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8 Happily Mismatched Couples


Can't find dates whose interests are similar to your own? It's OK! These eight couples say that learning how to compromise and appreciate each other's differences have kept their passion alive.

By Ronnie Koenig

hen searching for a soul mate, people often seek someone with similar tastes, values and interests as their own. But if you're looking for long-term compatibility and lasting, passionate love, dating your twin might not be your best bet.

In fact, it's often the couples who are "mismatched"
I'm glad to be married to someone with very different interests.
in some areas that make the best mates.

"When two people are polar opposites, so long as they have commonalities, it keeps their exchanges interesting," says Amy Levine, sex coach and founder of igniteyourpleasure.com. "They can both really learn from each other. To make it work, they need to be appreciative and accepting of each other's point of view, since they may have radically different beliefs. They also need to agree to disagree on the differences and have a real balance between their personalities for it to work well." And while it might sound counter-intuitive, being too similar to your partner can sometimes be problematic. For one thing, it's potentially boring! And agreeing on everything means that you'll never be pushed to try new things or question old beliefs.

Meet our eight perfectly mismatched couples below and see how their differences have managed to spice up their relationships:

Couple #1: Lindsey and Derek — the tattooed artist and the buttoned-up businesswoman
When Lindsey S., 23, an entrepreneur and successful businesswoman in Pittsburgh, PA, first met folk singer Derek Z., 28, she wasn't sure they would make a good match. "Derek is covered in tattoos from head to toe, and I am as clean-cut and polished as they get," Lindsey says. "While Derek spent his younger years dumpster diving, living out of a van and smoking cigarettes, I spent mine studying, advancing my career and starting a business."

Lindsey worried about how they would appear to others. "I thought to myself: What are people going to think when they see us together? We don't look like your average match," she recalls. "His friends were used to seeing him with punk-rock chicks with tattoos and no direction. However, I really had to let go of my own ego (and he did, too) and recognize that people are going to see that we have the same heart — and that's what really connects us on such a deep level."

Couple #2: Aileen and Jorge — the women's college graduate and the military man
Aileen S., 38, a health care consultant, and Jorge P., 37, an I.T. analyst from Charlotte, NC, met each other on Match.com and were married in 2007. But it wasn't always a given that their very different educational backgrounds would lead to a perfect union. "We both have strong opinions and personalities that were shaped by our educations," says Aileen. "I'm a complete feminist, so I felt quite at home at Barnard College. Jorge wears his class ring from The Citadel with his graduation year and the acronym 'LAMC' (for Last All Male Class). I was pretty shocked when I found out what those letters on his ring stood for! He loves that ring because it represents a time in his life he cherished and it symbolizes the struggles and sacrifices he made to earn it. One time as a gift I had the ring fixed and resized for him, because I know how much it means to him."

But when it comes to their marriage, "we balance each other out," Aileen explains. "I'm glad to be married to someone with very different interests, although we both have to compromise so that we can meet in the middle. These days, most of our attention is on our eight-month-old daughter, which means we have a great deal in common."

Couple #3: Jessica and David — the hip-hop fan and the classical music enthusiast
Jessica W., 37, who works in public relations and David W., 34, an arts administrator living in Bangor, ME, have been together for four years and married for the past two. Jessica, who discovered rap and hip-hop in high school, knew what she was getting into when she fell in love with David, the executive director of a symphony orchestra. "David grew up listening to and playing classical music," Jessica explains. "Classical music is just not in my blood the way it's in his… although David has introduced me to a few pieces that I have come to really love."

"He did surprise me early on in our relationship when he played a Wyclef Jean album in his car," she recalls. "What I came to realize was that David loves good music, no matter the genre." And although the couple hasn't had any serious conflicts over their divergent musical tastes, Jessica sometimes uses it as a secret weapon during arguments. "Occasionally when I want to get my way, I threaten to combine our CD collections. It usually goes something like this: 'I swear, David, I'm going to put your Tchaikovsky next to my Tribe Called Quest and my Wu-Tang Clan next to your Wagner.'"

