Love Is a Mirror Image
“Chanelle,” Julie called her Admin, “bring a pad and pencil. I want to review safety schedules.”
After the meeting, Chanelle remarked, “I take it the sessions with Dr. Braun are going well. You show more pep in your step.”
“They’re going just fine. In fact, I’m dashing off now to a lunch session. Take messages; I’ll return to the office by 2 o’clock.
“Julie, over here,” beckoned Dr. Braun from a far corner table. “Come, you’re the first to arrive.”
Julie sat, warmed by the autumn sun that streamed in through the windows. Outside, she could see shoppers scurrying around to the various shops in the strip mall a short distance away.
“How are things going?” asked Dr. Braun.
A server walked over and handed Julie a menu. After scanning the lunch specials, she answered, “My relationship with Joe remains strained. But personally, I feel great. I’m filling my life with meaning beyond my own little world.
I’ve become a Big Sister and work with a disadvantaged child from the Exchange Street Shelter. Taylor is my little girl. She’s so sweet, and smart too. Just the other day she…”
Dr. Braun listened attentively.
“Why, you’re beaming! And you differ greatly from the young woman I met just a few weeks ago. You act more comfortable, more confident, more in control.”
“Accepting self-responsibility for my own happiness definitely has its rewards,” said Julie. “I’m no longer waiting for Joe to make me happy. I’m reaching out grabbing happiness in ways I’ve never dreamed. And you know what, it’s working!
“I still hope Joe and I get back on track. But until that happens, I’m finding other ways to be content.”
Three others, Marlene, Barb, and Carolyn, walked up to join them.
“Hello, ladies,” said Dr. Braun. “Please, welcome Julie.”
After introductions and ordering food, the women made mental notes of each other. And Barb, eager to begin, spoke. “Oh, I am so excited to discuss this session. You know, after five marriages and divorces, it’s about time I did it right,” she giggled. “Tom, my new boyfriend, is just madly in love with me and says he wants to marry me and live with me forever.
You know what they say, the sixth time is the charm.” She rattled a clanking charm bracelet. “Don’t you just love the title of this session, ‘Finding your soul-mate.’ Don’t you just love that word soul-mate? It says it all, don’t you think? Why just the other day I…
“Barb!” interrupted Carolyn, “that was last month’s topic. You were ill and missed it, remember?”
Carolyn, a widow, appeared very laid back, serious, and observant. “To get the ball rolling, why don’t we invite our guest to start,” she gestured toward Julie. Our topic today is ‘Should Opposites Marry?’ “
“No, no, I’m just an observer today.”
“I’ll start,” said Marlene. She was wearing a striking gold necklace. Tall and beautiful as a model. “I’m at the point of using the profiles to assess the ‘inner’ man. It’s so important that you find someone like yourself. Opposites may attract, but they should never marry.”
Turning to Julie, she explained, “You see, Harry, my ex-husband, was a conservative, quiet, reserved, a homebody. He had no close friends except his father. Basically, he was a good man. I knew he would be a responsible good breadwinner.
I, on the other hand, was young and full of life, loved people, loved to socialize, loved fine dining, loved to dance, and have a good time. I attracted him for those reasons. And he attracted me because he was smart, had an impressive degree, and had a promising future.
“It started off fine. After about six months, though, he complained. He didn’t like my friends. We spent too much money on entertainment. He didn’t feel like going out. He simply wanted to stay home, grab a pizza and watch Net Flix.
So that’s what we did. After a while, I felt imprisoned. Suffocated. He would not change and neither could I. We were making each other miserable. Five years and one child later, I had to leave.
“Yes,” piped up Barb, “whoever you are, no matter what your personality type, even if you’re a deadpan, you’d better find another deadpan to marry.” Everyone laughed.
Continuing, Marlene said, “Now I use the profiles to find my kind.”
“Your kind? Wait a minute, am I looking for a clone?” Julie asked.
“Explain complementary differences, won’t you Marlene?” asked Dr. Braun.
“Sure,” Marlene continued. “No two people develop in the same manner. One person is outgoing, the other introspective, one plans for the future, the other sees things more immediately, and so forth. People are different.
“There will be differences for sure, but,” she paused, shaking her finger for emphasis, “differences merely because one is male and the other female. Not in being at odds. The issue is whether the differences between the two complete or defeat. Differences should inspire growth, add excitement, broaden perspectives, and challenge potential. This results in a richer, fuller, more complete life.”
“For example,” said Carolyn, “before my husband became ill, we shared many exciting, adventurous times together because we were different in a complementary sense. He was very outdoorsy. He loved camping, fishing and nature walks. Until he came along, I never appreciated or participated in those activities. But together we enjoyed the best times of our lives in the great outdoors.
“Conversely I introduced him to country music. In time, he enjoyed it. I even taught him to line dance and then you couldn’t keep him off the floor. So our differences allowed each of us to grow in new areas and we delighted in the interchange of experiences. Our life together was greatly enriched.”
“Glad it worked out that way for you. My husband, number three or was it number four,” began Barb absentmindedly, “at any rate, he drove me crazy! Our differences were downright irritating. He never did anything I wanted, and I sure wasn’t into his scene. You know that is what they call incompatibility.
