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Published: Sunday, 2/20/2005

Learning to love their differences

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Patrick and Sally Plicinski have been married for 44 years, despite favoring different football teams. Patrick and Sally Plicinski have been married for 44 years, despite favoring different football teams.
MORRISON / THE BLADE PHOTO Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Sweet and sour. Hot fudge and ice cream. Pink and blue.

Opposites do indeed go together - sometimes with terrific results.

Some area couples are living proof that opposites can attract, even thrive. But it's not easy; compromise, diplomacy, acceptance, humor - sometimes counseling - help buff the rough patches.

Perrysburg therapist Michael Roehrs frequently points out the obvious to couples who come to him complaining about their differences:

"Too many people marry someone because they bring something new and different to their life, then spend the rest of their marriage trying to make that person think more like them," he says via e-mail.

Mr. Roehrs, a clinical social worker who specializes in marriage and family therapy and executive coaching, sees some truth to the cliche that opposites attract - in the sense that people can be drawn to those who have qualities they admire but lack themselves. Thus, someone who's high-strung may fall for a "steady Eddie" who doesn't come unhinged in a crisis.

Trouble is, Eddie's stability can feel boring at times to his edgy, spontaneous partner.

Such differences won't doom a healthy relationship, according to Mr. Roehrs. "Couples who have a genuine respect for their partner and who have good communication skills are able to talk out their differences, finding creative solutions and compromises that honor their differences," he says.

So it was for Jean and the late Virgil Bauman of Perrysburg.

"We just made it work," recalls Mrs. Bauman, who was widowed in 2003. "For 55 years we were just about as opposite as we could be."

She's a night person who enjoyed spending her evenings singing - 61 years with the Toledo Choral Society, 65 years in the choir at Collingwood Methodist Church, 15 years in Sweet Adelines. Virgil was a morning person who rose early to work the farm and had a passion for flying.

So they made a deal: she would help him farm and tend the cattle, a partnership that meant he could sometimes leave to go flying; for his part, he'd care for their two daughters at night so she could go out and sing with her various groups.

"We talked about it in the beginning. That's the only way," Mrs. Bauman says. They didn't waste any energy trying to change each other.

Love - and common values - trump differences, according to Milly Dierker of Pemberville. She says she and her husband, Robert, "love each other dearly, and we're been married 52 years, but we are so opposite that it's almost funny."

She has an itch to travel; he'd rather not. She loves to explore and try something new; "he likes the old familiar," she says. She's spontaneous; he's scheduled and organized. She can kick back with a good book, while "if he's not moving every minute he's not happy."

Naturally, their styles collide at times. Mrs. Dierker shares one face-off that occurred shortly after the project-oriented Mr. Dierker retired. Golf season hadn't started yet, so he decided he was going to clean out and re-organize the kitchen cabinets.

". . . . and I said, 'Over my dead body, Robert,' " Mrs. Dierker recalls. "I told him that's crossing the line."

She says she had no idea they were such different people before they married - but that knowing wouldn't have stopped her.

"I think the thing that binds us together are the values that we both have. They are the same," Mrs. Dierker says.

Mr. Roehrs also makes a distinction between differences that are fairly superficial and those that are so fundamental they cannot be either ignored or resolved. "While we may enjoy our partner's different approach to life, we should be careful to select partners who still endorse core values similar to our own," he says.

"The other red flag in opposite-thinking partners is if they seem unwilling/unable to hear and honor your differences," Mr. Roehrs advises. "If they expect you to accommodate their ways throughout the dating process, they will expect it throughout the marriage."

But he says that differences present opportunities, too: "Couples learn to listen to what is important to their partner, broaden their perspectives on the world, and learn to function as a team. If we accept our partner's differences, we can open new doors for communication and learning in our lives and keep our marriages interesting."

Thank goodness for differences, some say.

"It would be boring being the same all the time," observes Sally Plicinski of Rossford, who has been married to Patrick since 1961.

She roots for Ohio State while he cheers for Michigan. He likes things neat and clean, "and I love to go to garage sales and clutter up the house with stuff I don't need." She likes parties; he's happy watching sports on television at home. "He is weight-conscious, and I love to eat junk foods," she admits.

But all in all, their relationship works, according to Mrs. Plicinski.

"There's no point in fighting over all this stuff," she observes. "How important is it? That's my slogan."

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.com or 419-724-6126.



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