Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Being Married to an Incompatible Person

If you've read this blog for very long as all, you know that I don't make a habit of writing about very personal things. I'm a rather private person about my marriage, past, and my opinions on *almost everything. I'm -much- more comfortable playing the role of encourager: "Try this!" or "Visit this place" and "Have fun. Spend time with your kids!"
(*yeah, okay, occasionally I'm vocal!)

But a recent conversation with a couple of friends made me realize that people don't necessarily realize I struggle. I'm only showing the good (well, except for those dirty dishes pictures a few days ago!) And sometimes, when I'm trying to encourage others, it can be discouraging, if you think I'm running around happy all the time, lining up the next craft and project, never fighting with my husband, never yelling at my kids.

The truth is that our marriage has been a struggle from the Get-Go. When I "tease", telling my friends that our marriage is a daily miracle, it's no joke.

My husband and I were not childhood sweethearts. We'd never even seen each other until a blind date, set up by our best friends, in August of 1997. We had so much fun together! We all went to see some terrible movie (which he loved,) and then walked around the park, went out to eat... right away, I could tell that we were "incompatible."

I love to read, and he didn't see the point.

I really can't stand tv, and he had grown up with it on 24/7. In every room.

I could live on fruits and veggies (and was actually a vegetarian for years,) and Fred has never- to this day- eaten a salad. I'm not even joking.

I'm not an "animal person," and he has unbelievable animal magnetism. Cats just come out of the woodwork.

Fred has an amazing voice, and I can't sing at all. At all.

Fred was brought up going to rodeos, and I was brought up visiting art galleries and museums.

Our backgrounds were utterly different.

We disagreed about movies, food, life outlook, careers, education, you name it. We were both Christians, but neither of us were strong in our faith at that point, and we didn't agree on many major theological points. In fact, I don't think he'd ever even questioned his theology. Or heard the word. Okay, now I'm kidding. ;)

The point is that we were, in all ways, opposites. And you know what they say about opposites. We were drawn to each other like sick little bugs to a light. We had -fun- together. We enjoyed being with each other. I could see his GOOD heart inside. When I met him, his youngest brother was only 3-years old. Fred loved that kid; took him everywhere, played with him, read him stories. Fred sang to me, wrote to me, enjoyed doing anything with me, as long as we were together. I know that can describe a lot of young romances, but I fell in -love- with that man.

And we married 3 months later. Yes, gasp. Shake your head. I'll even repeat it: We met on a blind date in August and got married in November of the same year.

And, let me tell you, that first year was kind-of hellish. We were young and naive, and the "lovey dovey" feelings ended pretty quickly when real-life set in. Plus we had a miscarriage almost immediately. That didn't help.

We struggled and fought. We yelled and cursed. We almost didn't make it.

Then something started to happen, slowly but surely. I started to love my husband. Mind you, I didn't say "fall back into love." No, I started to LOVE him, as a choice. And it became a daily choice... some days were/are better than others. For a long time, I still felt gypped; like I had married a big kid and I was "entitled" to better. Ah, entitlement. Such a stupid hurtful trap.

Little by little, I began to realize what an idiot I was; how many times I screwed up; how undeserving I was. And, through a lot of prayer, I also started to see all of the amazing things about my husband...all of the things that I first fell in love with, plus a lot of new qualities that I had missed noticing in those first few years.

Our marriage has come through a lot, been redirected more than once, and has gone off course on a number of occasions. We've had some high highs and low lows. But every year has gotten better. We used to fight like cats and dogs... now an argument is fairly rare, and we have the growth and prayer on our side, to work it all out.

That said, I'm still living with my opposite, which can make life interesting. In nearly 13 years, we've both come closer to the middle. I watch movies with him often, and sometimes they're even ridiculously stupid and I laugh anyway. He escorts me to art museums, when I want to go. And I think he is starting to enjoy it! I root for his football team (even though I personally have NO interest at all in sports.) He has switched to a semi-healthy lifestyle for me. Think wheat bread instead of white, skim milk instead of whole, bagels instead of ding dongs. I'm saving this man's life, I tell you!

