My husband Randy and I have a mixed marriage. No, I’m not talking race, religion, or politics. But I am talking about a difference so pervasive, so challenging, so disturbing that at times we’ve wondered if our relationship could stand the strain.
He’s a pack rat. I’m a purger.
While my husband has never met a piece of junk mail he doesn’t like, I patrol our home like a mean prison guard, constantly on the lookout for any stray piece of paper that doesn’t have immediate, recognizable significance in my life.
Where my husband treats each catalogue in our mailbox like some long-lost relative, worthy of individual and loving attention, I flick through each day’s pile like I’m standing before the summer sale’s rack at Marshall’s, barely able to mask my scorn.
(Of course, my husband would be quick to point out that utility bills have ended up in the garbage).
We should have known we were in trouble long ago when we moved into our first apartment. As I’m dusting every corner and lining up the plants and nick nacs just right, I notice my husband bring in about 8 or 9 huge cardboard boxes.
When I asked what they were, I come to find they house his baseball card collection, album collection, newspaper collection, coin collection and political memorabilia collection.
I remember looking around our apartment that could barely contain our bed and sofa, knowing at that moment, I was in a mixed marriage.
And yet that was over 20 years ago. Somehow over time we’ve learned to strike an uneasy truce, both of us casting suspicious glances at the other from time to time.
Even when I notice the mountain of papers around his desk starting to look ominous, I’ve learned to bite my tongue.
In the way he’s learned to pretend he believes me when I just don’t know what happened to those month-old circulars that disappeared last week.
From talking to other couples, I’ve come to realize this is not an unusual phenomenon nor gender-based. Apparently there are female packrats and male purgers. When we’re together, purgers bond over that liberating feeling of throwing things out, making things orderly.
Packrats bond over keeping everything close…and I mean everything.
Maybe in a way our differences complement each other. Randy’s tolerant, flexible nature is balanced by my no-nonsense, bottom line, cut to the chase approach. Whatever the case, somehow it works.
Now if I could just get him to clean that desk.
Are you in a mixed marriage? Comments are always welcome and if you like, please share. Thank you!
(Published in “Connecticut Post,” Woman Wise Column, April 2001).