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What makes you different makes you better
Opposites Attract
Karpers Feb Mar

Tennessee natives Debra and Chris Karper are two different people when it comes to a lot of things that couples deal with. Both of them work for Atlas as construction engineering consultants for infrastructure (highways and bridges) and that work is what brought them here to Georgia 13 years ago. 

Debra, who will turn 67 in March, was born in Dayton, Ohio and raised in Cookeville, Tennessee and Chris, 61, was born in Jamestown, Tennessee and raised in Cleveland, Tennessee. The two met in a bar in April of 1996 and were married that August.

The two have four adult children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. 

Despite their many differences, Chris said that their parenting styles didn’t conflict with one another. 

“No, difference at all; we always seen eye to eye with parenting issues the discussion would be who told the child what was discussed,” he said.

Debra and Chris are definitely examples of opposites attracting — while their jobs mimic each other (and they work for the same company), they have many personality traits that would typically clash with one another. 

For work, Chris said, “I am a project manager consultant with Atlas. I oversee the construction of highways and bridges of specifically assigned projects, ensuring contractors are compliant with materials and documents according to standard specifications, along with policies and procedures.”

Debra’s job dictates an hour commute and an early waking time of 5 a.m. This means that sometimes their schedules — and morning routines/attitudes — can be opposite. 

“I get up at 5 a.m. I have an hour commute to and from work and he works 20 minutes away from home on his project,” said Debra. 

Debra’s work is as an office engineer consultant for Atlas. 

“GDOT is our client. I review and create reports and other documents assisting the state for policy and procedure compliance,” she said. 

When describing their opposing characteristics for article consideration, Debra mention that Chris can be more controlling and she can be passive. As with many couples, that difference can cause harmony at times but also cause additional tension. Throughout their 26 years of marriage, Debra has tried to let go a little and be more understanding that it’s just his personality, but it can still cause tension and difficulty. 

The two do share a passion for motorcycles and riding as well as taking various adventures on Saturdays “ranging anywhere from small shopping sprees and going to parks.” 

Frustrations can always arise when someone who likes to plan things is faced with too much spontaneity and Chris is no stranger to that. 

“I used to get very frustrated when we could not stay on the schedule and time line I wrote out,” said Chris. “However, after 26 years of being confronted with many obstacles that have altered my original plans, either by Debra, detours, unforeseen obstacles or life events in general, and conflicting with ‘my agenda.’ I am okay with it now.”

Chris still likes to plan vacations and find activities or special events to attend because that’s what he enjoys. He said that after Debra had a nearly fatal accident 12 years ago, his perspective changed.

“I’m just glad she is still here to mess up my agenda now,” he said. 

Because of his love for routine, a mistake early in their marriage made laundry a part of his permanent routine.

And Debra takes full responsibility. 

“I washed his T-shirts and underwear with a red garment turning everything pink and traumatizing him,” she said, laughing. 

She admits that their first five years were difficult years — they took a lot of adjusting to each other’s habits and personalities. 

“The first five years were very difficult times of adjusting to how he wanted things and his routines. (We fought) over stupid simple things like how the towels were folded or dishes loaded in the dishwasher things like that,” she said. 

After those initial five years, they each became content in fending for themselves and taking care of their own things and responsibilities. 

“This way we could fold things the way we wanted, organize the way we wanted. And we had our space to be who we are. Although he does the laundry regularly, we share turns washing dishes,” she said. 

Find a married couple that has the exact same opinion on money and managing money and give them a gold medal. Most couples struggle with money and its management and that’s what makes marriages work — those opposite end of the spectrum spenders and savers. Debra and Chris are no exception.

To keep the peace in their marriage over finances, they’ve come up with a good system for the savvy-saving Chris and the more impulsive shopper Debra. 

“We have separate accounts; we give each other a specific amount of allowance, to do with as we will,” said Chris. “We sit down and discuss the bills every two weeks and then put money in a joint account to pay the bills. We have a joint savings and withdrawals are discussed and agreed on. However, Debra has a cash stash somewhere.” 

While both Karpers are adventurous and like to have fun, Debra admittedly can jump in a little quickly while Chris tends to be more cautious. 

When asked to describe those characteristics about one another, their answers were pretty humorous. 

“Well, Debra would give out house away to a homeless person and move to Alabama to start a new job next week. Not me,” said Chris. 

Debra laughingly said that Chris “wants to have more security and have the whole idea laid out in front of us to see what it would look like three years from now. But he loves to give to others.  Just not the house.” 

Debra also mentions that she’d love to gas up their Harley every Friday and ride until Sunday “going anywhere as long as I can ride.” Chris, on the other hand, would like to stick around home to take care of yard work and then get to church early on Sunday to make sure everything is ready for the church service. 

Another glaring difference between the two is that Chris is an early bird (and a night owl), but Debra tends to take a little longer to wake up and be ready for socializing and her commute dictates an early rising. 

When Chris wakes up, he heads to his man cave with his coffee and his Bible on some mornings. But since she is quiet when she wakes up, it doesn’t matter if she gets up first. 

“Except for when she runs into a wall, walking with her eyes shut trying to find the coffee pot,” he joked.

When he is in a chatty mood too early for Debra’s liking, she knows how to convey her need for quiet. 

“If he forgets and starts to give me the football score from the night before I hold my hand up and say ‘no, please.’  Hopefully he is in my sight range when I hold my hand up because all I hear is his voice, I am half asleep walking around,” she said. 

And speaking of football — the two are fans on the opposite side of a huge NFL rivalry. Debra roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chris is a fan of the Cleveland Browns. It’s a fun-filled rivalry though — the couple talks smack, makes bets, watches the game together and tease each other about their respective teams, but have fun doing so. 

Chris’ routines/planning traits roll over into his sleeping habits and he tends to stay up until 10:30 every night while Debra may go to bed earlier like 9:30 or 10. 

He likes to watch a variety of shows and they both like adventure shows, some westerns (like Clint Eastwood), Viking movies, some drama and some comedy. 

But there’s one place that Chris draws the line.

“When she turns the Hallmark Channel on, I go to my man cave,” he said.

Another difference that can sometimes be a deal-breaker in a relationship is meals and eating habits. Chris and Debra surely have two different perspectives on that — Debra is a vegan and Chris is a meat-eater.

They fend for themselves for eating because of their differences, but the most important part of a large difference like this is understanding and support. 

“When we eat out, we pick a place that accommodates both of us. I am vegan for health reasons and I love this way of eating. I have better mental clarity, emotional balance and great weight loss along with less chronic pain,” said Debra. “And Chris is very supportive of my vegan decision.”

Chris is supportive but a jokester and teases Debra with his chicken and shows her how good it looks. But she responds in jest with a “poor chicken” and moves on, no tension involved. As a supportive measure, Chris doesn’t bring home ice cream and cookies because of Debra’s vegan lifestyle. 

It’s obvious that fun and jokes keep their marriage successful with so many differences in the mix, but when asked what they felt made their marriage work, Debra had some great examples. 

“Being different has eliminated us from being in the rut of ‘predictability.’ There are always surprises because I’m not a routine person. I am always looking for new hobbies. Most recently I have been doing oil paintings,” she said. 

Debra summed up the key to their marriage in a few simple sentences. 

“Ultimately, we have weighed out the good and bad and the good always outweighs the bad in our marriage as a whole,” she said.  “And being Christians and keeping it Christ-centered has been the main key.”