My husband and I have almost nothing in common (except for rock n roll, our kids, pets and mortgage).
Our friends have known this since 1990, when I first noticed Doyle’s gleaming white teeth across the table in the student dining hall. I had met him before, but it was hard to get past his woolly beard, fringed moccasins and Jeremiah Johnson persona.
When I told my roommate I was sort of digging this one guy on our brother floor, she guessed literally everyone except Doyle. He just wasn’t the kind of guy to pop up on our radar. Quiet, gentle Doyle, with his guitar and his rusty Chevy Nova, flew right under our constant social buzzing.
When we actually got together as a couple (me flirting madly and finally having to tell his best friend that I liked him), there was a general consensus: “Huh?” And also: “There’s no way in Heckity this will last.”
But it did. The Canadian city daughter of an urban bookseller actually married the American country-boy son of a rural sheriff’s deputy.
Before our wedding, on November 9, 1991, we tried to explore each other’s worlds, with mixed results. There was that one time we went wading fishing in the river (which I still prefer to sitting in a boat, waiting to be raptured or for a nibble—whichever comes first), and a slithery worm fell down the inside front of my waders. I kind of lapsed into catatonia for a few minutes.
Or the time Doyle went to see “Anne of Green Gables: The Ballet” with me, and he got very offended because he thought one of the previews was the actual main event, and therefore why were Anne and Matthew Cuthbert writhing around on the floor like that? (I actually didn’t know it was a preview either.)
The thing about “mixed results” is that you don’t even really notice them when you’re in that smoldering volcano of new love, and the oxytocin is spurting out of your brain like cocaine.
It’s when you’re married for a couple of years that “mixed results” become glaring and obstructive, and daily life becomes daily hard.
As it turns out, I want to go fishing about once a year, and he really doesn’t want to do anything else.
And during hunting season (which comes, without fail, year after year after year), I kind of want to smother him with a pillow.
I think going to Chicago three times a year is skimping, and even though we fell in love there, amid the spires of the Hancock Building and Sears Tower, he could totally take a pass on Chi-town time, oh, until the Lord returns one day.
He likes dogs, I like cats.
He thinks being late for church is an abomination; I think it’s a lifestyle choice, and who wants to be rushed on the Sabbath?
I could go on.
In the years leading up to this last one, we probably had a thousand fights about our differences, especially after the kids came. (They say conflict increases EIGHTFOLD with each child you have, so you do the math.)
About a year ago, we were pretty much yelling at each other in the driveway. He was mad because yet another something broke down in my stupid old house, and I was mad because he was mad. Why didn’t he get it that this was the price we had to pay for living in a historic home with obscenely beautiful crown molding?
It was a wake-up call. Not only were we not “soul mates” (gag), we were so off-balance that now we were squalling in the driveway, not even caring if the neighbors or the mailman heard us.
I asked around and got a referral for an amazing marriage counselor, Kristen.
The first few sessions were ghastly awful. A friend of mine who’s been through it says that marriage counseling is initially like scrubbing a burn wound, and paying someone a fortune to scrub away.
What we learned in couples therapy is probably a whole other blog, but let me just say it’s been worth every penny. Sometime around the six month mark, something turned—a key in the door.
We were still as mismatched as ever in terms of our surface hobbies and sensibilities, but we were learning to be there for each other in it all, even in our differences and our brokenness.
Recently the furnace took another nose dive, and the thermostat was falling fast on an icy January day. It was stressful, because we don’t have $3000 lying around for a new furnace, and it’s important that we keep at least our Japanese exchange student warm and dry, if not our actual children.
But instead of turning on each other as we would have in the past, I noticed something: We were in this latest furnace disaster together. We talked calmly about creative financing, should the worst happen. I praised his stop-gap fix to the skies, and we made a plan going forward. Something that would have detonated us just a year ago now brought us closer together.
This new paradigm—me + him—has made me notice other things about us, that somewhere beneath the surface, we are companionable.
Over the last 23 years of marriage, we have melded our disparate personalities and dissimilar interests to become like-minded in all the ways that matter most: family, faith, sticking together no matter what.
I think we always must have been matched on a level invisible to the naked eye, or how else would we have found each other in the first place?
Going into this, our 25th Valentine’s Day as a going concern, we are building on that common ground—me for him, he for me, and I love him more than I did in those white hot, drugged-by-oxytocin early days. So. Much. More. I think he’d say the same thing about me.
I cheer him on in his fish and deer-slaying pursuits, and he cheerfully drives to Chicago with me when my cravings become too much.
Someday, when the kids are educated, we’ll move to the country, where he says I can get a pet peacock like Flannery O Connor (who he doesn’t like).
It’s all going forward in a good direction.
So, Happy Valentine’s Day to my incompatible sweetheart.
There’s no one on earth I’d rather be mismatched with than you.
Don’t miss my 2016 Valentine’s blog, “Our Love is Slow Roasted”…