Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Did Paula Abdul have it right?

Do opposites really attract?

If men are from Mars and women from Venus, then DeNae is from talk and Jim is from quiet. DeNae is from connect and Jim is from to each their own. DeNae is from fly by the seat of your pants and Jim is from slow and steady. We are different in many ways. Neither way is right or wrong. Just different.**
Jim and DeNae, back in the day. 
Case in point:
It was a Thursday morning. I was heading out the door to take the kids to their homeschool co-op and Jim had a few minutes before he had to leave for work. I asked if he would make the marinade for the tandoori chicken so it could marinate throughout the day. He said yes so I gathered the ingredients and opened the cookbook to the recipe, one we'd never tried before. (Well, as a vegetarian, I never will try it, but Jim and the kids like to eat meat now and again.)

He looked at the cookbook and read the entire recipe aloud. I just watched him. My mouth was probably hanging open. That happens? People get a recipe and look at it from start to finish, thinking about the steps that are coming?

That never actually occurred to me. I grab a recipe, do the first step, go to the second step, get to the fourth step and curse the fact that I don't have that ingredient, improvise with varying degrees of success, throw it on the table, and we eat. It usually works out from start to finish, but there are plenty of times it leads to kitchen disasters.

This is why I have made stir fry only to remember that I never made the rice and the only rice we have is the brown rice that takes one hour. Or the time I made tacos and we didn't have tortillas. Or the time I made cheesecake and we didn't have sugar. Do you sense a pattern here?

While watching Jim read through the recipe, I was hit with the realization that the way we cook reflects our take on life.

He reads the recipe from start to finish and plans accordingly, methodically chopping and measuring, staying in the kitchen until he gets it done.

I do the task directly in front of me, turn on some music, do the next task directly in front of me, read a book to the kids, do the next task, measure haphazardly, and eventually get it done.

He is calm and methodical and steady. The Jim you met 20 years ago is the Jim you see today and the Jim you'll see in 20 more years. He is mostly quiet. Communication is not his favorite thing. He can just sit and watch TV and let his mind go blank. I have always said he is my voice of reason. Usually I appreciate that. Sometimes I want him to just let go and have some crazy fun. He doesn't put his foot down often so when he does I know he means it.

I put all of my eggs into one basket and count them before they hatch while laughing in delight or crying in despair. Jim said something to me the other day and I said, "OH!" "What?" "AAAHHHH!" in the span of three seconds as all of the thoughts slammed into my brain and I spewed words as fast as the thoughts hit and he got a glimpse of the turmoil in my brain. I want to Communicate with a capital C, using all the words all of the time, whether I'm talking or writing or just thinking wordy word stuff in my never shutting off brain.

We are so different.

And that is one of the reasons we love each other.

And that is one of the reasons we drive each other nearly certifiably bonkers.

I did not see that coming way back in the day when I was a wee little 20 year old saying I do. I didn't imagine the times we'd live in gut it out mode. But then again I also didn't imagine the times I'd look at him over the head of a new baby, in awe of him and us and all of it. I didn't imagine the eyes spitting stares of venomous daggers across the room. I didn't imagine that sixteen years down the line would hold such laughter and love and good. ##

 Thankfully, as different as we are and as crazy as marriage is and as hard as things feel sometimes and as much room for improvement that we have (lots and lots of room) we have the most important things in common.

We like to laugh. We live our faith differently, but we love the same God. We'd rather take a hike than go to a 5-star restaurant. We'd rather have a newspaper subscription than cable. We are fiercely committed to raising our children together. We love each other.
Sometimes the list of differences feels overwhelming. It feels miles long and impossible.

Maybe opposites attract in the early stages of love and lust and marriage, but that doesn't sustain through the mess, muck, misery of life. The disagreements about how to make and spend and save and share money. The disagreements about how to raise teeny babies to actual grown up humans. The disagreements about aging parents. The disagreements about how to celebrate holidays and how to communicate and how to show love and intimacy and sex and March Madness.

It's complicated. Like I need to tell you.

I agree wholeheartedly with Ann Voskamp when she writes, "Love is more than simply a warm feeling; Love is ultimately a daily forging."

The decision, day in and day out, to make it happen. To stay present in marriage when we struggle. To remember why we fell in love. To show love when we want to ignore. To treat our spouse with respect when sarcasm sits on the tip of our tongue, ready to unleash. To treat others how you want to be treated even when you're not being treated how you want to be treated. To treat the people you love better than you treat strangers you meet on the street or friends who drop by unexpectedly.

Am I the only one struggling with that list?

This is not a sermon. This is not the voice of a woman who has it all figured out and wants to share her wisdom with you. This is part of the story of a broken woman who struggles most days with how to do the very hard thing of being a good wife. Some things come naturally to me. Being a wife does not. Just ask my husband. Or maybe don't.

Maybe opposites attract. But married couples grab hold to each other, hunker down, enjoy the ride, wait out the storms. They don't give up on each other or on the overall good and beauty of sharing life, all of it, with another person.

Help a sister out: What's your best marriage advice, bible verse, or quote? What sustains you through the difficult stretches of marriage?

**I am speaking in generalities here. Of course we are complex people, full of nuances depending on the situation, but this is probably what you'd find at the core of us.

##I am talking about the difficulties of mostly good, loving marriages. I am not talking about abusive situations. There are real reasons to walk away. Just to clarify.


  1. I love this post so much! It is so true. My husband is also a quiet contemplated while I'm more outspoken and rush to make decisions. It works though- it works really well and for that I'm so thankful and blessed :)

  2. Hold hands when and as often as you can - hold hands while you pray and realize the most wonderful, precious gift of love is holding your hand as the Lord enfolds both of you in HIs!

  3. I get it. As Bob & I approach 25 years (OMGosh - where did the time go?!) of married life in June, I have felt all of this and more. Our secret? Much as you said, it's choice. Every morning, I choose Bob, and he chooses me. Through the good and bad, plenty and scarity, joys and sorrows and all of the once-cute-now-annoying things - we choose to remain invested in each other and the relationship. And it's worth it - so very worth it. Hugs <3

  4. My favorite marriage advice is "go to bed mad." Sometimes a good night's sleep is the best medicine and can give you s new perspective on what originally seemed an impossible situation. I believe in watching our wedding video every anniversary to remember how perfect that day was and how lucky I am. I also believe keeping a love journal is a special thing to do as a couple.