Emily is the ultimate planner, the kind of person who, at 7 A.M. on moving day, has everything we own boxed and labeled. I do everything by trial and error, and get squirmy if I have to commit to something farther off than next weekend's tennis date.
Emily comes from a close, affectionate family whom she adores; I can barely tolerate my parents and siblings, and avoid even talking to them on the phone. Emily's a stickler for traditional manners—the hostess gift, the thank-you note, the Christmas card. I haven't written a thank-you card since my bar mitzvah (and I'm still working on those).
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Inevitably, these differences sometimes lead to fights. Now, I'm aware that there are couples that claim not to mind fighting. (Take my sister and her husband: their epic screaming matches are just high-volume dialogues, punctuated by the occasional destruction of a kitchen appliance.) I can’t understand this.
Since both Emily and I grew up amid constant parental histrionics, we value quiet more than most people. For us, domestic tranquility is as much a lifestyle choice as a function of our compatibility. We bicker, of course—about where to set the thermostat, or whether we really need to hire a cleaning service—but most of these exchanges end up as jokes, and any lingering grumpiness can usually be resolved with some timely sex.
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Still, once or twice a year, we really get into it. What makes these blowouts so volatile, even more than the months of suppressed emotion fueling them, is our diametrically opposed fighting styles.