Monday, April 1, 2013

Opposites Attract: It's Friction with Benefits

The obituary said it all.  

A wife whose husband had passed described him as, "My beloved lover, friend and adversary for 30 years."

It made me smile.  And also tear up a little. (I do that a lot.)  Because I too, married an adversary.  Or, didn't we all?

I have a friend who says, “Opposites might attract – but similiars stick.”  It made sense to me at first, because I married my opposite, and we’ve been fighting the good fight ever since. (Actually not always the good fight, if I'm keeping it real!)  I loved my man’s confidence when I met him; later, it seemed overbearing.  I liked how he took charge and had the world by the tail; later, it seemed controlling.  I loved that my husband said out loud things most people would only think. Later, I thought it was crude.  Sound familiar?  It's because the stuff which initially attracts us can later drive us apart.

In times of despair, I've wondered, Why didn’t I marry a guy who shared my more laid-back sensibilities?  Why hadn’t I chosen one who didn’t like clutter around the house even for a few minutes?  Why didn’t I marry a guy who wanted to listen to my tales of insolent children and cranky clients more instead of spouting off solutions instead? “This is what you do, Diane… Next problem?”

That always goes over really well.  Come on, honey – I just need you to listen to me rant and rave for 5 minutes and I’ll be all better.  God bless my own personal Mr. Fix-it! 

So maybe it's true.   If I‘d married someone more similar, we’d have stuck together more easily instead of just by sheer determination.  But I wouldn’t have grown.  I might not ever have been made fully aware of my serious propensity for losing my keys and glasses and wallet on a daily basis.  I might never have busted through the towering piles on my desk to create order. And I might live in a house where I never fixed what was broken.  It hurts to say it all - but my husband’s right a lot. (Gulp.  Don't tell him I said that.) I’ve got issues!  

For me, marrying my opposite bred years of struggle and strife.  It hasn’t been easy, and I’m sure we’ve given our kids plenty of fodder for future therapy sessions.  Even as a person of faith I never could quite live up to “good wife” status, try as I might to respect my knight-in-shining armor.  Still, all in all – I can say that triumphing over it, something my man and I will likely do every single day – has shaped me.  I’ve grown through the struggles – I’ve matured, become more resilient, and even learned to fix a few things about myself I'd rather sort of shove under the rug.  (Along with the dust bunnies.)

So while there are times I crave more compatibility and appreciation for my creative, nurturing spirit, my husband also saved me in a way.  What happens when two pack-rats live together?  Or when two “spendies” merge?  Or when two alcoholics connect?  They can enable each other to continue in those habits, because one doesn’t feel right pointing out the very flaw with which he or she also wrestles. 

But - when a neat-nick shacks up with a slacker – you can bet that once they learn to fight fair and compromise, the slacker will help the neat-nick relax a bit, and the neat-nick makes sure the slacker doesn’t end up on an episode of Hoarders.  But fighting's not all bad. It means you care.  Fighting is intimate.  Fighting means you're family.

In other words, opposites attract, but if they’re resilient and humble and committed and selfless – they can also manage to stick.  Yes – if I’d chosen someone more similar, our house might have been quieter, our rocky road a lot smoother.  But after 18 years, you know what?  My husband still gives me butterflies when he hugs me in the morning before work.  He's my adversary and my biggest critic - but also, my most passionate fan.

Friction has its benefits, after all.

What about you?  Did you marry an adversary?  Do you have a bombastic and passionate relationship? Do you fight the good fight, or are you still trying to prove you're right?  Tell me!  And check out my Facebook page, and I'll visit yours!