Opposites attract. They really do! Then you get married and often opposites repel.
When my wife and I began dating in college, we couldn’t have been more different. Ours was really a case of “opposites attract.” Frankly, the differences were enchanting, fascinating and intriguing. Then we got married. About six to eight months in, those differences were not nearly as charming anymore – they were were just different. I remember thinking, “That thing you do that when we were dating was so beguiling and fascinating? Yeah, well it’s annoying now.” And my wife was feeling the same thing with my differences…
What did we get ourselves into? The rest of our lives seems like a long time to put up with this!
Below are some questions to turn this obstacle into an opportunity:
*Is this a problem to be solved or a tension to be managed?
What kind of differences are we talking about here? Is one person laid-back and the other more assertive? That’s a tension to be managed – probably your whole life. Is one person trying to save money while the other person is blowing through it? That’s a problem that is a problem that is gonna have to be solved.
*Is one person taking the moral high ground?
I was fond of saying that all our differences were equal but some were more equal than others. My wife was more assertive, list-driven and task-oriented. I was laid-back and cared more about people. She always had “The Moral High Ground.” My wife would often say, “Well, at least I get things done!” (Aaaand you’re gonna die from a heart attack.) Try not to label the differences good & bad, right & wrong, helpful & unhelpful. They can just be different.
*Is there a duty to validate your spouse and their differences?
Do you have a chance to celebrate your spouse and the unique things that they bring to the relationship and the family? Be sincere and not condescending.
*Is there an opportunity for you to provide each other balance?
My wife and I finally learned that our differences should not be competing with each other, but rather, they could be complimenting each other.
*Is there wisdom in playing to your strengths?
Sadly, there are many “gendered” jobs around the house where we often just expect a certain partner to do it. But what if that is not their skill-set or passion? The other spouse is like, “I LOVE doing that job and I’m awesome at it!” Play to your strengths, not stereotypes.
*Is there a way for your kids to benefit from seeing your differences?
Absolutely – especially if you can show them how you work together through your differences. With an example like that, it’s more likely that your kids will be able to work well with people who are different than them. Plus, if you allow your differences to balance each other out, it’s more likely that your kid will follow suit. So, instead of constantly planning or constantly sleeping, they’ll have a deeper understanding of how to “work hard, play hard,” so to speak.
An important thing to remember is that a relationship with two people wired the exact same way comes with plenty of problems of its own.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***