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You’re Both So Different? That Could Be What Makes Your Marriage Work

Couple with Black and White Coffees

Twenty-one anniversaries later, I sometimes look at my wife Merryn and wonder how this marriage of ours works. I’m a writer and speaker, Merryn is a statistician. I work with words, she works with numbers. I want beauty, she wants function. We come from different worlds!

After writing about differences in marriage for Woman Alive’s Man Alive column recently, and then chatting more about it on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought, I’m coming to think that when these differences are managed well, the result is two bigger, better people. What do you think?

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So Very Different

Words and numbers are only the start of Merryn’s and my differences. Merryn arrives to appointments early, I’m occasionally late. I try new things on the menu, she always orders the same. If I take a wrong turn Merryn says, ‘We’re going to get lost!’ If she takes a wrong turn I say, ‘Ooh, an adventure!’ I like having music on, she’d rather have silence. Merryn likes Rom-Coms with happy endings, I like moody European films with subtitles. After twenty minutes at Tate Modern I’m just getting started, while Merryn is already in the cafe texting me, ‘Will you be much longer?’

Merryn and me as envisioned by Bob Bond, Woman Alive magazine

I’m the tidy one, Merryn is messy—just one of many ways we flip the gender stereotypes. She found us our home loans, I’ve done the decorating. She pays the bills, I do the washing. I ask for directions, she doesn’t. She wears jeans, I wear dresses (just kidding).

We do have things in common—a shared sense of humour, and a love of travel, reading, country drives, English pubs, Thai food, Dim Sum, and a belief that the BBC documentary is one of Britain’s greatest inventions. More importantly we have a common approach to marriage: joint bank accounts, shared decision making, praying through our options, mutual compromise. We’ve committed to stay in the room and talk through our problems. We haven’t been perfect in all this of course, but we’ve tried.

Couple Shoes by alysa bajenaru

Photo: Alysa Bajenaru

With this common base the differences may have worked to our advantage. Merryn has helped me learn to relax while I’ve helped her grow in discipline. Without her I wouldn’t have risked moving countries, without me she’d miss the discoveries at the end of unknown roads. Having faced a decade of infertility together, we know the pressures a marriage can experience. Those shared commitments helped get us through, even without a ‘happy ending’. They’ve helped us stick together through thick and thin.

Our differences are real and there every day, but managed well they can help us become bigger people. I’ll remind Merryn of that when we next visit Tate Modern. For this is a marriage built on difference and compromise!

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What have you learnt about making differences in marriage work? Leave a comment below now or call me using the ‘Send Voicemail’ button on the right. Please also rate and share this podcast on iTunes to help others discover it!

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