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!


  1. Diane, it's so good to see another fabulous blog post from you!

    I'll chime in to get the dialogue going, as this is something that I've struggled with for close to 30 years. My husband and I are as far apart on a personalysis test as anyone can be. Our mantra has always been, "Divorce: never, murder: maybe!" In being completely transparent, the latter has definitely crossed my mind over the years!

    We are similar to the way you described you and your husband. Mine is a type A++ (aggressive, angry) extroverted personality with lots of energy and a great multi-tasker, who says embarrassing things without thinking. I, on the other hand, am very laid back and rarely speak up in a group, have low energy, and am a uni-task perfectionist...and on the extreme end of introversion.

    Boy, has this caused an adversarial relationship! I always thought marriage would be about moving together in life, not the intense friction as you suggested. As our kids are grown, I loved your line about giving your kids "plenty of fodder for future therapy sessions." LOL! I hope and pray not, but wouldn't be surprised! One of our kids turned out very balanced, but unfortunately the other is a combination of our worst traits. Keeps me on my knees.

    But I love what you said — that this causes us to grow and mature through the struggles. I'll say I have learned to stand up for myself over the years (but that isn't always a good thing)! But being a more "buttoned-up" personality, my husband has taught me to relax and laugh at life more. And I've taught him to be more sensitive to others. God is still working through us, and I daily need to remember His Words (on love, relationships)...if I would only do that and heed them better, we would be a lot better off!

  2. Hi Friend,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I can relate! And we often say, 'Till death do us part - but we may be the ones to pull the trigger!!" Hee hee. There are days when I despair and days when I can laugh, but I too, am always on my knees, asking for help, and there is purpose in all adversity. God uses our pain to complete His will, and to keep us close. How often do we pray when all is well!?

    I'm certain your husband needs you to soften his tone, and to serve as a balm to his anger. (I try hard to look deeper into every reaction...) There IS a reason your are together. I'm certain in many ways he has also strengthened your confidence - and I am always honing the artful craft of biting my tongue, and having my say. Wisdom is knowing the difference. :) I also know that even though the kids are witness to our struggle - they see that we keep working at it - that so far, we haven't given up!

    Keep the faith and remember - you're not alone!

    Thanks for writing!