When Opposites Attract, and Then Actually Stay Together

My childhood home sat at the top of a large hill. The paved driveway was long and steep, and some of my earliest memories of my husband are of him as a kid, ruining the wheels of my sister’s Razor scooter, because he flew down that driveway at breakneck speed, and destroyed the rubber.

I tried it once, to impress him. I flew over the handlebars at the bottom, and ended up bleeding from minor abrasions and almost dying of a major ego scathing.

We’re Really Different

We’ve been together now for nearly a decade, and we’ve been married for three-quarters of that time. Yet in a lot of ways, the same dynamic still exists. He still likes traveling at breakneck speed. He likes fast decision-making, food, movies, music, cars, motorcycles, planes, and helicopters.

The first seven years of adulthood he spent in the military working on and around fighter jets. Being a military spouse posed plenty of struggles.

As an introvert, the multiple moves and rapidly shifting social circles were at times, exhausting. Additionally, it was challenging to find work that I wanted to do and that was on par with my skills. Any expert on the topic will tell you that networking is one of the most important things you can do when searching for a new job, but that gets increasingly hard with every move.

I tried to finish my degree in a traditional setting, but I ended up having to attend a total of three schools, and the last year I was totally online. Let me tell you, all those resources that debunk the myths about online schooling, aren’t lying.

But even though all of those challenges were there and made things difficult, we made it through.

As a civilian he’s found his calling as a helicopter flight instructor. He spends hours a day letting the least experienced pilots on earth fly him around, hundreds of feet above it.

He’s a spontaneous, extroverted risk-taker. And I’m not. I’m more of the careful, planning homebody variety.

In the early days, I was thrilled by his fearlessness. My often-present anxiety was soothed in the presence of his easy confidence and smile.

We have the same world view, and that impacts the major things: What we think about the purpose of life, and morality, and parenting, etc. But in terms of personality and interests, we are ying and yang. The extrovert and the introvert. The daredevil and the thoughtful planner. The pilot and the writer.

We’re Working On It

We pulled the most stereotypical move in the book by attracting to an opposite; it turns out there’s a reason why the chick flicks all end at that attraction point: staying with an opposite is often, well, hard.

When we were dating and he wanted to go see a movie at the last minute, I was charmed. Now, when he gets home from work and immediately wants to pack the car to make a last minute, nine-hour drive to our hometown, I’m stressed.

Similarly, while my slow-to-build, but long-lasting friendships were endearing to him in the beginning, I’m the first to admit that I’m the worst person in the world to be married to if you want to go to a social get-together with a bunch of people on a Friday night; he’s had to fly solo a lot (pun intended).

The challenge is often that our distinctions as individuals shape our expectations and preferences, and when you’re with someone who is your opposite, then it’s only a matter of time before those expectations and preferences aren’t met.

In general, human beings have the expectations that a relationship will be a 50/50 endeavor. If I do the dishes, you do the laundry. If I go on this motorcycle ride with you, you come to this book fair with me. If I say I’m sorry this time, you say it next time.

Pretty dumb, right? As if our behaviors can be quantified by a numerical value. As if healthy relationships don’t involve taking one for the team, on a daily basis (Laundry AND dishes?!).

It’s dumb, but it’s also real. We all have specific ideas about what love expressed looks like, and there’s some extra-effort you gotta put forth if you’re with someone who has different ideas about a lot of things.

We’re simpatico, y’all.

I don’t always get it. Often what my husband wants, goes against my grain. His natural inclinations, sometimes, are just the opposite of mine. And beyond just preference, I’m prone to worry.

Flying down the road on a motorcycle or through the air, he feels exhilarated. But I often feel fear. What if…?

Why can’t he just be normal and ride the occasional roller-coaster for a rush?

We’re parents now, and this comes up sometimes as we attempt to raise our tiny human too. I’m the mom who googled “GPS tracking for kids” when my daughter started walking, and was thrilled that someone was way ahead of me: it exists! Is my daughter now being tracked at all moments? I wish.

She already points to the planes and helicopters that travel above us and she waves to her father, sure he’s in each one. She’s just a toddler, and to her it makes sense, Dada must be there in the sky. And when he tosses her high above his head, she squeals with delight. She’s right at home.

I asked my husband about this piece that I’m writing; I asked him what he thought about the work coping with our differences requires.

And my good-natured, handsome best friend immediately pointed out how we have been able to utilize each other’s strengths to make life work. Most of our toughest seasons were navigated by relying on who we are as individuals, in the context of our family.

And that’s the thing. I don’t always get it, but I usually need it. I need him to encourage me to do scary, hard things. I need to be reminded that my schedule can’t actually save me from calamity. I need the brain-break a last minute road trip brings, even if I forgot to pack any socks.

And I’m so glad that one of my daughter’s heroes is someone who tells her that fear doesn’t have to have a say in her life. I’m thankful that she has parents who are willing to love each other beyond convenience or comfort.

In the future, when she’s rushing out the door for her next big adventure, I’ll be right there, to remind her to come back home when she’s ready.

 

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