I met Rob in a season of upheaval. I was a new believer in Jesus, a new student at our Bible college, and charting a new course serving God instead of myself. Rob was so different from anyone I’d ever known, and especially from me! I fell hard for that boy, proving that for us, “opposites attract.”
As we married and joined our lives together, we created common ground in our habits. We influence each other’s taste in music, food, and entertainment. We see eye-to-eye on holiday celebrations and vacation plans. Our values and parenting priorities merge into a similar worldview. The Bible is our shared authority on right and wrong, purpose and plans. Doing life together for over 25 years creates a certain unity to our days.
However, we are still two unique individuals. We’re more aware of those differences now than ever. Each day we have a choice—to value one another or to wrestle and push for an unnatural “sameness.” We’re still learning to allow space for each other’s voice, feelings, and personality. When we do, our relationship thrives.
Here are four “opposites” that have stretched and blessed us in our marriage:
Joanna: In the beginning, Rob felt like a steady anchor after several years of stormy seas. As my emotions surged high and low, he was calm and level all the time. His self-control created a safe oasis for me to grow in love and trust. He challenges me to express big feelings with care—overblown frustration and fear leave a wake of damage behind them. He encourages me to keep my heart in balance with my head.
Rob: Joanna wears her emotions on her sleeve. This is teaching me to be more comfortable with not just her feelings, but my own. I’m better able to “swim” in my emotions instead of ignoring them and moving on. She challenges me to keep it real and share what I’m going through. This helps us navigate parenting, too, as she’s in-tune with our kids’ struggles and emotional needs.
Joanna: A stress point for us early in was our approach to decision-making. I wanted quick action and Rob needed time to ponder and consider every angle. I perceived his methodical method as overly cautious or weak, and he saw me as impulsive and foolish. Today I appreciate him so much—his thorough process of prayer and thinking has spared us much regret. We now give each other room to handle choices and options coming our way, finding unity with a lot less conflict.
Rob: I tend to second-guess decisions when things don’t play out as planned. Joanna has the ability to move forward without looking over her shoulder. She doesn’t blame me for circumstances outside my control. This helps me have confidence that we can work our way through challenges that arise. If we waited for me to analyze and think through every decision, it would take forever. Joanna helps me get to a point of “push and go” when it’s time to make a choice.
Joanna: This is a tough one, as an introvert paired to an extrovert. Rob is always waiting out in the van while I talk…and talk some more… with friends after church on Sunday. My happy place is a houseful of college students sharing chicken curry and games around our table. I prayed for ages for our home that can hold gatherings and keep a guest room at the ready. Rob challenges me to slow down and allow time for quiet rest. He keeps us family-focused so our kids aren’t left in the dust of a busy social life.
Rob: The best hour of my day is early morning, with a cup of coffee and my Bible in a silent house. My social plans are generally one-on-one breakfast meetings instead of groups and parties. But today, after all these years of living with an extrovert, I can honestly say I look forward to our small group or crew of students coming over. Joanna’s gift of hospitality has shown me the value and importance of community.
Joanna: I love our dogs and slow pajama Saturdays. Rob barely tolerates pets and he’s up and at ‘em every morning of the week. He’s Five Guys and I’m Taco Bell. I avoid clocks and schedules but he thrives on an agenda. I can ignore the clutter but he’s restless until every surface is tidy. I move between bursts of energy and sitting still, while he’s steadily plugging away. Because of his influence, I’m becoming a goal-setter. I don’t leave my shoes all over the house quite as often. Rob’s preferences and pace bring order and focus to my life.
Rob: Yes, I am a get up and go kind of person. I burn off steam at the gym and I’m always tackling some kind of project. I like to travel and go to events and concerts, but Joanna is more of a homebody. I admire the late-model SUV’s we pass on the highway but she’s happy with her dented minivan. It might be easier if we were exactly the same, but it would be a one-dimensional life. Because of Joanna I can put people over tasks. I can let go of checking off the boxes every day. The pressure is off to stay busy for busy’s sake.
God knew exactly what he was doing putting men and women together. Marriage demands grace. We let go of selfishness, pride, and judgement. Our eyes are opened to appreciate each other’s strengths and gifts. We choose to adapt and adjust, learning to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) As we choose to give and take, it’s no longer about what’s good for me, but what’s good for us.
In your marriage, are you and your “opposite” feeling grateful or annoyed by each other’s different personalities? Do you feel understood or struggle with pressure to change? Is the push and pull of competing desires stealing the joy from your home? We’re praying for you, so that Jesus’ unconditional love will saturate your love for each other. In him you’re fully known, accepted, and loved forever.