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A marriage of opposites

My husband, Jason, and I are almost exact opposites. Starting with our 14-year age gap, our differences unfurl from there.

He’s Buddhist; I’m Lutheran. He’s half Mexican; I’m more-than-half Norwegian. Jason gets energized at big parties, and I go to the bathroom just to be alone for five minutes. He loves spicy food, and I once thought a peanut butter Twix had too much flavor.

When we first met, we didn’t give each other a passing glance. He was not what I was looking for, and I was definitely not what he was looking for.

On a whim, we dated for a few months but quickly broke up on the grounds that we were too different. Jason even told his friend, “I don’t know much in this world, but I know I’m not supposed to be with Jessica Runck.”

I guess the joke’s on him. Or me? Probably both of us. Because we ended up getting married. And then — after a lot of struggle and a lot of science — I got pregnant. And now, we’re two opposite people about to raise the same kid together. And suddenly, all the things we found fun or interesting about each other have turned worrisome or — ahem — annoying.

Every habit, every quirk has become something our child might learn. Jason no longer thinks my casual messiness is cute, and I’ve wondered out loud on three separate occasions if he can really enjoy his food when he’s shoving it in his mouth so fast. From small questions, like what color to paint the nursery, to huge questions, like should we raise him Buddhist or Lutheran, our marriage has started to feel like a battlefield.

Before getting married, we’d done some premarital counseling where we’d learned how to state our feelings in a non-hurtful way: “I feel sad when you don’t take out the trash.” But lately, we were saying things like, “I feel… like you’re a jerk!”

After getting in what felt like our millionth argument, we decided to go back to couples therapy. I suppose the word “therapy” can sound ominous to some people, but for us, it’s like taking our car in for a tuneup. We want to make sure everything’s working so when we’re flying down the highway at 80 mph, the wheels won’t come off.

After a few weeks of gentle reminders from our therapist, I began to realize that despite our differences, Jason and I do have something huge in common: a willingness to turn toward each other even when it’s hard. Marriage is a lot of work, and marriage to someone so different than you can sometimes feel frustrating.

Back when we met, Jason described his dream partner as being an Indian woman who played the tabla. Meanwhile, I was on the hunt for a solid Norwegian man who would convince me to move back to the Midwest. Instead, we found each other. Sometimes, what we think we need and what we actually need are two very different things.

Because when it really comes down to it, our differences have made us into more honest, more open-minded people. Just by being ourselves, we’ve encouraged the other to look at the world from a new perspective. We fell in love not despite our differences, but because of them.

At times it can be tough, especially when faced with raising a child, but it’s also what draws us together — what makes our marriage so strong. We’re better because of it, and hopefully our kid will be, too.

As long as he doesn’t eat as fast as his father.

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