After Opposites Attract
Aren't relationships fascinating? We are often attracted to humans who are strong in areas where we struggle as individuals. One such dynamic, which I am seeing in my office a lot lately, is a human who has more of a Type A personality pairing with a human who is more laid back. What seems very attractive during the dating phase can cause quite a bit of tension later on. I just so happen to live out this dynamic, so I wanted to chat a bit about our journey. Brad and I met 19 years ago. I was one of those humans who had been pretty serious about all that I do, and I was approaching college with unrelenting standards. I’m still a bit upset about receiving a B+ in high school French. It ruined my 4.0!
Brad, on the other had, truly enjoyed, let’s say...a more balanced academic experience. After we started dating, his GPA increased, and mine slipped. He learned study habits, and I learned to have a little fun.
I was drawn to Brad’s ability to not take things so seriously. After tests I was sure I failed, he would buy me a pita and take me on Palouse drives to calm my fears. He helped me zoom out to the bigger picture when I thought my world would surely collapse.
This middle ground seemed to unfold quite easily in the dating world, so we decided to commit to a lifetime of fun.
There is nothing like household duties, finances, and parenthood to help highlight our individual strengths and weaknesses. Add in these realities, and the very things that brought us together begin to cause friction.
One of the common points of friction I hear about from many couples is household duties. So, let’s use that as our discussion point for today.
I like a clean house. I can walk through my door and immediately see what is out of place. Whether it's the dog bowl that’s empty, the trash that smells, an empty toilet paper roll, or backpacks on our dining table, I see it. The curve ball, for me, came when I learned that not everyone is wired this way. I just assumed that if I zoomed in on these messed, my family would also.
Well...that isn’t exactly how it works. We are all taking in different information from our environment and prioritizing that information In our own way. This is exacerbated if we assume that if someone isn’t seeing or caring about what we see, they must not care about us — especially if we lovingly (or not so lovingly) point out what is being missed, and our beloved fails to follow through with our expectation.
Let me give you an example. In our early years, when I would clean the kitchen, every surface was wiped. Dishes were not done until the kitchen was sparkling. On the other hand, Brad would get dishes in the dishwasher, but the counters would be a mess.
It took me quite a few rounds of frustration to understand that he wasn’t neglecting counters to annoy me. Crumbs did not, in fact, symbolize a lack of love. Instead, Brad would simply get pulled in a different direction. The phone would ring, or a kid needed something, and he would move on. He is also asking, as I write this, “Are crumbs on the counter really that big of a deal?”
If you bristled a little while reading that, you might be type A! So, through the last 19 years, we have learned a few things. We have learned that all characteristics have both good and bad components. My attention to detail is awesome for balancing a checkbook, organizing calendars for three kids, or being able to make a house shine, but it can cause tension in my relationships and lead to health issues.
Brad‘s ability to go with the flow can help us navigate situations with much less anxiety, and help us remember to laugh. However, we may or may not own a couple Redbox movies.
The bottom line is, we both have to remember the good. Focus on why these attributes attracted us to each other instead of labeling them as bad.
We’ve had the opportunity to grow as individuals. Brad helped me to learn that my unrelenting standards for self and others could exhaust all of us. I had to learn to let go of the crumbs, at times, and to rest. Brad has learned to pay more attention to the crumbs, in an effort to strengthen the team. Practicing more attention to detail and focus has paid off in his work environment. We have learned compromise and appreciation. Instead of looking at what isn’t done, I’ve learned to collect data on what is. Brad voices appreciation for how my attention to detail benefits our family life.
Now, let’s be real. I would say we‘ve mastered this balance the majority of the time, but conflict still flames up now and again. However, then we have the opportunity to make repair. That’s just part of this whole
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