By Drs. Beverly and Tom Rodgers
Emily entered our counseling office wearing a crisp white shirt, tan pants, and a fashionable, yet casual, navy blazer. Zack, her husband of six months, had on his favorite acid washed jeans, a t-shirt, and checkered flannel over-shirt. Their attire was not their only difference. As with countless couples we see, Zack and Emily could not be more opposite. Emily was active and industrious, often multitasking to get through graduate school while working fulltime. Zack was laidback and carefree, regularly focusing on fun. Emily’s biggest complaint after half a year of married life was that Zack was not motivated to do things like clean the house or entertain company for dinner. Zack’s biggest criticism was that Emily nagged him to do more.
As these newlyweds came in for a sixth-month checkup, I could not help but notice that they were not sitting as close as they had been during pre-marital counseling. It was only six months ago that Emily sat starry-eyed, singing Zack’s praises for having a calming affect on her
“He helps me slow down in graduate school,” she crooned as she affectionately patted his chest.
“Emily is so driven, she’ll have her own architectural firm before long,” Zack reported with pride as his big blue eyes smiled at her.
Now, only six months later, her drive and ambition was driving him crazy and his carefree nature frustrated her terribly.
“I like married life,” Zack offered slouching into the cushy pillows on the sofa, “but I just wonder why Emily can’t be more like me?”
“You are telling me,” Emily chimed in. “I like having someone to come home to but sometimes it’s hard having someone so different from me.” Emily then crossed her legs and straightened the almost non-existent pleat in Zack’s old jeans.
“Why can’t Zack be more like me?” she said, as Zack reflexively shook the pleat out of his pants.
Tom and I have been asked this question from couples thousands of times in the last three decades as marriage counselors. The answer is that people are typically not attracted to mates who are similar. This is because opposites attract.
For years relationship researchers have taught about the phenomenon that people are attracted to partners who are their opposite. The issue of opposites attracting goes back to the Garden of Eden. God, the Creator of the Universe, is both male and female, both masculine and feminine. God made man in His image (Genesis 1:26). Adam reflected the male aspect of His image. He was put on the earth to do God’s masculine tasks, to protect, serve and have charge over all of God’s creatures (Genesis 1:26-27).
In those first days, Adam was busy utilizing all of his, and God’s, masculine qualities. It wasn’t long before he realized that something was missing. God’s feminine energy was noticeably absent. The world needed God’s feminine side. Adam needed God’s feminine side. God wanted His opposite essence to be a part of the universe when He said that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Adam needed his opposite to feel complete and to feel most like God, and husbands and wives have been looking for that completeness ever since.
When man (God’s male essence) craves woman (God’s female essence) they marry and become one. In this oneness, they are most like God, and because they have both parts of Him, they can do so much more together than they could alone. Together they form what we call —The Divine Us. This Us is greater than the sum of the two parts.
In the beginning, man and woman are thrilled with a sense of completeness. But, as time wears on, these differences begin to grate on us and, instead of completeness, we start to feel uncomfortable. That which we loved and appreciated becomes what we fight about in marriage. We start chipping away at this oneness, sandpapering each other’s differences. Why? Because they make us feel ill at ease and less than who we should be because our partner has some quality that we lack. The differences that we once celebrated now challenge us too much.
The solution to this dilemma is recognizing that God gives us mates who are our opposite to grow us to be more like each other. Marriage is a crucible of growth to make us more balanced so that we can be everything we need to be for God’s kingdom. The way out for Emily was to learn to be more laidback and God sent her Zack to teach her how. Zack needed to develop more drive and God sent him a tutor in Emily.
We taught them to stop defending their differences, and start embracing them, to remember why they married each other in the first place and how these differences changed them so long ago and can do so again. Now, three years and a set of twins later, Emily is much more laid back and Zack has found his ambition and passion. It seems God Knew what He was doing after all. Eventually, they learned to surrender to this oneness and let God create a Divine Us.
Questions for Reflection:
What qualities did you appreciate most in your spouse when you first met? Discuss them with each other.
Are they grist for the mill of marital conflict today?
Why and what can you do about it in terms of embracing oneness and creating a Divine Us?