They say that opposites attract. And usually when ‘they’ say that, they mean in romance. But is it really such a good idea to find ‘your opposite’ for a relationship? Are we really attracted to people who are different from us, or actually those with whom we have more in common?
I’m currently in a relationship that I feel has a strong potential to go to marriage. In fact, that’s what I’m aiming for. The reason I started dating her was that we actually have a lot that isn’t opposites. We’re very similar in a number of ways. We attend the same church, have the same sense of humour, and enjoy similar activities (insert Netflix, naps, and craft beer). We were both raised in Christian homes, both attended post-secondary, both considered leaders. Both of us are moderate introverts. We’re even practically the same height (she likes to say she’s taller, but it’s definitely the shoes). After a year of dating, how aren’t we bored of each other yet?
To view it another way, we’re very different from each other. My education has been in liberal arts, and hers in the sciences. I’m a social worker for a Christian organization; she’s a wildlife biologist working for the government. I’m very emotionally expressive, highly introspective (a.k.a. an over-thinker), and a cat person. She’s reserved, goes-with-the-flow, and a dog person. After a year of dating, how are we still able to put up with each other?
Those tend to be the two critiques: If you’re too similar, you’ll get bored, or, if you’re too different, you’ll fight about everything. So what’s the secret to a lasting, healthy, committed relationship/marriage? What’s the difference between a lifelong intriguing relationship and a short-lived disaster? I believe it lies in the right similarities and differences.
You need to agree on the main things. You need to share some interests. In order to build a life together, there needs to be respect and a shared direction. Not everything needs to be the same, but on the big ticket items, faith, life-goals, living standard, leisure, there needs to be some similarities, or at least compatibility. One of the reasons my relationship with my girlfriend is healthy is that we share so much together. We fit well. We enjoy the same things together. If we didn’t, there would be a lot more conflict, and we might not be together anymore. It’s what we share that provides the foundation for our relationship. After all, marriage is about a shared life. My greatest excitement for marriage is in what we will share.
You can’t share all the same strengths and weaknesses. If both people are terrible with money, it’s going to be a disaster. If both are emotionally over-reactive, the fights will put to shame a Michael Bay film (think, Transformers). The best strength of my relationship is that we are emotionally different. She’s more grounded in conflict. I’m more of a forward planner. She’s more patient. I’m more analytic. These differences act as checks on our own weaknesses and the danger parts of our personalities. At the end of the day, our different personalities, jobs, and friends give us something interesting to talk about. How refreshing it is to have someone who’s different from me. The last thing I want is to wake up, roll over, and see myself.
Yes, opposites can attract. But if there is no common ground to build the foundation of a relationship, it’s just a matter of time before it all falls apart as both people feel pulled in opposite directions. So discern what’s most important for you, but be prepared to have your life a little shaken up. Relationships are about learning to sacrifice for the other person. Jesus said that if you want to be the greatest, learn to be the servant of all. In romance, becoming the greatest lover is so much about becoming the greatest servant.
So figure out what you can’t live with. Find out what kind of life and family you want to have. If you’re in a relationship/marriage, find some activities you both enjoy or a purpose you can both serve. But be prepared to learn; the hardest part of a relationship is learning from and loving someone who is vastly different from you. The best part is the richness of a shared life, strengthened by the best of two people.