There are a LOT of things we can do together that we both enjoy now, like outdoor activities with the kids, playing games, etc. But there are also a LOT of hobbies and activities that we don't share an interest for. And some things that are a downright source of contention for us.

Now (as if this post isn't long enough already), there are a few important things I've learned:

No marriage is really 50/50. Some things are 90/10. Some 30/70. It all balances out but never assume it’s 50/50. When it looks like he’s getting the bigger/ better/ less-work-share, I have to remember that I also get the bigger share sometimes. Besides, in this marriage, we put in very little of our own percentages; God most certainly did the work, as soon as we were willing. In my own power, this marriage would not have held up. Just speaking the truth. When you get to the end of your rope, then change what you're holding onto!

No one person can/should be your everything. There’s no way for one person to fill every potential need you may have. I was relying on Fred to BE everything that I needed. And, really, even though I wasn't a "tv person" I will still blame this, at least partly, on the media. I've actually heard women say, in all seriousness,"Man, I wish my husband was more like -(insert fictional character)-"

This is real-life. Your husband might not run outside, in a blizzard, to buy you ice-cream when you're pregnant. He might not desire to suck your blood (I'm sorry, I had to throw that in there. Twilight fans, your man won't/ can't/ and shouldn't be like a vampire!) That doesn't mean he's not a fabulous husband. Real-life people have real-life issues. And NO real man, no matter how wonderful, can fill every need you have.

For starters, I needed God in an up-close and personal way.

I promise I won't write all night...

There are certainly things I appreciate about a not-so-easy marriage to a not-so-compatible-husband:

1. He's not a "deep thinker."

Like most women, I can over-think things.

But, with Fred, there is NO hidden agenda or weird games. What you see is what you get. He speaks the truth plainly, and never over-analyzes anything. How refreshing!!

2. He's not a tidy person.

Which means he truly doesn't care if I'm a tidy person. Now this drove me NUTS for years. Still does, at times. I could not understand how someone could just not care if the dishes were done, or if dirty laundry was on the floor. Now I've learned to embrace that about him: He doesn't care, so there is no pressure. That doesn't mean that I don't want a clean home, but it DOES mean that I never -ever- have to worry about leaving the dishes if I want to go spend the afternoon out with the kids, on an impromptu field trip. Fred won't even notice, much less be upset, about anything clean-related.

3. He dislikes most foods that I love.

Which leaves more for me! I love, love avocadoes, and he refuses to even try something that looks that gross. I could live on berries, and he only eats them on shortcake with whipped cream. I love salsa, and he won't touch it. Of course, the same rule benefits him. He loves bacon, and I rarely munch it. He practically needs a Mountain Dew drip going, and I've never finished a Mountain Dew in my life.

4. He's unemotional about the things that totally rile me up. And vice versa.

It's always good to have a level-headed person on board. He gets easily frustrated by crazy drivers, appliances that won't work right, or lost remotes. None of that bothers me much... I get frustrated by people and ideas. We can help each other, as long as one of us stays sane at all times.

5. He's a spendthrift.

It's nice to have a man who doesn't micromanage every cent, and he doesn't question how much I spend on groceries... not that he would need to, tightwad that I am. His spending tendencies have gotten WAY better, although he'll still blow Christmas money from his family before he can even deposit it. If the stores are closed, he'll spend it online that night. Drives me nuts.

BUT he is a good provider, works hard, and has not ever put us in debt. I can go overboard the other direction, insisting that we buy everything second-hand-- car, clothes, shoes, underwear. No, no, I don't really go THAT far. But I am uptight about spending more than we need to, and spending money on things we don't need. I've gotten better in this area, and so has he. It's a balancing act.

That's a good start.

