It’s finalllllllly TGIFlipping Friday and after five straight days of wrestling hysterical drunk midgets (aka: your babies) to sleep – all while shushing and bouncing and rocking and swinging (not to mention surviving solely on reheated macaroni and cheese); the babysitter arrives and you officially FREEEEE! Tonight is THE NIGHT you are going to take down your hair from its crusty messy bun, put on those four inch heals collecting dust over in the corner, and chug as much wine as you can for the next two hours until the clock strikes 11 and you turn into a pumpkin (or better yet a prison guard on baby watch) Let’s get this party started!
Screeeeeech…..(Enter mic drop)
Your husband – that guy you fell for because of his love of structure and routine and his insatiable appetite for career success has just returned from his two week trot around the globe and his nine hundredth business meeting, and his big plan for the weekend entails twenty-two naps on the couch, wearing those sweat pants you have come to despise since the babies arrived, and consuming an extra large cheese pizza over the course of the next 12 hours. Can you say boooorrrriiing?
Oh the joys of being married to your opposite.
Meeting In The Middle
We’ve all heard that while birds of a feather flock together, it’s opposites that really attract, which leads to the fun and exciting challenge of making that work in the real world.
So how do you meet in the middle when you find yourself on opposite sides of the fence?
When I ask couples for examples of the of the differences that they find the most annoying in marriage it isn’t necessarily the money, sex, or housework that research says is so challenging in relationships. It’s the small-differentiated wants and needs that grind on them in daily life.
We don’t eat the same foods, says one wife. He wants Sardines on toast with red peppers for breakfast– I want eggs benedict. He likes red sauce and I like cream sauce – which means I can never make Fettuccini Alfredo for dinner. (Life with no cream sauce? Oh the horror)
How you parent your children, how introverted vs. extroverted you are, how often you like to entertain in the home, or how you like to sleep at night are the topics I find surface again and again.
When we are looking for someone to share a life with, we usually gravitate towards those with whom we share similar values – family, home, work, ambition, and passion are those value anchors from which we form the bond of marriage. It is only once we engage in the sharing of daily life that the small disparities between personality types really begin to emerge.
We all know that marriage takes a great deal of compromise, but when you are married to your opposite, so much of life involves compromising your wants vs. your spouses wants, and the inability to get both of your needs met simultaneously means that getting everyone’s needs met takes more time and investment from both parties. Simply put – it just takes more work.
More Like Me
I have found this to be true in my own marriage. My husband needs time alone and solitude to relax and unwind, and I need people and socialization to fill up my cup – which means that we both have to schedule these needs separately – and yet still find the time to kick back and find fun together. When we had one child this was a perfectly reasonable goal; once we added twin babies to the mix, we have found that something has to give – either getting our individual needs met, or finding time to connect to one another. Unfortunately without taking care of ourselves first, we are not in much of a place to want to engage; which means that our differences begin to erode a space between us. There is a real time/energy deficit to make the marriage a priority. And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I sometimes wish he was just more like ME. Sometimes I wish it was just…easier.
And this is the threat that is at the center of all marriages between opposites.
I find that you have to put a lot more thought and intention into making your marriage a priority (with an opposite partner) than you would with someone who is just along on the same ride with you. When you both share the same interests, enjoy eating the same foods, like to play the same way – you just do what you both want to be doing together, and it is somewhat effortless. When you trying to find a middle ground – it either means moving towards his or her side of the fence or giving in half way to meet in the middle which isn’t always very satisfying. More often than not, it really just entails being willing to go at it alone.
Going At It Alone
Going at it alone was something I had to learn to do within my own marriage. Because I am an extrovert married to an introvert, I have found that I can best get my needs met when I maintain my independence and let go of the expectations that I would “do” most of life as a couple. One of the payoffs of this tradeoff is that I still maintain my own identity outside of my marriage. There is my life, and his life, and the life we do together – that combined life most often entails our family and our children. We are separate human beings that share a big piece of our life with one another. This also means acknowledging and honoring what one another needs – even when we don’t like it or understand it. I like to believe that this separateness has imparted on us some very powerful gifts.
So why would one choose to engage in such a relationship that comes with such a huge workload?
The Growth Payoff
I have found that my husband balances me, and I have seen this balance play out in most of the “opposite” marriages I know. My husband is a force that grounds me; and like a yen to my yang – his biggest strengths perfectly compliment by biggest deficits…which makes him the best person alive to point out those shortcomings to me. I don’t think we can always see our shit when we are surrounded by people that meet us eye to eye, or let us run the show and have it our way. In my experience, the art of compromising with someone who is a master in our biggest weaknesses also opens us up to working on them, and from that work an extraordinarily huge amount of growth takes place.
With that said, I have a great number of people in my life that are so much like me that I find great comfort in their presence – my antenna goes down, my radar turns off, and in many ways I find their company like being alone – it’s comforting – and it is hard to find that comfort all the time with your opposite. There are wonderful benefits to those experiences and relationships. I think for many people it is that contentment that they seek in their marriage – and if that is the primary need for you romantically than you are probably better with a bird of a feather.
Which is why when people ask, why did you marry your opposite, and how do you manage to stay satisfied when you are both such different people? There is one simple answer – he challenges me every single day and he helped me grow into the absolute best version of myself (enter in the cheesy wind beneath my wings song) – but seriously – I would find being married to myself awfully boring – and I have never been one to turn away from a challenge.