Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Balancing out a partner's mood

Age 49: Day 9

When people first meet me, they tend to think I'm relatively easy going. Maybe it's because I'm a tad curvaceous (you know--fat and happy and all that!). Or maybe it's because I walk on the slow side. (Rushing makes me nervous.) But people who have known me for a long, long time, like my sister, a few childhood friends, and now, my husband, realize that I'm not quite as easy going as I appear on the outside. Indeed, you might say that I'm a bit neurotic, though I think that's lessening as I get older.

Sometimes I worry that my husband will wake up and say: What happened to that easy going girl I thought I married? Or, at least, the one I met on the porch of the Atlantic Inn? It's true that my s.o. tends to be the calmer, steadier one. He's the one  you'd want around if a fire broke out, or if you needed to build a shelter on a desert island, or if there was a tsunami. (I'm the one you'd want around if you wanted a constant stream of observation/analysis/conversation about the  human condition. Or a hug.)

Yet the nice thing about being married, I've noticed, is that though each partner generally has his or her steady state, often, there's a "switch." The usually calm one goes all twitchy, and the neurotic one becomes uncharacteristically calm. In other words, when a couple is in synch, they play off of each other--when my husband needs shoring up or calming down, I can do it. When I need someone to talk me off the ledge, he's generally able to say just the right words. The interesting thing is that achieving this balance isn't about two couples being the same--it's more about being different. I've seen couples who are both anxious types and, worse, are anxious about the same things, so they feed on one another's anxiety, stoking the fire instead of snuffing it out. But my husband and I seem to worry about totally different things. We obsess over completely different things too. To him, the inside of every kitchen drawer must be perfectly pristine, all right angles, but a tool or two can lay on the floor by the front door for a few weeks, and that's perfectly fine. To me, I may straighten a kitchen drawer every few months, but then I let it get into utter dishevelment. (Who cares? You can't see it!) Yet when things are lying around the house, I need to put them away--or at least stack them. So, the combination works out pretty well.

The same goes for our emotional states. We worry about different things, which means we can be calm when the other person is worrying, gently jokey when the other is irritable (well--mostly), energetic (and energy-giving) when the other is sleepy. I don't love the phrase "he completes me" but I will say that we balance each other out in a way that feels very organic. Maybe that's because he's an engineer, I'm a writer--yet I have my analytical side and he is wildly creative. I used to think that I wanted to be with someone just like me. Now, I'm so glad I'm not.


  1. I'm not reading anything right now, but I do eat a lot of ice cream (I, too, went to school in the Boston area, the ice cream capital of the world, though I was on the 'other' side of the river). In fact when I was in college, I got a job at Steve's ice cream, and we were allowed to eat all the "mistakes" we made, where we may have heard an order wrong or someone mistakenly said they wanted one flavor when they meant another, sort of like the "Oops" cans of paint at Home Depot. Suffice it to say, no one liked sweet cream flavored ice cream and fresh strawberries as much as I did, but oddly, a lot of people seemed to order it. Or at least that's what I thought they said.

  2. Sounds like me and Ian... I'm the therapist (analyzing, discerning, "whatever") he's a finance guy but also, anal about weird things and very creative. I like your re-frame :) Nice! xoxo, Laurie