It's still not *easy*. Sometimes it's like we're rubbing each other with sandpaper... but eventually that seems to just smooth us & fit us back together, more snuggly. The differences have balanced, enriched, and strengthened us. Easy or not, this is right. We belong together, differences and all. During church this past Sunday (the man had to work, and wasn't there with me,) I had this mental image of Fred and I hugging in front of the cross, bound snuggly together with rope to each other, and to the cross itself. A strand of three, unbreakable. We can't be our own foundation; we need the strength and support of something much greater, much stronger and more enduring. Because God can make anything work. He has, and continues to, change our incompatible selfish and petty little selves into greatness.

So, yeah. We fight. We kiss and make up. And our marriage may have gone through more spats and spills than most. Don't think it's perfect over here. We're still working on this thing, every. single. day.

Bonus: If you are still up for reading, try We All Married the Wrong Person.


Mama D.'s Dozen said...

GREAT post! Thanks for the honesty!!!

My sweet hubby and I have been married for 28 years. It's been GOOD, BAD, and UGLY sometimes. But, we are more in love now than when we started ... with each other and with the Lord.

God can and does take opposites and create a beautiful picture from them.


Anonymous said...

The details may be different but really, this is the story of every marriage. If you have a happy marriage, you eventually end up choosing to love each other no matter what & learn to give 110% no matter what % the other is giving. You stop measuring that in your mind. :o)

One thing I thought was funny though - likes attract too. We are so much a like in some things it's scary. Which also means some things never get done because we both hate to do them. LOL


Jaime said...

That was awesome!! Thanks!!

Soaring High said...

Good gracious! You guys sound like Luke and I. It's been ugly many times. We even had a counselor ask if WE thought we'd married the wrong person. We both immediately said "NO," but it's hard being sooo opposite. I love him more than the day we married (and we married in 6 months instead of 3). It is definately about balance and self-sacrifice. I love the sandpaper analogy. I have to keep plugging myself into the Word because without it, I think we'd kill each other sometimes. Thanks for your honesty.

Melissa Stover said...

isn't this the truth. i thought we were so much alike till we got married. then the truth came out and i realized he was completely different from me.

Just what are those Woods up to? said...

Love this post! It's so true that God has to be what we're holding onto or we'll inevitably fail.
I love how you listed all the benefits in the differences b/w you and Fred. I'll try to remember that next time I'm annoyed with Adam because of something about him that's different than me.
It's true that it's easy to come across like everything's perfect in your marriage when you're blogging about all the high points and activities, and the struggles don't get mentioned as often. I think that's the way my marriage comes across sometimes, too, though we have quarrels and sturggles just like everyone. Honesty is so refreshing, not just for others but also for the one saying, "hey, we're not perfect!" Not that happy posts aren't honest or aren't things we should post, but sometimes it's encouraging for others to realize, hey, everyone has stuff they deal with in their lives/marriages.

Paula said...

I also knew from the start that my honey and I are "incompatible." I even kicked myself many times in the past for marrying him anyway. I spent years being dissatisfied with our marriage.
But somewhere along the way, I came to the slow realization that the things we fought about were always little nitpicky things. Never once have we disagreed about anything BIG.
On the issues that are the most important to me and the values that I hold most dear--matters of faith, family, morals and ethics, politics--we are solidly on the same page!
I've really come to appreciate that and to look at the areas on which we differ as "the spice of life."

Melissa said...

I'm new to your blog, I was actually visiting because you visited me! I can't tell you how much I appreciated this post. Hubby and I have been married for 8 1/2 years, and we have had some rocky times recently. You are so right when you say it is all about leaning on God. I really like what you said about coming to the end of your rope and then changing what you hold on to. It really is about choosing to love your spouse each and every day, and it helps to ask God for the wisdom to be the help meet your hubby needs each day. I know when I started to realize these things, my marriage started changing for the better. Thanks for what you wrote!

Shan said...

