When we are in relationship with others, our differences are more evident than our similarities. No place is this more apparent than in marriage. Tom and I have been married for almost 25 years, and our many differences are as evident today as they were when we were starry-eyed in love on the day of our wedding.
I’m prickly. He’s buttoned up.
I’m multi-layered and a tad complicated. He has a deep, gentle core and is more straight forward.
I experience and express all of my feelings ad nauseam. He’s darn good at avoiding any emotions that rock his internal Hakuna Matata, much less putting words to them.
I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. He’s a planner.
I can go for days without a shower. He can’t.
I state my needs and preferences quickly, and perhaps a little too easily. He poses a question as a backdoor way of stating his desires without having to take ownership for them.
I care about form first, function second. He starts with function and hopes for form.
I move fast. He’s methodical.
I can commander any conversation. He tends to take a back seat.
I know I’ll find a parking space close in. He’s pretty sure he won’t.
I’m messy. He’s, ummm, not.
A good example of how this plays out happened the other morning. We were staying at Los Poblanos, a drop-dead fabulous historic inn in Albuquerque, NM. Sitting in bed with our cups of French Press coffee, it went something like this.
Him: Do you want to explore the grounds after our coffee?
Me: Yes! And then go to breakfast. (Rated the best breakfast in all of New Mexico.)
Him: But shower first, right?
Me: (Big sigh) Can’t we just be spontaneous?
Him: (Jaw muscles clench) A shower just wakes me up.
Me: And you don’t think a brisk walk in 31 degree air will do that?
Him: (More jaw clenching)
Me: (Bigger sigh) Fine. We can come back, you shower, and I’ll keep walking or read or something.
We finish our coffee in strained silence and head out for a walk.
It was a glorious morning, and as we wandered the trails discovering secret gardens, meditation spaces, the resident llamas, took in the attention to detail in the design of the buildings and grounds, and breathed the fresh morning air, the sun on our faces warmed up our hearts. Pretty soon we were laughing, holding hands, and giving thanks for the unbelievable blessing of even being able to grant ourselves this kind of experience.
Me: Who gets to do this??
Him: Today, I guess we do.
Me: It feels so good to be out here together.
Him: (Deep laugh) I think I want breakfast.
Me: Now? Before your shower?
Him: Yep. It’s amazing how rigid I think I have to be in my mind. Thank you for challenging me to do it differently.
We finish our walk and head off to breakfast in happy silence.
We head into Campo for breakfast. Our server comes by our table with coffee, and I jump straight into an energetic conversation with her.
Me: We had the most amazing dinner last night.
Her: I’m so happy to hear that.
Me: We both think it was one of the best, if not the best meal we’ve ever had anywhere.
Her: Wow! My partner is the Sous Chef. I’ll be sure and tell him. What did you order?
Me: I had the Rib-Eye. OMG, it was beyond delicious. We also had the Sashimi, the grilled asparagus, and Tom had the Pork Chop.
We order our breakfast.
We sip our coffee in easy silence for a few minutes.
Him: (In a quiet, gentle voice) I’d like to offer an observation. You jumped into that conversation, took off running, and didn’t give me a chance to answer for myself or give my opinion.
Me: (Taking a moment) You are so right. I don’t even see myself doing it.
Him: Just like when I ask you what you want as a way avoiding taking ownership for my own needs.
Him: You are really helping me with that.
Me: Like you just helped me.
Here is the truth—we are different in so many ways, and while we sometimes drive each other crazy, we’ve also come to count on the gifts that come wrapped in our differences. When all is said and done…this is us.