Next month, Lisa and I will celebrate 27 years of marriage. They say opposites attract and, in a lot of ways, weâ€™re opposites. While Lisa is a neat freak, I tend to toward slop. She likes parties. I prefer isolation. She enjoys chick flicks, and I think theyâ€™re the biggest waste of time on the planet. This is the stuff of marriage.
But while opposites attract, thereâ€™s a catch: Most of the problems in a marriage are often the ones created by people being opposites. Their differences â€“ many of which wooed them at first â€“ become sore spots. The things that once attracted them now repel them. Why is this?
Iâ€™ve been privileged to officiate thirty-some weddings, and tend to take it personal when someone Iâ€™ve married gets a divorce. Itâ€™s only happened a couple of times. Nevertheless, Iâ€™ve come to believe that most couples bail on a marriage at the exact point it could become stronger. In other words, the marital friction is an indication of a need to grow, not an excuse to separate. But rather than work through their differences, humble themselves, and concede change, they harden their hearts and divorce. Of course there are legitimate grounds for divorce. But ideally, working through relational issues should be preferred to jettisoning the relationship.
How is it that the â€œoppositesâ€ that attract a couple, also work to separate them? At one point, Lisaâ€™s drive to â€œorganizeâ€ everything was something I appreciated, something I needed. But after 27 years, it often irritates me.
The way I see it, the belief that opposites attract is an admission of inferiority, of incompleteness. Itâ€™s a concession to deficiency, that we are weak in an area that someone else is strong in. Lisa fills up what I lack, and vice versa. Our strengths and weaknesses not only balance us, they complete us. Marriage then is a means toward wholeness.
Iâ€™m not sure if this sits well with modern man. Our obsession with self-realization, personal fulfillment and independence doesnâ€™t completely jive with the suggestion we need someone else to be whole. But it harmonizes with biblical theology. After Adam named all the animals, in the early chapters of the Book of Genesis, it was said that a suitable helper was not found for him. He was lacking something. God performed surgery, caused him to sleep, and built a woman from Adamâ€™s rib (Gen. 2). Eve was the perfect partner. Why? She was â€“ literally â€“ part of Adam.
This is an important point because, while God made Adam from the dirt, He made Eve from Adam. He completed Adam by extracting something — no, someone — from within him. In a sense, Eve was always in Adam. No wonder relationships can be so volatile: Eve was formed from the splitting of the Adam.
This instinctive attraction of opposites is, I believe, a hearkening back to that â€œAdamic yearningâ€ â€“ we are missing someone. That longing is for something greater than just friendship — though friendship is no doubt part of it; it’s a thirst for someone who is a part of us. However, the very dynamic of attraction is also what makes relationships potentially nuclear.
So, on the brink of my 27th anniversary, Iâ€™m wondering: Why do opposites attract, and why does that attraction, inevitably, separate?