Loved this Wendy!! And it must have really helped to write it all down in an orderly fashion. I've actually thought you and your hubby seem to be from entirely different worlds but that CAN completely work sometimes. J and I have samey samey complex which as Jenny mentioned above, doesn't always work smoothly either. As my mom said when we got engaged "Well, you'll get absolutely nothing done but you'll get along while NOT doing it." Bahaha True, and that causes friction too. I've also discovered that a couple with similar strengths can cause a strange competitive air which can cause personalities to change over time to avoid conflict.
Marriage is such a tricky wicket! :D

Jennifer Noble said...

Keep up the faithfulness! Love isn't defined by shared interests but patience, kindness, peace and joy - looks like you're on the right track

mamacobb said...

I totally relate to your blog entry. Billy and I opposites in a lot of ways. I learned a long time ago that if I want a deep conversation that I go to Girls Coffee Night or call one of my girlfriends. Our ideas of what is polite or how to act in a given situation differ too. However, God put us together and Billy balances out my crazinesses. I bring color to his life and brings sanity to mine. It works. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Wow! My name is Diann. I'm not married, but my boyfriend and I are together a lot. He's got his own place and I've got mine, but we share much, much time together. We love each other very much, and maintain a Godly relationship until we marry. We've been together a few yrs. I'm a preacher's kid and a creative nut. I love everything God, graphics, crafts, music, theatre...you get the picture. My fiance is a God-honoring, military man, and in every way as true to form as you can imagine, well, that's him. Military. In addition, we have a few slight cultural exceptions. He's caucasian, I am not. Having said all of the above, we have had many disagreements on many subjects, but on the topics that matter, we agree. As someone else mentioned, we love each other, and somehow through it all, we have made a solid choice to be and stay together. Choice. A conscience decision. And Wendy, it's like you've said, it seems the sand paper keeps sanding us down and melding us closer than ever. I don't understand it, yet I love it. Paula, your comment on areas of disagreement as being "the spice of life" simply brought it all home for me.
I guess we've been taking our time on marrying because we want to make sure. We chose to be committed to Jesus Christ and each other during our courtship, and perhaps we're now getting to the place where we can go to the next step. You all have encouraged me greatly. I can see that it's not about 'never arguing', it's more about being and staying understanding, truthful and committed. Thanks.

Gregan said...

Wow. I am brand new to your blog and I love it! I found you on the They Draw & Cook site... I just wanted to say a HUGE THANK YOU for posting this! I can relate so much to what you said about marrying quick, having major ups and downs, being so opposite, but balancing each other out too. I am so relieved to be in such good company and know that we all need God to hold us together. Thanks to everyone who commented and reassured that I too am in the same boat... continuing to paddle along with the help of God and friends!

Anonymous said...

I love this post it spoke to my heart. Thank you so much for sharing. I found myself laughing out loud because it was like you were describing my marriage. We have been married for 15 years and just had our third child. We have a 14 year old, a 2 yr old and a 2 month old this second round of kids is like starting over in our marriage and of course the lack of sleep doesn't help. What an amazing roller coaster ride

Anonymous said...

Keep appreciating those good qualities you listed. I'm in a Christian marriage with a man that refuses to work, could care less about providing for his family, buy everything in sight on credit (to the tune of hundreds of dollars in Texaco junk food every month), doesn't do ANYTHING at home and is also insanely messy but expects everything to be perfect, just not participate. I'd give just about anything to have a husband that had some sense about money and was willing to provide for his family...

Anonymous said...

Wow...of all the marriage blogs i went to...this is the wisest one...really spot on...i tend to complain about how my life was all about fulfilling my wife's needs and not much my own. then you just mentioned that not all marriages are 50/50...yeah...really true...that would only happen in fairy tales...thanks for your insight...

Anonymous said...

Nice Post dear Wendy. U've just changed my mindset about my hubby cos I'm battling with a feeling of incompatibility. Thanks a lot. AD.

Jamie ModelVsDirector said...

This sounds almost exactly like my fiance and I. thank you. You just saved my relationship!