4 Minutes 4 Marriage – Opposites Attract

Opposites attract, right?

On the other hand, when we were caught up in that wonderful emotional rush of new infatuation, didn’t our beloved seem exactly like us? Didn’t we share all the same values, ideals, and hopes for the future? We found ourselves in agreement on nearly everything. Weren’t we perfect for each other?

 Over the last four weeks we discussed the writings of Dr. John Gottman. Today we will turn our attention to some of the writings of David Schnarch, from his 1998 book Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy in Committed Relationships.

 Lifting our honeymoon rose-colored glasses, Schnarch would say, “Yes, we are perfect for each other.” But not because we’re the same; rather, because our differences are so complementary. He writes that we tend to find life partners whose strengths complement our weaknesses and vice versa. For instance, where one of us feels comfortable with relating emotionally, the other is focused on responsibility. One may be an extravert while the other is an introvert, or value logic while the first loves creativity.

Schnarch says, like a metal crucible that holds molten metal as it is refined, our marriages support us while we are forged into better people. Ideally, the “Marriage Crucible” of everyday struggles helps us learn from each other and grow in our weak areas. We’ll become well-rounded and more whole by adding the other’s perspective to our own.

However, in most cases, we miss that opportunity. “He” sees his spouse excel at the nitty-gritty of finances, so he lets her take over those responsibilities. “She” sees him as a spiritual leader, so she focuses on the role of worldly thinker. One’s maternal or paternal instincts are strong, so the other lets her or him become the primary caretaker of the children.

Unfortunately, as we polarize into more extreme versions of ourselves, we lose admiration for our spouses’ differences and begin to feel our strengths are more important than theirs. The logical thinker relinquishes desire to be creative and is irritated by the spouse’s “flightiness” or “immaturity.” Meanwhile, the creative spouse begins to see the logical spouse as boring or restrictive. I’m remembering Harold Higgins in My Fair Lady singing Lerner’s lyrics, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

Held in the confines of a committed relationship, resistance to growth can worsen until it feels intolerable. The irritation of daily interactions will force us to make a choice. We can give up and move on, looking for a relationship with someone new who is “just like us.” Or we can tough it out and choose to round out our abilities, to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones while we are supported, as we do, by our spouse and by our commitment to our marriage.

 Once I read an article about a newly retired couple. They looked at their remaining lifespan very practically and assumed that one of them would outlive the other. In order to be prepared, they decided to spend the first year of their retirement exchanging responsibilities. The wife learned how to maintain the car, change the furnace filters, and pay the bills. The husband learned how to cook, do laundry, buy gifts for their grandchildren, and clean a bathroom. That wise couple grew strong and flexible within the Marriage Crucible, and no doubt, gained great respect for each other’s abilities. I imagine, when one of them does pass away, the other’s grief will not be intensified by the fear of learning how to take care of day-to-day life.

 I believe if we aren’t growing, we are stagnating. If we aren’t growing closer, we’re moving apart. But a marriage where both partners stretch to learn and develop remains fresh and exciting. Will we settle for less?


What does your spouse take care of that you could benefit from doing? How can you stretch yourself by learning from your beloved’s strengths?

Gentlemen, if your wife handles communication with your children, reach out to them yourself. If they are grown, call them up just to chat. You’ll be amazed at what it means to you and them.

Ladies, we may all dream of a husband who notices the need and then scrubs a toilet. Still, I’m ashamed to admit how many times I let my husband be the one to dump the sewage from our travel trailer without feeling any guilt. And I truly do not want to learn how to change my car’s oil. But I could learn from him how to let little hurts roll off my back. And I really should tackle some of those phone calls that require assertiveness.

Where can you grow?

Choose one of your partner’s strengths that you’d like to practice and decide how to begin.

In the mean time, as a gift, do one task today that is usually your spouse’s responsibility.

Two Bible verses to ponder:

  • These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:7 NLT)


  • Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you? (1 Corinthians 7:16 NLT)


Pat yourself on the back for investing four more minutes in your relationship!

Betty Arrigotti


Schnarch, David M. (1998). Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy in Committed Relationships. Henry Holt & Co.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

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