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He Said, She Said

He said, "She's a social maniac." She said, "He's the ultimate homebody."

Steve's Side:

My idea of a perfect evening is to spend time with Dori or get together with a few friends. I'm reasonably outgoing around people I know, but in a bigger mix I'm more reserved. Large parties drain my energy, make me edgy and leave me frustrated because I can't spend quality time with any one individual.

Dori, on the other hand, is always the life of the party. She can carry on three conversations at once. When I started dating her, I admired the way she could walk confidently into any social situation. We were both working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Dori could interact easily with members of a grunge band or a rap group—she doesn't have a shy bone in her body.

Soon after we married, I quit my job to pursue a writing career. The long hours I spent alone, tapping away at the computer, only reinforced my natural homebody tendencies. Soon, I was using my writing and the solitude it required as an excuse to avoid participating in Dori's fast-paced social life. We fought a lot about how to spend our evenings.

One time Dori accepted an invitation to a dinner and dance party, assuming I would attend it with her. But the night of the event, I explained that I had never promised I would go. We exchanged some ugly words and Dori went stag. Our social life as a couple ended that night. Dori started doing her thing, and I did mine.

Dori's Side:

When I was working as a financial manager in the music industry, "schmoozing" at parties and promotional events was an integral part of my job. I'm naturally gregarious, and a room full of people energizes me.

When I first met Steve, I was drawn to his thoughtful personality. In contrast to most of the people I encountered in the entertainment world, he was stable, trustworthy and attentive—a real solid Midwestern guy. When we got married, I assumed he would like going out as much as I did. I didn't give much thought to his preferences, and I became lazy about consulting him before I made social plans.

Over time, it was like pulling teeth to get him to interact with my colleagues. Steve lost interest in joining me in professional social obligations, and when he did go along he kept to himself. Other people assumed he was aloof and arrogant.

Gradually, as Steve poured himself into his writing, he even stopped spending time with our personal friends. I realized that if I wanted to have a social life, I'd have to do it alone.

I developed a pattern of staying out late, whether crunching numbers at the office or attending industry parties. A month before our fifth anniversary, I stayed out until two in the morning without calling Steve. When I got home, we had a terrible fight. It was obvious then that something had to change.

What Dori and Steve Did:

The Ellises knew they had hit bottom after that big fight. And while the clash was painful, they are thankful for it because it humbled them.

Both Steve and Dori sensed an urgency to draw closer to God. As they prayed together, much of their selfishness and insensitivity was exposed. For example, Dori realized that the extreme, "out-there" nature of the entertainment industry was the source of many of their problems. So she started considering other career paths that would make use of her people skills without drawing her into a whirlwind of after-hours entertaining.

Shortly after a job change and their move to Indiana, the Ellises entered marriage counseling. Once they understood the tensions that arise when an extrovert marries an introvert, they were able to talk through their differences.

Dori learned what situations make Steve uncomfortable, so she now seeks his input before making social commitments. She also makes time alone with her husband a priority and has come to enjoy spending quiet evenings at home.

Steve also made some changes. He started forcing himself to spend more time with Dori in bigger groups of people. "It's easier for me to go into uncomfortable situations when I know Dori is aware of what I'm feeling," he says. "The more she stands by me, the more confidence I gain."

The Ellises now view their differences as something that is necessary to provide appropriate balance. "Steve takes time to develop relationships and has good boundaries," Dori says. "On my own, I'd be more inclined to dive into people's lives and get overly involved. Steve is teaching me to exercise wisdom and to protect our time and space."

And what about Steve? "Dori is teaching me to open up to people," he says. "As I reveal more of myself, I'm finding that my friendships grow deeper and more real."

Dori and Steve celebrated last New Year's Eve by throwing a party for friends from their church. The big gathering was a triumph of their new-found teamwork. Steve took charge of the kitchen and, between blending eggnog and slicing cheese, spent time chatting with friends in twos and threes. Dori was the master of ceremonies, presiding over charades and a sing-along. At the stroke of midnight, Steve swept Dori into his arms and they started the new year with a kiss.

"Opposites attract," says Dori, "but it takes obedience to God to make it work."

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Conflict; Differences; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 1997
Posted September 12, 2008

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