Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why Do Opposites Attract?

     I was thinking recently, after my brother in law and his wife made a visit, how unusual they are as a couple. Why? Because they are both extremely neat, and they both seem to put a lot of effort into saving money and watching their expenses. They are both very organized. Their home is immaculate; their yard is picture perfect; and it seems that half of their conversation revolves around ways to save money.

     It seems unusual to me, because from all my experience, I've found that opposites attract. You have one neat person, and one messy person in a marriage. One spender, and one saver. (Just f.y.i., in my own situation, B is the spender and I am the saver.)

     Don't ask me why that is, but in a marriage it does seem to work out pretty well, as long as the two people are not at the extremes. If one's an unrepentant shopaholic and the other a pennypinching miser, then all they do is argue. But a healthy give-and-take between the garden variety spender and the reasonable, rational saver seems to lead to a good compromise and a good outcome. Together, the couple keeps a good balance and spends appropriately, because of the pull and tug between the two forces.

     If you have two spenders, you run the risk of going into debt, maybe even going broke, and facing retirement with plenty of clothes and furniture and memories of great vacations, but no plan to provide any income for your golden years beyond the modest funds sent to you by Social Security. And if you have two savers in the family -- well, you end up with a spare and barren existence, and lots of money in your estate which your kids will gladly squander for you after you're gone.

The in-laws
       The same goes for the messy meter. I'll give you one        guess who's the messy one in our family:

       B has a pillow prominently displayed on our living room     sofa, "My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a    glance."

     Yes, she is the messy one, I am the neat one. But it's okay, because it gives our house that lived-in look -- without deteriorating into a big jumble of debris littering the table tops and the floor.

     Well ... maybe there's a little debris, but neither one of us is so extreme that it causes real problems. I am not a neat freak. I'll throw a tee shirt on the chair in the bedroom and it might sit there for a few days before it gets into the laundry. And the back room where I have my office does sport a few piles of books and papers.

     But by and large I'm pretty neat. I don't leave shoes or clothes around the house. I take my mail, every day, and throw out the junk and put the bills in my letter holder. I'm also in charge of recycling, so I'm on top of the magazine and newspapers that get stacked up on the coffee table.

     But I will say, I haven't seen the top of the kitchen table since we last had house guests -- when my, er, brother and sister in law were here.

     B uses the kitchen table for her mail, her books, her brochures. The overflow goes onto the dining room table, and the overflow of the overflow gets piled in the corner of the living room. She slings her pocket book and the book bag she brings to work, over the kitchen chairs, along with a sweatshirt and a sweater. And the boxes she has, either incoming or outgoing to the post office or UPS, are stored on the dining room floor.

     The only thing that really threw me recently? So ... the kitchen table is piled high with an assortment of papers and books. It has what I call the "literary look." That's okay with me. But the other day B goes out and buys a couple of candlesticks. "Oh, they're nice," I say. "Where are you gonna put them?"

     "On the kitchen table," she says with a smile. "They'll look pretty."

     "Well ... I guess," I reply, but I'm flabbergasted. No one will be able to see them!

     When I was younger, a messy house used to bother me. Then I had kids. So I learned to live with it, and now it doesn't bother me anymore. I've mellowed. I have also learned to appreciate the benefits of the "messy" lifestyle (for example, they save everything and, given time, can usually lay their hands on whatever you want, as opposed to us "neat freaks" who throw everything away ... not that I'm admitting to being a neat freak).

     The only thing that still bothers me is the shoes by the door. And that's mostly because I'm a klutz. B has five or six coats hanging off hooks on the wall behind the back door, so the door can't open all the way. And there are six or eight pairs of shoes and boots piled on the floor. Trying to tiptoe past the shoes to get out the back door is quite a trick. Twice I've tripped over a pair of shoes and stumbled through the screen door. But I'm learning. I haven't tripped once this summer.

     And besides ... I've visited my in-laws, and I feel that I can hardly breathe when I'm in their house, for fear of leaving a coffee cup ring on the kitchen counter. I'd rather live with a little mess than live in fear of the neat police.

     P. S. My mother was a spender, my dad a saver; my mother was the messy one; my dad the neat one. I hate to think what Freud would have to say about that! But ... they were married for 60 years.


June said...

Of course you are the saver and the neat one.
Otherwise you would never bring up this topic.

Olga said...

Opposites--kind of a relative term. I could not live in the picture of you guys above. The in-laws looks about right. Still, my husband would definitely say I am the messy one because I do not have designated, out-of-sight place to put my handbag each time I come into the house.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are complete opposites. He's a man. And I'm a woman. He's a slob. And I spend my time picking up after him. All. Day. And. Night. Long. The only peace I get is when he is sleeping.

After 30 years of this, I need a break.

I like to save money. He likes to spend. In fact, if he gets any inkling that extra money is coming our way, he's on the internet looking for things to buy. He likes things quiet. I like to scream my head off. (usually at him)

My husband can earn a lot of money but once he gets it he doesn't have the slightest clue what to do with it. I on the other hand, have never earned a lot of money BUT give me a dollar and I can turn it into $1.50 and make it last for a few years. I'm a good money manager. I know what to do with money once I get it.

Opposites may attract, but right now, I'd like to be with someone exactly like me. Like, ME!

Dick Klade said...

Your parents probably were married 60 years because each was still working to perfect the other. Spousal improvement projects take time.

It sounds as though you have a wonderful marriage. Few husbands would have dared to publish this post. Or, you are a man of great courage.

Linda Myers said...

My husband is a packrat and when we first got together it drove me crazy. I tried everything I could think of to change him. Nothing worked.

Every now and then we'll need something and he'll say, "I think I have that somewhere." Then he goes away for a couple of hours and comes back. Usually with the item. Sometimes not.

Fortunately, he's only taken over the garage, his office and the basement. Otherwise, our house is comfortably cluttered and easily picked up.