can that work?”
    I think a blend like that is great. But then, I’m probably biased 🙂

  8. I would have to say that I am generally the how person, and Brian is the wow person. He is definitely a dreamer, and I am more practical. But, on the occasion that I am a-dreamin’, he always works to put feet to my dreams. I very much appreciate that.

  9. Heather says:

    I think that’s a cute little saying, made by someone who hasn’t seen many marriages and/or is projecting their own marriage (or idealist vision of marriage) onto everyone else.

    Every marriage gets its energy from something, and how vs wow is just one of those. Some marriages will have obvious wow and how people, and others will be more balanced (or unbalanced) depending on the occasion and the season of life.

    • Anne says:

      Heather, I didn’t give you much context. Jon was addressing a crowd of mostly WOW types, telling them how to seek support from their spouses instead of alienating them. It was a discussion starter, not a platitude (thank goodness!) I just don’t want you to think poorly of him because I didn’t provide you all the background info, you know?

      And yes, that is very much his experience of marriage. He is a WOW type, and his wife was there later in the day to attest that she is very much the How in their marriage.

      I love your insights about the energy fuelers in marriage.

      • Heather says:

        Thanks for the clarification! I was thinking about it after I made my comment and wondered if he said that to a group of entrepreneurs. I still think it’s a HUGE over-generalization, but I understand the context now.

  10. Annette Standrod says:

    I agree with you. We all have big dreams we want to make happen and our spouse helps us work it out. I think sometimes we are both too practical therefore nothing spectacular happens. Every once in a while we get a wild hair and just risk it.

  11. Tara says:

    I agree with commenter Heather. I think every couple is different and I’ve seen couples with two hows or two wows (just like with Dave Ramsey’s stuff I’ve seen couples with 2 savers or 2 spenders on occasion). In our house I am How/ Wow and my husband is Wow. But my husband is more Wow than he would naturally be because I’m so willing to be a How for both of us. When he comes to me and says-this is what I want-I say ok let me run the numbers and figure out how to fit this into our lives (not that these things are things that need to be purchased but often if we have a cash cushion we can make more happen and be more successful). We both sit and discuss, do some research, and discuss some more. I had a long running dream we did this with and I ended up realizing the dream was lovely but the reality was not what I really wanted. Right now we are running with a long running dream of his and it’s looking like we’re going to make it work out great. We both have an open-endedness to us in addition to being How/Wow. Our version of How is a way of making possibilities into realities and mapping out how to get there.

  12. Tim says:

    We each do both in our marriage. We run ideas by each other, and we talk about how ideas can be accomplished. One of the keys for us is that we feel it’s ok to run those ideas back and forth and not fear complete shutdown as a response.

    The other thing about coming up with ideas is that it’s important for us to know when to run them by the other person. If I’m coming up with an idea and she’s coming off a bad day at work, I probably should keep my idea to myself for a while and help her process the day.

    Ideas can wait, but people shouldn’t have to.


    • Anne says:

      Timing is everything, huh? I should have put that in last week’s post about the things I wish I knew in my 20s! It’s the truth.

      “Ideas can wait, but people shouldn’t have to.”


  13. Missy G. says:

    I’ve never heard of that before, but I am definitely the Wow and hubby is the How. I can think of several examples right off the top of my head, and each from a different genre of life. Faith, home, business, vacations. What an eye-opening phrase for me. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Malisa Price says:

    For sure I am the How person and Anthony is the Wow person. I have to be careful to not ask too many how’s in the beginning or else I can easily become a dream crusher! I’m so glad you and Will had such a great time at the Quitter Conference.

  15. Claire says:

    Absolutely! I love this. I am definitely the Wow in our relationship and my husband is the How. So far, everytime I have a Wow he has been there, 100% ready to make it happen. He lets me know when it is time to pull back or pull the plug. LOVE HIM!

  16. Steve says:

    This is what I see with the majority of couples I work with. While there is often an overall tendency towards ‘wow’ for one and ‘how’ for another, it will switch on some issues. When you have two ‘wow’ people, things tend to be pretty chaotic. Two ‘how’ folks will tend to have a very structured relationship and life than sole,would find very dull.

    David Schnarch talks about the idea of the ‘high desire’ and ‘low desire’ partner in his books, and its essentially the same idea in a more generalized sense. His ideas on how to handle those discrepancies are good, whichever side you fall on.

  17. I love that. My husband and I have been at odds about this lately. I am all WOW and he is all HOW. We are struggling to find the balance between voicing opinions and squashing ideas. I want my hubs to feel he has the right to have an opinion on any matter (because he does!), but at the same time, it gets old when most ideas are met with, “I don’t know about that.”

    Perhaps we can sit down and read this together. It might be a good talking point! Thanks 🙂


  18. Jennifer H says:

    I think we might both be Wow and How at the same time. When either one of us has “visions”, it’s always followed by “do you think we can do this?” and trying to work out the practical.

  19. Jessica @ Acting Adult says:

    I think this is true, to a point. I’m definitely the more practical one with the budgeting and realism that has to be thrown in when my husband wants to send a camera into space or something ridiculous. But then again, we sometimes switch roles. But this is definitely interesting to think about!

  20. My husband and I were just talking about this the other day, but in our marriage he is the “glass half empty” guy and I am more of the realist I see things as they are. Problem is that means we really don’t dream big! and life can get kind of boring sometimes. We have decided we both need to dream outside of the box more.

  21. mandie says:

    We are very similar to you- both dreamers and thinkers, but not in the same realms. I am the deep thinker of All The Things in our marriage that is constantly wanting to change things & evolve the way we do things, while my husband wants to Do All The Things that are big and world changing. Very different, but nice that we can appreciate each other’s desire & passion while helping to reign them in, too. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Ha! That’s so much like us, Mandie! I am definitely the Deep Thinker of All The Things; he wants to Do All The Things. Love the way you put it 🙂

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