My husband and I are very different.
If you know us well, that statement doesn’t come as a big surprise. But for those who don’t, it’s like night and day. Literally. He loves to stay up late and is energized by being around people. I love to get up early and have quiet time by myself. He’s the spender. I’m the saver. He’s athletic, while I am most definitely not. We have different love languages, enneagram numbers, talents, hobbies and goals. We just like different things. And trust me, people notice — not in a negative way, but in a “How-on-earth-does-this-work?” and “Is-there-hope-for-our-own-marriage?” way. The short answers are, “Hard work,” and, “Yes, there’s always hope.”
To move forward, it’s often helpful to go back. When our relationship began in 1999, we were both in college, living up our glory days. Sure, we had differences, but the gap was pretty small. Oftentimes, it even felt fancy, like in the 1989 Paula Abdul video, where she dances round and round with the super-cool street cat, singing “Opposites Attract.” Life was fun and unpredictable. We had no one to worry about except ourselves, so we just hung out and enjoyed each other’s company.
Fast forward 20 years (almost 16 of them married), add a move away from family, a first house, multiple new careers, three kids, lots of animals, and changes in finances, faith and friendships, and the difference gap has threatened to take us out a few times. In fact, much like the song above, most days feel like “we take two steps forward, we take two steps back.” And yet, our love for each other has rooted deeper, grown stronger and remained steadier with each passing year. Our differences work because we do the day-in and day-out hard work of learning to celebrate what we each bring to the table.
It’s kinda like the beauty of night versus day. You wouldn’t want one without the other. The day offers the warmth of the sun; the night gives the cool of the moon. Can you choose between a sunset and a sunrise? No way. They are both beautiful. Our individual selves are much the same. My husband is excitable and passionate. Without his enthusiasm, I may not have ever had the courage to follow my dreams. On the other hand, I am calm and easy-going. My zen-like chill drives him crazy, but also keeps him grounded and steady.
Of course, there are days when the differences feel overwhelming, and we both want to run for the hills. However, when we stop to think about it, most of the differences are petty. We want someone who is like us because it makes life easier. And we all want easy, right?
But easy still isn’t perfect — it never will be. So, in our marriage, we intentionally choose to focus on the similarities. It’s a much shorter list, but super important. Here it is:
- We both want our marriage to work.
- We love our kids.
- We are always looking to add to the list.
Recently, we both tried backpacking and loved it. While he sprints up the hills, I enjoy a slower pace, yet, we are out there doing something together. We also do plenty apart. Friends that share similar interests (books for me, baseball for him) are wonderful, as long as they don’t replace your spouse.
What we have learned along the two-decade journey is that we need each other, like night needs day. Trying to replace, change or control the other never gets the results we want. Instead, we have to work together. We have to seek the good. We have to celebrate the differences. And above all, we have to keep laughing, learning and choosing love.