How is it possible to live with and enjoy working with someone who is your opposite in many ways? We all have at least one “opposite day” person in our lives. It might be the person who wants to slow down when you want to move ahead or vice versa. It could be the person who rains on your parade or the person who is way too sunny given the serious situation. We regularly aggravate each other and often work at completely cross purposes.
Like children, we often fight over our conflicting needs. In my family some want quiet and less stimulation while others want more noise, music, and company. It isn’t exactly that we are trying to be completely obstinate. We actually see things differently and need different environments to facilitate our strengths. This can lead to a head to head problem that only worsens with time, like Dr. Suess’s The Zax catastrophe.
As you may know, my husband and I are like the tortoise and the hare, yet we live together happily. For example, he organizes himself by time while I order myself by context and objectives. I have a huge amount of power I can muster for all the emergencies and big projects, but I also need recovery time to rest and regroup. Always amazing to me, he smoothly moves through his day like he’s on a conveyor belt.
Until recently, I didn’t realize what an accomplishment working well together really was. We do aggravate each other, but we also have strategies that help us make light of it, get over it, and capitalize on our differences.
For years I tried to change and make myself more like him. After all, I can see the advantages. It looks less dramatic. It looks easier. It looks more grown up, mature, and in control. It helps you be on time and consistent. There are so many advantages to being like the tortoise. Routines build calmness into your day, and I think routines are practically indispensable with children to help them navigate their day successfully.
No wonder lasting change was difficult. I can’t imagine a tortoise hopping or sprinting. Is it even possible? What about the hare? The hare pacing itself would look all washed up and droopy without its hop —like Tigger from Disney’s Whinnie the Pooh after he promised never to bounce again. In either case, it wouldn’t be pretty! I’m not sure it is even possible long-term for people to continue in ways opposite their nature. Working on my weaknesses did help, but trying to become my opposite just didn’t work.
Our best strategy turned out to be very simple. We had to stop expecting or even trying to match each other. Often we want similar end results like we both wanted to cross the finish line within the 60 minute time limit. But, we needed to get there in a way that would work well and be enjoyable to each of us. Allowing each other to get there together but in our own way has saved us on so many levels.
We needed to realize how glad we are that someone can keep the pace or can run off without notice to take care of emergencies better then we can. Opposite strengths are not the same, but they are so complementary! Admiring and appreciating how opposite strengths bless and enable us makes it easier to endure them when we wish they’d just disappear.
We had to learn to bridge the gap. When we were first married, we had a lot of problems because I was always feeling hurt and ignored. I thought nearly every evening was “together” time unless one of us was gone. He thought it was “do your own thing” and “be” in the same room together most of the time. I kept interrupting him and bothering him, did not make plans, and was always waiting to do something with him. This did not help, instead making it worse. I was hurt, and he was pestered.
I figured out pretty soon that our expectations were very different from each other. Together we made a schedule of what times would be “do something together” times and what evenings would be “do your own thing” times. This was entirely flexible, which pleased me, and entirely predictable, which pleased him. Since then, we spend a lot of time alone together, something we both enjoy. He endures a few comments I make in excitement to share something I’m doing or discovered, but for the most part I leave him in peace. Then on date night, we both only plan to do things together and we each give up most other opportunities to protect this time together. This has really worked well for us.
Having consistent quiet times and noisy times in our house has been the only way I’ve found to please both kinds of people who both deserve to feel comfortable in our home. Even if it doesn’t work for you (the amount of stimulation at the moment), you can at least plan on it, know you’ll get a turn, and make adjustments. (Headphones are a marvelous invention).
Take a moment to find an opposite day opportunity in your life.
See if together you can build a bridge.
When you both help each other get what you want and need
Maybe even better than you can alone,
You’ll find a friend instead.
DarEll S. Hoskisson loves to do hard things, but not too hard. She shares her own challenges, goals and experiences as she guides you into a realistic path of self-reflection and self-improvement. She shares tips on how to find, know and trust yourself so you can decide if other’s suggestions are right for you. DarEll has the world a little upside down—where work is play and play is work. She actually thinks other people’s problems are fun to try to solve and lights up with a personal challenge. She loves people, harmony, and excellence. She also loves useful things like tools and ideas that make work faster, easier and more fun. DarEll married in 1993 and graduated from BYU (1995) with a bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education. Since then she was adopted by 5 children and has worked with many non-profits. She is currently a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor—leading pilates and yoga at her local YMCA. DarEll lives in Florida where she enjoys her family, nature, her work, and encouraging people to live well. She periodically posts her poems, what she is learning, and service opportunities on her personal blogs: https://personalabridgements.wordpress.com and https://darellhoskisson.wordpress.com