Relationships: Being Different is Okay

WeddingJohn (age 22) and Karen (19) on June 21, 1980

Karen Elizabeth Giles Miller has many roles …

  • “Best friend” to John since 1976
  • “Mrs. Miller” since 1980.
  • “Mom” to seven children (four from the stork and three by adoption)
  • “Grandma Nonnie” to Joshua, Becca Boo, and McKenna
  • “Girlfriend” to many women; “mentor/teacher” to several
  • “Co-author” of Parenting the QBQ Way
  • “Birthday girl” on Oct 20th 

And one other title that fits her well:

My polar opposite.

It was 1976, disco was hot, and I was eighteen when I asked the cutest 16-year-old girl I’d ever seen if she would go to a movie. When Karen said yes, the journey began. After I earned my Cornell University diploma and she her registered nursing degree, we married on the first day of summer 1980 and moved west. The Big Corporation had offered me a job!

Karen was 19, I was 22.

Little did we know how different we are.

Over the next six years, we lived in Minnesota, Montana, Missouri, and then Minnesota again. It was there that I saw a newspaper ad seeking a “high-energy, successful salesperson” to sell management and sales training programs to Twin Cities’ organizations. Truthfully, I’d never sold before—but I knew I was high energy!

Karen said, “Go ahead and take the job, make the career change. We’ll be OK.” She’s stood with me ever since.

Even though we’re really different.

How different are we? Well …

  • She’s a “feeler.” I’m a “thinker.” When we took a personality profile test, I scored a zero on the feelings scale. (Funny, it didn’t bother me.)
  • When we donate to charity, she gives time, energy, and labor. I want to write a check.
  • When there are choices to be made, she asks, “How will this impact others?’’ I ask, “How will it impact … me?!”
  • I make fast decisions—sometimes wrong. She makes less fast decisions—rarely wrong.
  • I like to plan next week. She likes to plan tomorrow.
  • I think pets can be given away if they become inconvenient. She views them as “part of the family,” believing they stay with us … till death do us part!
  • I’m verbal. She’s not. I process externally. She processes internally, where her private rivers run deep. Studies may show that women use more words in a day than men, but that’s not the case in our home. Not. Even. Close.
  • She needs friends—outside the home. I don’t. She is my friend … which can be quite, shall we say, suffocating for her.

Our differences are even reflected in what our four grown kids—all married now—call to talk to us about. If it is emotional support and a “feelings” oriented conversation they want, they call Mom. If they need to make banking, planning, or logistical decisions, it’s me.

So, we’re different. Different enough that there’s no denying that our differences have caused marital tension, verbal conflict, and stress through the years. But here is one thing we have always been aligned in:

Our marriage is forever.

You see, on June 21, 1980, when Karen and I each said “I do,” what we were really saying is this marriage will remain … till death do us part.

Even though we’re different.

Nowadays, some think that’s retro. We think it’s right.

Plus, who else would put up with me?!?

So, Happy Birthday to the cutest—and wisest—fiftysomething I know. And thanks for saying yes!

For Discussion:

How are you and your “life partner” different? How have you overcome those differences? What about those you work with, what have you done to collaborate in spite of your differences?

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20 Responses

  1. I love being opposites with my wife. It brings me depth. She may call me weird, but we’re both good with that! It’s only been one year but one thing was for sure: we both wrote in our cards to each other that there would be 59 more years together! At least we have one good thing in common!

  2. My husband and I were married in the same year you and Karen were. We too are very different from each other. Those differences make us clash at times but most of the time, we complement each other. The times we are our strongest as a team are the times we remember to allow each to use their strengths and to listen to each other. We too are completely committed to each other forever.
    Thanks for the great post!

  3. After a short engagement, in December 1981, my husband and I were married.
    He likes to plan, keep a clean house, likes talk radio. I am pretty much think on my feet, am a little bit of a clutterer, and listen to country radio. What do we have in common? We each think we got the better part of the deal!

  4. I know this is not on topic, but you should have had the beard in 1986 went we met, it would have made my decision even easier. I knew we had something in common when I offered you the position. If I’m not mistaken, Karen encouraged you to take the position I offered, not short term thinking at all. She saw the future! All my best for her Happy Birthday!

    1. Yep, Jim, had that goatee a long time! And I gave credit to Karen in the blog with this: “Karen said, “Go ahead and take the job, make the career change. We’ll be OK.” She’s stood with me ever since.”

  5. Bible recites that God formed from the first man’s rib a compliment or helper for him, not an identical twin.. To do that he had to tweak the DNA to control certain hormonal ratios, which also resulted in some modified shaping. Some contend an improved or enhanced model primarily to smooth the rough edges of the man. All and all, a good fit. Just a misapplication of “free-will” was made by these first two… That free-will has obviously been exercised by you and your wife, when a decision was made to make your marriage persevere through every bump encountered.

  6. Evolution vs God. That’s Kevin & me! Hahaa… the discussions at the dinner table are awesome & frustrating at the same time. We’ve displayed by example how you can be very different, but still find a fascinating middle-ground, and also how to conduct a very “lively” dialogue without loosing your cool. It’s quite interesting in our house!

  7. My wife and I have been married since 1984. who would have thought? Found out later that friends had bets on the over/under!! We are so different we are the same. I’m a verbal extrovert, she doesn’t care to meet new people. I want to talk out a problem, she clams up until she explodes. And yet, here we are!

  8. My wife and I have been married 31+ years. In values and moral compass, we are walking the same path. But I am more analytical, she is more feel. If our children want step by step how to do something or problem solving, they come to dad. If they want comfort, mom is the ticket. We are so stereotypically Venus and Mars, that between the two of us, there is a really good balance.

  9. As I have said before, I really dig your flavor of retro – thanks for the positive example.

    My wife and I are quite different, comically in a reverse stereotype fashon.

    I’m the sensitive one, she’s the no-nonsense one.

    I want to talk things out, she just wants to see action.

    I’m the introvert, she’s total extravert.

    The list goes on and on, but we could not be better paired to make a complete team. God knows what He was doing, yet again.

  10. John,
    My husband and I are high school sweethearts who married in 1990. We have two grown children and now are finally having time to explore and learn even more about each other. We dated for 5 years before we were married but we were too young to realize we needed to really know each other before we were married. He is so very different than me – he likes to take his time to make a decision, reflect inward when something bothers him, thinks alot about things but has few words to share. I am the total opposite. After our youngest went off to college we realized a relationship needs two people fully engaged with each other. I’ve learned to communicate what i need so he can understand me and he is learning to verbalize what he is thinking so I can understand him. It was rough but now that we actually communicate beyond finances and kids we are doing wonderful. God answered all my prayers on this.

  11. John – I think being opposites make the pair a whole! One fills in the “missing” pieces of the other.


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