Opposites Attract

Depending on one’s definition, “opposites attract,” could describe my marriage. In recent years, the only opposites I possess that appear worthy of my husband’s attention are my bad habits.

When we were newlyweds, I appreciated that his personality traits were opposite of mine. It didn’t take me long to realize that my weaknesses were his strong points. I had a live-in dependent to check-and-balance my shortcomings; relying on him to offset my absentmindedness and careless behavior.

Whenever I heard talk of couples taking on their spouse’s personality traits, thoughts, ways, or opinions, I disregarded the theory. My husband was the grounded one, making sure I didn’t forget my purse, coffee, or keys, and would remind me to gas my car up or buy more milk. Spacing stuff off was always my shortcoming, but he’s been around me long enough now, that I’ve seen signs of my faults rubbing off on him.

For years, he never seemed to misplace anything, taking great care in putting his pocket change, watch, calf-record book, and chew can in the same place so he could find them later. I, on the other hand, seldom noticed if I brought my keys or purse in the house let alone where I set them down, and rarely put them away in the same spot. Fortunately, my husband usually paid more attention to these things and often remembered where I left my stuff. It was disturbing the first time he asked me if I saw one of his personal items. Seeing my unpopular and all-too-familiar behavior in my husband became worrisome for me because we certainly didn’t need another scatterbrain in our house.

I always admired his tidiness in putting everything away after he was done working in the shop. (I fall in the category of those who leave everything out expecting to get back to it in a day or two; then end up sidetracked with something else later.) The few times I discovered that my husband didn’t put his shop tools away, I was disappointed and let down because it was evident that my hero “Tidyman,” was developing my behavior patterns. I began to feel like my old washing machine whenever its contents were unevenly distributed and thunking away out of control, with no one close by to stop it, re-adjust things, and make sure it was properly balanced.

It’s unlikely I’ll absorb anymore good habits that my spouse could be attracted to because it’s the bad ones that seem to stick more easily for me. That’s why I’d prefer that he take up some of my personality traits instead of my habits, like being more gracious when I don’t meet his expectations while helping him deal with cows or feeding them.

I have another habit of not always following his instructions when doing livestock chores exactly the way he told me to and doing it my way instead. My husband and I occasionally quarrel over job descriptions and details when I buck his routine. Since I’ve noticed he’s taken to doing a few things my way, which are generally the wayward means of doing something, I try to appear more attractive to him by doing chores just the opposite, meaning his way. The theory being that if opposites attract, I can restore the balance and harmony that I need.

This column was originally published January 18-24, 2009

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