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).
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.
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.