The key here is not being identical, but compatible. Our political, social, and religious beliefs, for example, are anything but identical; however, we share enough common ground and are open-minded and articulate enough to have conversations about these topics that don't end in fisticuffs. We also thrive on making each other happy, so when one of us gets grumpy or depressed, the other one instinctively goes into damage control mode until morale improves. It's rare for us both to be in a lousy mood, because we don't share all the same emotional triggers. We're not identical, but we are compatible. Or, as Oblivion would put it, "We are an effective team."
As is to be expected from two people in constant company with each other, some of our mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, tastes, and opinions have rubbed off on each other. Our compatibility makes us malleable, particularly in areas where we have no strong opposition to change. She talks with her hands and listens to James Taylor more often than she used to, she makes video game references from games she's never even played, and she can name all the Mega Man bosses from the main games in the series (and sing most of their theme songs). She's influenced me a great deal as well:
- I routinely overtip at restaurants. Call it a greater appreciation of working in the service industry, as my wife once did...or call it adopted laziness, because 20% is easier to figure out than 15%.
- We meow at each other. Like cats. This is a surprisingly efficient mode of communication, because with the proper inflection we can convey queries about where the other person is going, or annoyance at the other person stealing our last bite of brownie, in a single meow.
- Meow meow meow me—oh, sorry. Forgot I wasn't just writing this for my wife. I've become decidedly more Earth-conscious (and I was already pretty good about switching off lights and recycling) and slightly more sympathetic to the vegetarian cause. I've had a salad for lunch once or twice.
- I listen to David Bowie. Outside of "Space Oddity" and "Changes," I didn't care much for the minimal exposure I'd had to his music before meeting my wife the superfan. Now I can truthfully say I like Bowie's work, but ironically, I prefer his more recent material (circa Reality), which my wife seems to like least. Again: compatible, but not identical.
- I go on regular cleaning sprees. This may merely be a consequence of having twice the number of people in the home, thereby doubling the amount of work and halving the amount of time between cleaning sprees, but I find myself being far more attentive to dishes and laundry than I ever was in my old apartment on my own (as my poor sister, who lived with me for a summer, can attest to).
- Other people don't seem so weird anymore. Trust me, this is a compliment. Her acceptance and understanding of alternate lifestyles has helped me to see beyond the labels people bear. I still don't like or agree with everyone I meet and hear about, but I'm also not as quick to judge.
- I wear cologne. And I've figured out how to apply it without bathing in it. Apparently women like it when you do that.
- The ratio of Asian to American movies I watch has become far less unequal. Netflix has a wide variety of subtitled films from China, Korea, Japan, and elsewhere, and my wife has every one of them on the Instant Queue. Actually, that's an exaggeration; she has every anime on Netflix in the Instant Queue, but I watch more of those, too.
- I know what a philtrum is. The mind boggles at how frequently this term has come up in our relationship.
- I need to consciously restrain myself from making a kissy noise and saying "I love you" every time I'm getting off the phone with anybody at work.
- I let my facial hair have free run of my face. I still shave on occasion, but the pouty face and dejected "meow" I get in return are the driving factors behind why my chiseled jawline primarily stays ensconced in fur year-round.
- I've become more sensitive. I used to be a cold snowman, switching off my emotions as a defense mechanism any time I read a tragic news article, heard about some outrageous inequality, witnessed anything deeply unsettling—I might've gotten emotional about my personal life, but I taught myself to resist feeling anything about things that didn't affect me personally. Too much pain and anger in this life to get worked up about more of it than necessary. My wife weeps for every plane crash, bleeds for every person unfairly denied the same benefits and privileges the rest of us get. I've started to reopen my heart to people in situations beyond my control, praying more earnestly for those I've never met; though it hurts sometimes, it makes me feel more human.
The list goes on. Funny to think about how much the people in a relationship can shape each other. You hardly notice until you take a step back and consider how much you've changed. Extended exposure to anything makes an impact on us, one way or another. Better for compatible people to gradually become more like each other, I think, than to lose your identity trying to conform to someone with whom you're not compatible—unless you don't like the person you are in the first place.
The woman I love brings out the best in me, or at least the silly and innocuously different in me. I know I do the same for her. We may not be identical, but we don't have to be—this relationship works, in no small part, because we naturally compliment and balance each other in our similarities and our differences. Sometimes it just sounds like we're meowing at each other, but that's a sign we're growing toward each other as the years go by.