“When you live with someone, day in and day out, if your differences clash, your life together is nerve-racking beyond imagination. You’re ready to climb the damn wall. Those differences make you plain miserable. I felt drained, got tension headaches, and irritable—Oh my! There was this constant tug-of-war. Made me downright mean most of the time. I lived on Maalox and Tylenol.”
Barb slumped in her seat. Carolyn reached over, embraced her and said, “Maybe with what you know now, you won’t make the same mistake with husband six.”
The women eyed each other as if saying, Please, I hope not!
“I’m continuing these sessions with Dr. Braun”, said Marlene, “because I had to clear my head from my divorce. Now I have met a wonderful man. But, I wanted to be sure this time. Jim and I appeared compatible, had a good love life, shared same goals, had same perspectives and practiced same religion. Yet, we argued like you wouldn’t believe, especially in the mornings before work. In time, we discovered our problem was out-of-sync energy levels.”
“What?” everyone yelled.
She looked at Dr. Braun, “Now jump in if I’m not telling this right.”
“You’ll be fine,” replied the Doctor.
“Even though we quarreled over the simplest things, deep inside we loved each other and so we sought counseling,” Marlene said smiling at Dr. Braun. “We found that differences in energy levels can surface in relationships and cause problems. Many times, people don’t even recognize what is causing the problems.
Anyway, some people are more energetic than others in physical, emotional and intellectual ways. They move, feel and think faster. Others react totally opposite. They’re slower and show lower levels of energy.
“For instance, Jim bounces out of bed early in the morning raring to go. Energetic juices fuel him for upcoming activities. I, on the other hand,” she nodded, feigning sleep, “can hardly blink one eye open even after my third cup of coffee. We found out that our temperaments, speech patterns, body movements and emotional responses either clash or harmonize with our mates.
If they clash, she clapped her hands, “we could be in for big trouble. Somehow mysterious friction generates. Temperaments are often out of sync. The faster one feels impatient and the slower one feels pressured. Out of frustration, the faster one becomes yet faster while the slower one becomes still slower. Each tries to force the other to adapt to his pace. And since that’s not likely to happen, these differences can wreck a relationship.
“Luckily, Jim and I sought help and could recognize the problem. We are finding ways to work it out.”
“Good for you,” Dr. Braun hugged her and everyone applauded.
“A couple other red flags,” Carolyn interjected, “are personal habits and use of money. If one of you is very talkative and the other quiet, there’s big potential for problems. One will crave conversation; the other quiet and solitude. What if one is sloppy and the other meticulously orderly? One likes a cool room to sleep in the other wants it near 75 degrees.
Or one is slim and diet conscious and the other lets their weight get out of control? Does one prefer nutritious food and the other junk food? Does one like alcohol and the other abhor it? Over time these differences could be trying.
And especially problematic are money problems. Disagreements about how to handle money can destroy a marriage. One wants to save money; the other spends everything they get their hands on. One is a risky investor; the other is ultra-conservative. One is generous to others; the other is selfish and keeps the money for personal use only.
Conflicting views like these may be deadly to a relationship. Better get these issues recognized and settled before moving ahead.
Barb snapped her fingers and sang, “A smooth and easy thing and all the good things that it brings.” Lou Rawls sang that in ‘Lady Love’, she said. “It’s an oldie, but I love that song. She summarized that generally, opposites should never marry. Their differences probably won’t gel.*
*Note: Not that opposites never work, but do you want to work that hard? It can be an uphill battle.
Our best match would be someone who reflects us as much as possible. Don’t you just love that song?” She looked around the booth at each one, and then said in an uncharacteristically serious tone, “Couples whose differences complement, whose rhythms and energies click, whose relationship feels ‘right,’ will move along in harmony like a ‘smooth and easy thing.’ “
“Well, what do you know,” whispered Carolyn to Marlene, “she’s not a complete airhead after all.”
The session concluded with Dr. Braun stating that each couple has differences. Key questions to keep in mind are: Are these differences tolerable? Are they mutually enriching? Do they complement your union?
“What if these differences are intolerable — then what?”
“There are two answers to that question,” Dr. Braun responded. “If you’re dating, you have discovered a viable reason to end the relationship and move on…”
“But what if you love the guy,” Julie blurted out, her voice anxious. “Maybe his ways irritate you, but you love him regardless.”
Dr. Braun looked around the table to gain everyone’s attention, then asked, “How do you think love can grow and thrive in an environment where all a couple does is argue and fight because their differences aggravate each other? I mean serious, angry aggravation, day in and day out.
Remember, you cannot change the other person. That is why it’s imperative to identify your best match upfront and allow enough time for his true personality and traits to surface. Believe me, they will!
This insight allows you to consider whether marriage to this individual is in anyone’s best interest. This gut-wrenching decision, as painful as it may be, can help avoid separation and divorce later.
If you’re married and then find differences intolerable, decide whether you want to stay together. If so, you must focus on the good qualities your mate has. Do not nag, belittle or berate his differences. Rather, stress the compatible areas of your life together. It’s not the best situation, but it is doable with adjusted thinking that dwells on the positives. Learn to tolerate the give and take of day-to-day interactions with each other.
“We,” however, Dr. Braun smiled, “are all here to avoid getting ourselves into that situation in the first place, aren’t we ladies?”
“I’ll drink to that,” Barbara shouted.
Julie found the session enjoyable and informative. Later, she made entries in her diary from the handouts Dr. Braun distributed.