It’s an axiom of human relationships, I think, that the couple tends to find a center of gravity on each issue, and that each person then finds a spot on either the positive or negative side of that issue’s origin. Who’s the neat one, who’s the messy one? Who’s the one that’s good with money, who’s the one that’s a spendthrift? Who’s the outgoing one, who’s the shy one? I’ve been on both sides of each issue at various times in my life and in various contexts. And not just male-female dating relationships, either. At boarding school, I’ve been both the messy one (Junior year, when rooming with Japanese exchange student Junichiro Fukuda), and the neat one (Senior year, vs. Alton Finley, who I had to throw batteries at, in increasing grades from AAA to D, in the middle of the night to stop him from snoring).
It’s easy to be reactive, and to let the other’s otherness push you further along your own axis than you, maybe, normally belong. Especially, I suppose, if you’re on the side of the axis that you don’t feel comfortable on. I’m not normally the thrifty one (viz. the purchase of a cubic foot of Butterfinger bars for Halloween, below), so when I do find that I’m the one that’s expected to play that role, I become uber-Thrift man, trying hard to act like some inner Amish subsistence farmer.
The danger of defiring yourself as a negative-space reflection of the other is a favorite liberal-arts concept: the word “counterdependency” was almost as popular at my Quaker college as “paradigm shift” and Phish stickers. But it’s a very real trap, and in a partner relationship I think that this laziness leads to friction and resentment. Along each axis, you have one person acting as the “boss”, who feels resentment for having to be in charge, and you have the “minion”, who feels resentment at being bossed around. I’m sure that you could whip up a college-psych paper on this in about ten minutes: “f(Prospero) = Caliban: Emotional Axes along the Relationship Coordinate Space. Or, if you wanted to sell it as a book, If it’s Tuesday, you be Oscar and I’ll be Felix.
All of the above isn’t meant to be a giant window into my soul, so much as the reason that Kate and I are really happy about buying a car. Maybe it’s because we both started out with pretty much the same priorities, so the difference was between (0,-1) and (0,2), not (0,-25) and (0,2). Or maybe it’s because there’s a hell of a lot of good information out there now, from Consumer Reports to Edmunds.com, so we both had the same knowledge level. So, to cut a long story short: We got a good car, we both like it, we both did a good job of staying firm but honest with the salespeople, we didn’t get in any fights. Yaay, first-year-of-marriage victory!
Here’s the car; a black 2003 Nissan GXE with the “Synergy” package. We looked at the Corolla S (great reliability, but felt cheap inside, had crappy headlights, and cost $$$ to get the features we wanted. Also, the sales manager made Jack Lemmon look like Tony Robbins.) and the Ford Focus (fast and fun to drive, but an annoying center armrest and reliability so bad that the Consumer Reports page was actually hot to the touch.) It’s a pretty sporty car, and we’re both pleased with it.
Now all that’s left to discuss is the giant hydraulic spoiler I’m determined to bolt on to the back.