When Worlds Collide

Posted on January 30th, 2020

Hal and Cindy often have variations of the same conflict. He wants to go to the beach they went to last year, she wants to go to Brazil. He likes the restaurant where they met for their first date, she wants to try the new Japanese-Peruvian place. He likes to visit his college friends at least once a year, she would rather meet new people.

This isn’t only about making different choices. Every couple has to reconcile those. Hal and Cindy have a deeper difference: he’s a conservator, while she’s an adventurer.

Conservators seek the security of stability. They enjoy sameness and continuity. They fill their homes with mementos, they take the same kinds of vacations every year, they keep books they have enjoyed (and sometimes ones they haven’t liked). Conservators find the food and drink they like, the places they enjoy, the people they get along with, and they stick with them.

Adventurers, on the other hand, are always seeking new experiences. They don’t collect souvenirs. The adventurer is all about the excitement of the unknown, the richness of the moment. They enjoy everything new and different, from trying new recipes to opening a restaurant, from jogging through new neighborhoods to free-climbing mountains, from going to a new town to going to the moon.

Every person has some of both the conservator and the adventurer in their personality, with one prevailing over the other. Sometimes we choose a partner who has the same mix as we do. Two conservator-leaning people together can create a comfortably settled life together, or they can become mired in routine. Two adventurer-leaning people, in contrast, are usually in search of what is new and exciting, but they can also push the risk-taking to nail-biting levels. 

A mix of these two qualities can work well too. The adventurer can encourage their conservator partner to try new experiences, breaking up the monotony of repeating the same routine. The conservator can help rein in their adventurer partner’s sometimes extreme risk taking.

Exceptionally different couples like Hal and Cindy struggle more around these differences. Minor questions like where to eat are resolvable in many ways, including alternating choices. With larger issues, the resolution is not going to be as easy. 

When Hal wanted to vacation at a nearby beach and Cindy wanted to go to Brazil, she investigated beaches in Brazil, but he wasn’t interested. “I was thinking more of Cape Cod,” he told her. “Again?” she lamented, which made him smile and nod, “Yes, I want you to go with me.” “Isn’t it my turn to choose where we go?” she said. “This isn’t a ‘turn’ thing,” he said. “I’m not going to Brazil.”

In the end though, he did go with her to Brazil, grumbling on the way. In the plane returning home, he said, “That was wonderful. Let’s do it again next year.”

She figured it wasn’t a good time to tell him she was planning on India.

Posted in Marriage and Couples

Please remember, this is a blog. It is not psychotherapy or treatment of any kind and is not a substitute for the individual treatment you can get from going to see a good therapist.