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The Happiness Project: Differences

February 9, 2010

So I’m reading through Gretchen Rubin’s bestseller “The Happiness Project” month by month and incorporating some of her ideas into my life to hopefully increase personal happiness. This month, Gretchen talks about love and boosting happiness through the most significant relationships in your life. I want to take the next week to write about things I’ve learned about love over the last year and a half in my marriage to my best friend, Katie.

During the first few months of our relationship six years ago, Katie and I were amazed at some of the random things that we had alike. For example, both of our best friends in high school were of the opposite gender, we both have a deep passion of singing and worship leading, and we were both Spelling Bee champs in grade school. I think we had a list of like 70 unusual things we have in common.

Our personalities are somewhat similar. We’re both pretty even-tempered but have surprisingly strong competitive streaks at times. We’re both first children and thus responsible, people-pleasing, and somewhat organized. We’re both affectionate (fortunate for us), but we’re also somewhat introverted and shy. We both have incredibly strong work ethics. We’re both Christians. I think that’s a biggie–not that we’re both evangelical Bible thumpers and find it our life long mission to team and press a conservative Biblical doctrine in everything that we do. John Gottman suggests that healthy couples have shared meaning, values, and dreams; Christianity gives us a language and a narrative by which to hope and share and dream together.

But I love that Katie is different from me. I had no idea how different she was from me until we got married, and it scared me at first. (I’m hearing laughter from people reading this blog who have been married for years.) But I love that about her.

I love that Katie is sentimental. I feel like being a therapist and exploring so many deep and traumatic issues vicariously through the stories of my clients have taken some of my sentimentality away, although I think before I became a therapist, there was still a difference between our levels of sentimentality. I love that Katie feels so deeply and passionately for the injustices of life that she weeps, and I hope she doesn’t feel uncomfortable sharing those tears with me.

Katie and I listen for different things in music. I listen for musical themes and creativity. Katie listens for stories and meaning through language. I love that Katie can connect with music on such an intimate level.

Katie is a giver, while I have such a hard time letting go of control of things. For example, she’s taken up knitting over the last few years. Just about everything she knits (well, until selfish-knitting January) is for other people. It was her idea to support a child through Sanctuary Home, the Indian orphanage I blogged about last week. Her giving spirit makes me want to give to others, and I feel like I’ve become a better giver (to people I don’t know) through our marriage.

Katie lives life in the present and moves slower, whereas I feel more comfortable when I’m driving fast, have a lot of things on my plate, and am looking ahead to the future. I love that Katie gets frustrated when friends (and myself) complain about where they presently are and where they wish they were. I love that she slows down long enough to absorb her surroundings and relationships and takes time to rest. As I’ve written before, I’m not always the best at that.

They say opposites attract. People look for partners and deep friendships amongst those that have qualities they wish they had. As I look over this list (I could go on, but I promised myself I’d work to make my blog posts shorter), I realize that we’re quite similar in many ways, but these qualities that I’m thinking about give me something to strive for. At its best (when spouses are comfortable with themselves and yet open to growth), marriage provides a chance for people to experience love through celebrating the excitement of differences.

What are some ways that you celebrate the differences in your loved ones? Do we do that well as a culture?

At first these differences

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 15, 2010 9:32 pm

    David and I are almost completely opposite on the personality spectrum (I’m INTJ to his ENFP). But, I feel like as time has passed we’ve come to meet in the middle. And now the quirks are (mostly) cause for a laugh more than for frustration. And being new-ish parents, how those differences play out in parenting, give the boys a more well-rounded raising. I’m more likely to start baking, read a book, or go on a leaf-finding or acorn-watering mission with Brendan. David is more likely to be letting him jump across the “canyon” between the coffee table and couch, putting together an art project, racing around the house, or playing with trains.

    Your second question… I think as a culture, we have this idea that we can “fix” people into who we want them to be after marriage. Yikes! Instead of embracing the person that is there.

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