So many comedies (and couples) are build on the premise that “opposites attract” and all its derivatives.
While that may be useful for awkward comedic situations (and any number of marriages) I tend to agree with Neil Clark Warren:
In his book Finding the Love of Your Life (originally published by Focus on the Family) he asserts that similarities are money in the bank (of marital harmony) while differences are drains on the account.
Basically, the more similarities you have, the less you have to fight about. Warren included in that book a very specific list of 50 areas of “helpful marriage similarities” where, essentially, similarity or agreement would simplify your life together.
In May of 2000, when Jay and I, in our different ways, were considering this marriage thing a possibility, I brought the list on one of our rambling drives and we began to work our way through it.
At this point I knew Jay wanted to get married, but I didn’t know what God wanted, and I didn’t know what I wanted. So having a list was useful to me: something concrete and definable.
Knowing Jay wanted to marry, and knowing he knew me and my reliance on… well, outside confirmation, you could call it, I completely did not trust him.
Not that I believed he would lie– I already knew him to be one of the most deeply honest and open people I’d met– but I didn’t trust that his innate flexibility wouldn’t mold his answers to be more… compatible than fully accurate.
It was a Monday night when we worked our way through the first half of the list, me making him answer first, because I didn’t want my answers to influence him. Before we’d made it through the first dozen I felt life a simpering “yes-man” because I was agreeing with all of his answers.
~ ~ ~
What I learned that night (and the next, before accepting his proposal Wednesday) greatly set my heart as ease.
When I first “noticed” Jay, my mind made a mental list of the dividing line of differences between us (the biggest I can remember at this moment being the type of movies he would see that I wouldn’t– mainly for the violence). It was literally a “deal-maker” to see in list form–to recognize– the amount of significant similarities we shared.
If you want to see the whole list you should pick up the book, but I wanted to share the majors as Warren lists them.
First though, as Warren points out, no one thing breaks a relationship on its own; it is about debts vs. credits.
That being said, there are some similarities that are especially important:
- Intelligence (not the same thing as education)
- How smart doesn’t matter, but closeness in level does (feeling markedly superior to your partner is not something I consider healthy)
- What’s important to you: morally, relationally, in how you spend your time
- Intimacy (of the non-sexual kind)
- Are you equally capable/open?
- Expectations about roles
- Do you both know who’s going to make dinner? Change the oil? (Please change your own; it’s so simple and will save you some serious money)
You can see these are all things that could create frustration and discomfort when “nothing” was really wrong in your world. Add in the normal stressors of life (and/or a kid or two) and you’re starting to feel like the ant under a magnifying glass).
When he listed the differences that cause the most problems I found myself nodding like a puppet– Most of us have heard of these being elements in the divorces we’ve been forced to observe:
- Personal habits
- e.g. hygiene, clutter-bug/neat-nick
- Use of Money
- Verbal skills/interest in being verbal
- Energy level
- this last item was one I hadn’t considered before, though I’d heard the others. But (especially having been married over eight years, now) I heartily concur.
Warren’s final observation is that flexibility can smooth over a great many differences; and “love covers a multitude of sins.”
To me the neat thing in all this was learning (the first time I read this book– before I even knew Jay, I believe) that there were things I could do before I was married to significantly reduce the amount of conflict in my married life.
For a (largely) non-confrontational type like me, that was great news!
And it has been a great life. I think of my grandparents and marvel that (Lord willing) I still have many times the years we’ve already spent.
Conflict and snappy comebacks are great for books and sitcoms, but in my own nest what I enjoy most is simple peace.