When Opposites Attract

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When I fell in love with my husband, I fell quickly and completely.  He is so handsome and funny. We married just five months after we began dating.  He was twenty-one and had never lived away from home; I was twenty-four and had graduated from college, lived in Russia for two semesters, and had been on missions trips. He was a school skipper, while I was a top student.  I was a pastor’s daughter; he had been in a glam rock band.  He loves video games and computers; I am a book worm.

While our opposite personalities create a passionate, exciting relationship, our differences can cause a lot of disagreement.  Here are some ways you may differ from your spouse and some strategies to keep your relationship interesting but not explosive.

Early Bird, Night Owl.  When I wake up, I wake up early and get up right away.  My most productive time is the early hours when everyone else is asleep.  I wake up at five, do my daily devotions, take care of house hold chores, and run.  On the other hand, I often fall asleep on the couch between 8 and 9 p.m. It is hard for me to teach an evening Bible Study or take graduate classes at night.  Friday nights after work, I like to collapse at home with a pizza and a good book instead of going out with friends.  In contrast, my husband has worked nights for most of our marriage and has even worked overnight shifts while sleeping during the day.  Right now, he works weekends as well, so we have to find pockets of time to see each other and communicate.  The worst thing I can do is hit him with a list of things to do, problems, or questions first thing in the morning.  If he wakes up at 9 a.m., I’ve been up four hours already and I’m rearing to go, while he wants to putter and drink coffee, check his computer and TV.  This can have devastating effects on our love life as we truly are ships that pass in the night.  I used to host a Saturday morning Bible study at our house.  Now, Saturday mornings are often times when I try to clear the schedule so Mike and I can go to a late breakfast before he heads to work.  I try to make him lunch to bring to work and fill his car with gas so that he has a smooth morning.  Since he works on the weekends, his day off is a Tuesday, which ended up being one of our busiest days this spring.  I worked all day, then taught Bible Study from 5:45-7, while my son had basketball games 3:30-5.  Our daughter added softball practice at 6, so this created tension since my husband expected and deserved some rest on his day off, while the three of us were in the beginning of a rigid school schedule.  On these nights I always ordered pizza and we didn’t often attend away games.  The most important thing to do when schedules or preferences conflict with quality time is to find common time to communicate.  For us, the weekly or bi-weekly breakfast date works best.  Couples must have non-threatening, positive communication as a foundation before broaching difficult subjects.

Spender, Saver. Everyone knows one of the biggest causes of tension in marriage is money, especially if the individuals are opposites in this important sphere. In couples that are opposite, one person is the spender, and the other is the saver.  In my marriage I am the one who manages our finances.  The biggest challenge here is that one spouse often bears the burden of this important responsibility.  While it makes things easier for one person to be tracking accounts and paying bills, both partners need to have input on how to spend the money.  For example, I recently saved money by switching phone service, and I made sure I told my husband about the great deal.  He is wonderful because he turns over his paycheck and never asks for anything for himself.  It is important for both spouses to have an understanding of what is coming in and going out.  A friend of mine recently lost her husband, and she had a rude awakening when she learned that bills had not been paid and her finances were a mess. Without giving details, I mention to my husband that I’ve paid a bill or we need to tighten the budget for an unexpected medical bill. Another friend makes purchases and then gives her husband the receipt so he can balance the books.  It is important to discuss major purchases.  Last September we bought a car and we both selected the car and decided when it was time and where we would shop.  However, when my daughter had oral surgery and got braces last year, I didn’t consult with Mike, and we should have waited a few months since this medical expense really emptied our savings.

Messy, Neat.  The day-to-day schedules of the household can be affected if one mate is messy, and the other is neat.  Somehow, Mike and I are evenly matched here, but unfortunately we both tend to be undisciplined.  I have a lot of creative clutter, and Mike doesn’t spend a lot of time on chores before he leaves for work, so if I have to label us, I would be the “neat” one since the bulk of the chores fall to me. Our friend suggested an interesting activity for engaged couples.  She suggested that each person make a two-column list of chores they don’t mind and chores they expect their spouse to complete.  Then the couple is supposed to compare lists and make a plan for housekeeping.

When opposites attract, there has to be some compromise.  For example, if the wife is home with the children during the day, and the husband expects to come home to a clean house, the expectations may be unrealistic.  Maybe the bedroom can be a restful spot where clutter is put away and the bed made each day.  Perhaps the living room is the sanctuary that is top priority.  Family dinner at the dining room table may be your clutter-free zone. Now that my children are teenagers, I need to delegate more tasks to them.  More and more these days I hear of men who take over the cooking.  I appreciate that my husband doesn’t complain when things get messy, but if keeping things neat and orderly is a blessing to your spouse, be sure to find at least one zone in your house where your mate feels peaceful.

Good Cop, Bad Cop.   Marrying someone with opposite traits poses challenges that often escalate after having children.  Couples can disagree over the discipline of the children.  Mike tends to dole out consequences like no TV for a week if my daughter talks back.  This is impossible for him to follow through since he works evenings.  I tend to be less likely to punish them because I discipline teens all day at school and I’m tired when I get home.  The best advice is deciding before a situation occurs what the consequence will be.  For example, if my teen comes home late, next time he won’t be able to go out.  That way, everyone knows the consequences.  The worst thing is allowing the children to manipulate the parents, pitting them against each other.  Parents should present a united front even if one spouse feels the other is too lax or too strict.

Book Worm, Social Butterfly.  The final area that causes misunderstanding in my marriage is our social lives.  Often these disagreements come up during the holidays, vacations, or days off. When blended families are in the mix, managing holiday celebrations is even more challenging.  I am a bookworm, and although I am comfortable speaking and teaching in front of others, I don’t enjoy parties.  My husband is usually the life of the party and will meet new people and tell stories while I sit in the corner.  When couples are opposite in this way, it helps to have a plan to navigate the event, like a wedding.  If the social spouse is talking, have signals or a pre-arranged time to meet up or leave the venue.  I am always proud to have my handsome, charming husband as my date.

Marriage to my husband is a wonderful experience, but our personalities can polarize us.  Instead of focusing on your differences, try to remember the excitement that they bring to your relationship.

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