Love blooms when opposites attract
There were a lot of things I didn't know when, as a young woman, I tried to imagine my perfect mate. But one thing I knew for sure: He would love books as much as I did.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself in love with someone for whom reading was not only not the central element in his life, but who actually had struggled with it all his life and never found it very enjoyable.
This was just the first of many surprises about the nature of love as it has unfolded in our lives together.
I am a writer, and a love of words has defined my life. My husband is a sculptor. For him, words often just get in the way of what he feels is important.
Can two people so different from one another really love each other? And if so, can they live happily together?
I first asked myself those questions when the love I felt for him began to seem qualitatively different from anything I'd ever felt for anyone else. (My mother told me she knew he was the one when my letters home began using the word "we" much more often than the word "I.")
I knew my love for him was deep and profound; I knew that with him I had found a happiness and a peace that I had never experienced before. What I didn't know was what to think about the fact that he was not at all my vision of a perfect mate.
Gradually, several years before we married, I put aside any doubts I had. There were things about the way we had met and fallen in love, and the way our paths had become inextricably intertwined, that made me feel that our love story had in it elements of the unfolding of destiny. I began to feel fortunate that he was in my life, and much less inclined to wonder if he was really "the right one," or whether there might be someone better for me out there. I began to feel that to fuss over the details of the man destiny had put in my way would be a kind of cosmic ingratitude. Surely my role was to love him the best way I knew and to not ask these kinds of questions anymore.
Eventually we married, we had children, we went on with our lives together.
How has it worked out? To be honest, there have been rocky moments in our relationship, as we struggled to understand each other - and sometimes fell short.
But on the other side, there is this: I feel that my life has been immeasurably enriched by spending it with a man who is so different from me.
Several years into our relationship, as I sat next to him one day in a museum, I let out a spontaneous sigh of exasperation and muttered, in a moment of unguarded candor, "I don't understand this painting. It's not pretty, and I don't like it."
"What makes you think it's there for you to like?" he asked. His tone was even, calm, not confrontational. I learned in that moment that I had been asking the wrong questions when I looked at paintings. And in that same moment, the vast and rich world of the visual arts was opened to me.
I like to think it's worked the other way, too. When we were first married, he would have me read a project description or statement of artistic philosophy he had drafted.
He struggled to translate highly complex, abstract, and visual thoughts into words, a medium that felt to him limiting and unnatural.
"What do you mean here?" I would ask. "What are you trying to say?"
Now, writing is much less of a struggle for my husband than it was when I first knew him. He still has me edit his written work, but I hardly ever have to ask him what he's trying to say: I'm just cleaning up the details. He even likes to read - some.
Naturally, he needs friends with whom he can discuss art in a way that I'll never be able to. And I need friends with whom I can talk about books in a way that would bore him. But I don't need to talk about books with my husband. We have many other interesting things to discuss - politics, our children, his next work.
I know that if I had written a personal ad looking for my man, he never would have answered my call. But after 27 years together, I am grateful that my husband is not just a male version of me.
Sometimes it would be nice to be able to express a literary thought to him, rather than having to wait for the next time I'm with a literary friend. But I am grateful - deeply grateful - to love and to be spending my life with someone whose way of looking at the world is different from mine.