My husband and I had a rather unique path down the aisle to "I do." Our relationship, round one, was characterized by times of idyllic friendship which inched us toward emotional intimacy, which resulted in him hitting the eject button. Repeatedly.
Whenever he said he needed space, I obeyed the letter of his law but not the spirit. Within a month, we were back together, typically because of my charitable, good nature (read: I was a skilled manipulator). This cyclical drama culminated in a proposal (we had a good week) and a short engagement. Not short because we planned a quick wedding, but short because he panicked and called everything off.
His decision precipitated two years of separation, two years of counseling, two years of coming to terms with some significant fears and broken patterns of relating–for both of us. By the time he re-initiated contact, we had each made significant progress toward relational wholeness. This time, his proposal stuck and we celebrated our nuptials with friends and family who admittedly remained somewhat suspicious of our sanity.
During our 22 years together, he has never freaked out and I've never manipulated him (one of these is true). However, on more than one occasion, we have sailed through some serious turbulence.
Though we share many things in common (faith, blue-collar background, education, and passion for the arts), we have had to navigate significant personality differences. He's Italian. He likes loud, sustained conversations that go well into the night. I like to be in bed, with a book, at 9:00. He thinks I fail as host if there's not five times as much food on the table as our guests could ever eat. I hate wasting food. He has TDD (Time Discrepancy Disorder–don't bother googling it. I made it up.) I've learned that when he calls to tell me he's leaving work, I need to ask, "Define leaving. Is your computer browser still open or is your key in the ignition?" Little things these. To quote Eeyore, "We all have our ways."
In addition to our sometimes opposite personalities, we also have areas of inherent weakness—places within us which are not fully developed. I tend to shut down in conflict, mostly out of fear that my out-of-control words will draw blood. During a fight early in our marriage, he had to wait almost an hour before I could articulate one complete sentence about what was going on for me. To hear him recount this, he felt as if he were covered in fire ants with his hands tied behind his back. Conflict does not intimidate him; his fear surfaces whenever a power tool is needed. Saw a piece of clapboard to replace what the dog gnawed off as he chased the chipmunk? Not happening. Ever.