It is often said that opposites attract. And it is the same in relationships. We often like and fall in love with people who are different from us in some way. We seek partners who can complement our style with some of their strengths – partners who balance our own qualities or characteristics. We look for someone who will not take advantage of our weaknesses or use them against us; we seek someone who will help us improve in areas where we are weak, and help us to be better where we are strong. And that, precisely, is what marriage is all about. Thus it is common for an outgoing person to fall in love with someone who is not so outgoing. It is also common for someone who is not so organised to fall in love with a highly organised person. It is all about opposites attracting.
Lisa Schroeder captures this sentiment quite well in her book I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME: “When you meet someone so different from yourself, in a good way, you don’t even have to kiss to have fireworks go off. It’s like fireworks in your heart all the time. I always wondered, do opposites really attract? Now I know for sure they do. I’d grown up going to the library as often as most people go to the grocery store. Jackson didn’t need to read about exciting people or places. He went out and found them, or created excitement himself if there wasn’t any to be found. The things I like are pretty simple. Burning CDs around themes, like Songs to Get You Groove On and Tunes to Fix a Broken Heart; watching movies; baking cookies; and swimming. It’s like I was a salad with a light vinaigrette, and Jackson was a platter of seafood Cajun pasta. Alone, we were good. Together, we were fantastic.”
Ironically, nothing brings conflict in marriage as dissimilar interests. We desire to be with our partners all the time, but where they have interests that are different from ours, they seemingly turn selfish. And any attempt to steer or initiate a change creates friction.
The truth is, every couple, to some extent, has a measure of differences. And the reason is not far-fetched: we are from different backgrounds and cultures. Many of us have formed our habits long before we started thinking of relationship or marriage. Somehow, we are already set in our ways. Good or bad, that is just who we are. Spouses who do well in marriage, therefore, are those who have learnt to handle their differences well and make the best of them. In other words, separate interests do not necessarily have to lead to frustration, schism or separation. In fact, they can be a major boost to your relationship or marriage if they are properly harnessed.
Come to think of it, having separate interests can actually help couples keep their relationship on the right track as it gives them something to always talk about. This keeps the relationship from becoming stale or dull. Also, couples are able to keep their individual sense of identity.
It is true that the two become one in marriage; but the two do not lose their individual identities. They still have their likes and dislikes, which in all likelihood are different from their spouse’s. If you like to curl up with a good book, for example, that will not automatically change just because you are now married and your spouse does not like reading. Your love for football will not automatically evaporate in the event of your marriage to a spouse who does not understand the fascination with 22 grown men running around a green pitch chasing a ball. If you are the type that loves the cinemas, you are also likely to want to continue even when your spouse does not particularly like going to the movies.
Is it not amazing that we seem to accommodate our spouse’s habits or interests when we are courting but suddenly want them to change once we are married and the honeymoon period is over? This is actually when we begin to see more clearly or take cognizance of the effects of such habits or interests on our relationship. Then we set about trying to change the other person. Unfortunately, it is impossible to really change others; we can only change ourselves. That is why many become frustrated.
What we really need is a great deal of adjustment, and this will necessarily require tolerance. As the Bible states, “love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthian 13:7). We have to learn to bear with our spouses.
What some do not understand is that appreciating our spouses for who they are is actually the true test of the love we profess for them. And even where the change we desire is possible, we still have to bear with them, allowing time for the change. Every change in life requires time.
The truth is, no matter how different you are from your spouse, there would be some things you naturally enjoy doing together. Do more of such! No relationship is so bad that there is no point of convergence of interests. These interests may not be so obvious, but they have to be identified and deliberately engaged in together. It is important that you set aside time, as often as possible, to do what you and your spouse enjoy doing together.
As long as it is not something detrimental to the well-being of your marriage, you should also support your spouse in his or her own interest or hobby whether or not you understand or like it. I know of some women who do not particularly like football. However, for the sake of their marriage, they try as much as possible to sit with their husband, when he is watching a major match on television. Those who cannot sit with their husband try as much as they can to make the home conducive for him. They even share a drink or cup of tea with their spouse while a match is going on without necessarily seeking to distract. The truth is that, this will make the man want to come home to watch matches instead of going with ‘the boys.’
And the same goes for the man. You need to take interest in what your wife enjoys doing, instead of seeing it as a distraction. I know of some men who have adjusted their own lifestyles in an attempt to encourage their wives who are dieting or exercising. This, of course, has further drawn them together, and their marriage is the better for it.
As a couple, the rule is: You are free to maintain your individual identities but be there for your spouse. It is very important that you do not neglect your spouse. Therefore, in the case of different interests, you have to deliberately give attention to your spouse. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Be careful not to continue with or get so involved in your own interests to the detriment of the relationship you share with your spouse. This can lead to resentment as your spouse may become jealous or even feel that those interests or hobbies are more important to you than him or her. I believe our differences can be a blessing in marriage if are conscious and willing enough to make them so.
Go ahead, make yours work. God bless you.
Taiwo Odukoya is the senior pastor of The Fountain of Life Church. He is an avid believer in the role of the Church in the social and economic life of the nation. He is the host of The Discovery for Men, The Discovery for Women, The Woman Leader, and Ruth and Boaz, quarterly meetings that reach out to thousands of men and women from all works of life and denominations. He lives in Lagos with his wife, Nomthi, and children. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org