The Spouse’s Guide to Leonardos
[This is a reworking of part of a chapter from the first edition of The Leonardo Trait]
Another note: I recommend this chapter for best friends as well, because I can’t think of a closer non-spousal relationship.
The simple truth is, many Leonardos marry Straight-Liners, and this can be very difficult for both parties unless there’s a basic understanding of the Leonardo personality. This chapter will seek to help create that understanding on both sides.
Let’s drop in on Mark and Lisa. Their names have not been changed; since I made these characters up, they can keep their real names.
At 24, Mark is almost finished with law school, has a fairly good shot at an associate position at the job where he’s spent his summers, and has his life completely under control. If you’ve guessed that Mark is not the Leonardo in this story, you can now pass GO and collect your $200.
Then Mark meets Lisa, a waitress at his local coffee house. Lisa, a painter, is working on a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. Since she’s also an actress, she does a one-woman show on weekends. In her spare time, she restores vintage Volkswagens.
Mark is smitten. Lisa is bowled over. They begin dating.
The first year passes in a blur as each finishes a final year of school. Mark finds himself loosening up a little; Lisa finds herself settling into a routine at times. Marriage is mentioned, by both. Mark gets his dream job. A major gallery wants to show Lisa’s paintings. They set a wedding date and move in together. Life is great, and they are as perfectly happy as it’s possible to be.
At the two-year mark, they’ve been living together a year, and things are starting to get a little difficult at times. Lisa often stays up all night painting or rehearsing her show. For weeks at a time, she and Mark hardly see each other because of their respective hours. Mark feels that when he does manage to get home at a decent hour or have some time on the weekend, Lisa should spend it with him, but when she’s not painting, she seems to be sleeping for days on end.
Lisa feels that Mark doesn’t value her work because it’s not practical and tangible. She believes Mark doesn’t understand how hard she works or appreciate how much she needs her rest when she can get it.
Things seem to be going south, but neither knows what to do about it.
During the third year, however, they begin to understand their differences. Mark, a very settled Straight Liner, is expecting Lisa to work “regular” hours, and Lisa, a very strong-willed Leonardo, is expecting Mark to understand her working for 37 hours straight and then sleeping for 72.
Mark does value Lisa’s work. He just doesn’t understand how much it means to her, because his work, while he loves it, is work. Her work is her, period.
They dicuss, cuss, and discuss some more. Finally they agree to keep trying to understand each other and to each make some changes to accommodate the other—and to each accept some things about the other person.
Five years after their meeting, Mark and Lisa are again as happy as two people can possibly be, now married three years and expecting twins, which Lisa views as the ultimate Leonardo project.
Admit it, Mr./Mrs./Ms. Straight Liner. You find your Leonardo irresistible. Sure, sometimes you want to wring his or her neck, but you’re soul mates and you know it. Here are my thoughts on why that is.
Face it. Leonardos are a hoot. We love to laugh, and we love to think, and we love to laugh about things that most people don’t even think about. We can carry on a conversation about anything, and often do, if only with ourselves.
Our creative spirits make us highly entertaining.
We believe relationships, like life, are supposed to be enjoyable.
We want to have a good time, and we do.
For all our witty banter, we’re thoughtful. We ponder. We know things.
I like to say my mind is a treasure trove of useless information, but when my daughter, who’s eight, asked where root beer comes from, my husband said, “Ask your mom,” and I, sure enough, knew. I can go for a long time on the impressed look on her little face.
Enthusiastic is actually the Swahili word for Leonardo. Learn something new every day, don’t you?
I know our enthusiasm can be wearing. But wouldn’t you really rather be with one of us than one of “them”? By “them” I mean, of course, the people who always have a complaint, who can never be happy about anything because it wasn’t just right, and for whom enthusiasm is a word that isn’t in their dictionary. Honestly. Who would you rather have in your life?
Leonardos are like puppies. We love everyone. Like puppies, we even sometimes continue to love people who give us reason at least not to like them.
We love wholeheartedly and energetically. We care about you more deeply than we can express, even when it’s not obvious. You’re our soul mates. We want to be with you and we wouldn’t choose anywhere else to be. We love you.
Not much more to say about that one, so I’ll leave it out there.
We know we’re hard to live with, and we know why, but we’re not sure if you know why. Here are some reasons.
We like this in ourselves, but Straight Liners often find it frustrating. Not only are we apt to do something no one expected us to do, at a very inconvenient time, we’re apt to make plans and forget to tell you about them until the last minute. Very frustrating and annoying, we realize, and we promise to try to not do that so much.
We’re Often Exhausting
If you’ve ever tried to keep up with a Leonardo on a mission, whether that mission is writing a book or finding the last Dora the Explorer backpack (with Boots on it) in the city before the first day of school, you know what I mean. We can be tiring. We can wear out anyone. We work very hard, and sometimes we expect everyone else to work that hard, as well.
The Rest of the Time We’re Exhausted
Leonardos run on adrenaline, until we run out. Not all Leonardos run out of steam this way, but most of us do. I’ve been told by a psychologist that there’s some chemical reason that some people run out of gas and some don’t. I’ll take her word for it. What I know is that I can work non-stop for two days, but it will take me four days to recover—and yet I can’t convince myself not to do that non-stop work. I know that’s hard for you to understand, because unless you’re a workaholic, you’re probably more in control of your work than we are.
We’re Sometimes Overwhelming
The kind of energy, creativity and spontaneity produced by one Leonardo in one week could probably fuel a local opera company for a year. I’ve been told more than once that I’m overwhelming. I’m sorry, I really am. I know it’s hard to deal with. But for me, it’s better than being underwhelming.
We’re Often Preoccupied
It’s not that we don’t love you. It’s not that we didn’t hear you. It’s not that we don’t want to do what you asked us to do. It’s that we’re on another planet. We’ll be back very soon and you can try again. We’re very regretful, but it happens, sometimes.
[This is part 1 of a series on Leonardo/Straight Liner relationships. Part 2, “The Leonardo’s Guide to Straight-Liner Friends and Family,” is technically coming next Monday, but you can read it here if you’re impatient and it’s not next Monday yet :)]