Couple #4: Molly and Tony — the vegan and the carnivore
Gemologist Molly C., 30, and lawyer Tony D., 32, are engaged and living in Brooklyn, NY with very different tastes — literally. "He's a carnivore, while I've been a vegan
We pretty much agree to disagree on a lot of topics.
my entire life," Molly explains. "We keep a vegan home, and he is free to eat however he wants when he's out at business lunches or dinners with friends. Instead of looking at what separates us, we look at the fact that we both love food, which brings us together."

"There have definitely been times when I've seen him eat meat and it was less than attractive," says Molly. "But I always try to remember that since he respects my food beliefs, I need to do him that same courtesy. Plus, he makes sure to brush his teeth afterward in case he wants to go in for a kiss!" The couple plans to have children someday, but they'll raise them to eat vegan until they are old enough to choose for themselves.

Couple #5: Jennifer and Ryan — the slob and the neat freak
Jennifer H., 28, an event coordinator, and Ryan H., 33, a wine educator in Glen Ellen, CA, have been together six years and married for one. "I'm a horrible slob, and my husband is an über-clean freak," says Jennifer. "I've always been a messy person, my house was always cluttered, I hung onto everything… I wouldn't wash dishes until they were growing mold; I'd never do housework and changed the bed sheets next to never. My husband has always maintained an incredibly impeccable house with everything in its place, no dishes in the sink, sheets changed every week, laundry done and put away promptly… he throws away anything he hasn't used in six months and has great anxiety around clutter, mess and disorder."

Compromise has been the key to making this couple's marriage work. "I've had to be cleaner, contribute toward doing the housework and throw away a lot of my junk, and he's worked on not freaking out over a dish in the sink, a spot on the carpet or a pile of clothes in the hamper," admits Jennifer. "He likes to say that I've cleaned up and he's dirtied up. It took a lot of fighting and talking and arguing and compromising, but we've made it work."

Couple #6: Gina and Ron — the Yankees girl and the Mets man
Gina S., 38, and Ron S., 44, who are both licensed property and casualty agents in Durham, NC, started dating in 1993 and wed in 1998. But that doesn't mean they root for the same sports team. "My mom is a Mets fan, so she is there to commiserate with Ron about something stupid the Mets did to lose a game. And Ron enjoys teaching me the inner workings of baseball, even if he is watching a Yankees game," says Gina.

And she has some advice for those who choose to date or marry someone with different interests. "Work on combining them — or at least on appreciating each other's interests," Gina says. "I don't think marriage is about compromise, it's about appreciation."

Couple #7: Michelle and Nick — the liberal and the conservative
Michelle E., 26, is a journalist who met Nick E., 31, an engineer in Phoenix, AZ on Match.com; the two have been married for almost four years. "I'm fairly liberal, while he's a conservative," says Michelle. "While we were still engaged, we were lying in bed and I asked Nick what his biggest fear was. I thought he was going to say something like spiders, dying, or living without me, but he answered: 'progressive liberals' and went on to explain why. I just busted up laughing, and still laugh about it to this day."

"We pretty much agree to disagree on a lot of topics," Michelle says. "But we do agree on the big issues — which for us includes religion, where to live, and how to raise our son."

Couple #8: Ninfa and Alan — the Gen Xer and the baby boomer
Ninfa F., 40, a secretary, and Alan F., 60, who owns a video production company in Dallas, TX, were married in 2011 and now have a six-month-old son together. They haven't let a 20-year age difference get in the way of their happiness. "We've learned so much from each other," Ninfa says. "I think I've learned more from Alan, since he has lived a very full life already! He's taught me about gardening, and I've introduced him to The Black Eyed Peas. We laugh a lot and love each other deeply."

Ninfa says that even though it's been over 30 years since Alan has done the "new baby thing," he's very excited to have a son with her and appreciates being a new father at a point in his life when he is less career-driven.


Ronnie Koenig is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. Visit her online at www.ronniekoenig.com.
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