“After another moment’s silence, she mumbled that I was peculiar, that that was probably why she loved me but that one day I might disgust her for the very same reason” ~ Albert Camus
Does this general sentiment sound familiar? My mother and I joke that often the very traits drawing you to your partner will usually be the ones you become most frustrated by over time.
I grew up in a loving family prone to vibrant “debates” (also known as arguments) and a lot of constructive criticism. In contrast, my husband grew up without criticism or debate as part of his upbringing. He was a playful, happy guy who didn’t get overly emotional, which was a new and soothing experience for me. Peace…what a concept! Similarly, my intensity and decisiveness excited and challenged him, and opened him to new possibilities.
Fast-forward eighteen years and I think we’d both agree these previously admired qualities are at the heart of most of our disagreements. Now I can get annoyed with the constant playfulness when I feel it disrupts my attempts to get our family to accomplish something. Likewise, my tendency toward seriousness (his dad nicknamed me “All Business”) and expectation can feel weighty and confining to him.
Through observation of other couples, I can see a similar dynamic at play, especially when the traits are in direct opposition. One spouse is gentle and soft-spoken, the other quick to ignite. One loves outdoor sports, the other prefers quiet hobbies like cooking or painting. In every case, the characteristic that incited passionate discovery and awakening somehow gets tarnished and feels like a yoke around one’s neck.
How a person (or couple) handles these matters will determine whether or not the relationship survives. This is a source of conflict I’d like explore in my writing eventually. But for now, I tend to address these irritations by keeping them in perspective. Yes, some of my husband’s attitudes conflict with my own, but we have many others in total harmony. We’ve got loads of trust, years of history, and two beautiful children to remind us of everything at stake when our egos assert themselves in an unpleasant contest of wills. Humor helps, too. For instance, my father-in-law amended my moniker to “Mostly Business” after I nicknamed him (and his son) “All Nonsense.” For now, these tactics are working. But it doesn’t change the fact that what drew us together is, in fact, what irks us at times.
Anyone else out there share this experience, or am I alone?