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July 5, 2017

Beware the Total Opposite, Pt. 2

Hey, Bonita…

Opposites attract, and then they drive each other crazy after they get married. This is not a warning, as a relationship of opposites has worked for me. I say from experience: Beware of those you instantly connect with and have everything in common with. Like two negative or two positive poles of a magnet, the relationship may not stick.

If opposites can respect each other's viewpoints and not put one another down or belittle each other for having opposite beliefs, then the relationship may just work. If you're a neat freak like me, and your wife is a slob like my wife, you’ve just gotta grin and bear it. She is a whole lot of fun in other ways.

Right on, and thanks for sharing your experience. I recently advised a reader to be cautious with her new boyfriend, whose political beliefs and general worldview differ quite a bit from her own. I stand by that advice, because while people usually don't break up over differences in cleanliness, I've seen plenty of couples fall apart over kids or future plans. You and your wife make it work when it comes to who cleans what, because that's an easy conflict to resolve. Make a chore schedule, designate areas for each other's messes, agree to have the kitchen clean before bedtime, etc. Easy-peasy. What you can't schedule, however, is someone ending their resistance to gender roles or starting a family.

I'm reminded of a fun, sexy friend of mine who met a square but handsome guy during grad school. He didn't understand her queer sexuality or size-positive attitude, and he certainly didn't like J-pop or exotic cuisine. He was a Chili's kinda guy who did CrossFit and listened to Top 40 radio. But they dated for years and got engaged, against all odds. I was really pulling for my homegirl—a proud lifelong poly-slut who was glad to settle down with the right partner—and this guy seemed right enough. But then the telltale social-media disappearance happened: Her profile went dead for a couple of weeks after months of happy engagement talk. The other shoe dropped.

My friend doesn't want kids, and never will. She's known that since we met over a decade ago on LiveJournal, and this was still true for her when she met this guy. She will date people with children, but she's not willing to adopt. He knew this, but assumed he could just win her over to the idea and chip away at her resolve until she finally agreed to remove her IUD. How could the man she loved have so little respect for her desires and her body? She was disgusted to learn of his plan to wear her down, as if carrying a child was no big thing, and she'd just shrug her shoulders and change her mind.

It was about more than just kids now. Suddenly, there was the question of mutual respect, and specifically the question of whether he respected her personhood and her womanhood. Did he truly understand that her body was hers, and not his possession in any way? Did he see her as just a vessel for his fantasy, and not as the person who would undoubtedly be the primary caretaker of a child (due to their respect career fields) that only he wanted? She got her answers, and in the end, she didn't marry him. She often credits this as the smartest decision of her 20s.

This is why I advise caution when it comes to dating people who are wildly different from you. No one should have to apologize for who they are, or change the fundamental qualities of their self to keep another person around. We've all found ways to live with less-than-ideal roommates, but your partner's desires or wishes for your life should very closely align with what you want for yourself. There are too many people in the world for mismatched couples to be hating their way through life together. We have to be better to ourselves than that!

To circle back: I’m very happy that you and your wife have made your relationship work despite your differences, but I'm willing to bet that they're not very big differences.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use our anonymous form, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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