“Relationships don’t work when people get hooked up with opposites, instead of partners with similar traits who like what they like,” says one reader.
Not bad … but it’s not quite that simple.
“Similar” is most apt to work after two people have accepted who they are, and are no longer trying to get somebody else to give them what they “lack.” Opposites sometimes attract each other to compensate for what they think they’re missing.
If, for example, you long to be comfortable socializing, you might be attracted to somebody who’s outgoing and well connected in the community. And although, as an introvert, you could be intrigued by a socialite for a while, novelty is generally short lived. While an extrovert is fueled by the crowd, an introvert is drained by it — even when enjoying it — and might want more space to catch his (or her) breath than he can find with an extrovert.
This is a perfect example of how two people can get enthralled with each other — briefly. Infatuation rarely survives for more than a year.
On the other hand, if you’ve learned that you can mingle with a crowd of strangers, and still prefer to spend your time with intimate friends, you just might accept yourself as-is. Then, you’re more apt to be attracted to another introvert.
But isn’t it possible — even healthy — for opposites to complement each other?
How do you know when opposites attract to compensate for what they’re afraid they lack and when they attract to complement each other?
The answer might not be apparent until after the infatuation wears off. Examples probably come to mind, from both your circle of friends and those making the headlines. I can think of one textbook case in my own dating history — maybe you can, too.
If you’re driving each other crazy after a few months — or you can’t seem to live with or without each other — chances are you were attracted by some of those opposite traits because you wanted to fill in your “gaps.” But you can’t really find wholeness or normalcy or acceptance by (consciously or unconsciously) taking on a partner to make up for your “shortcomings.”
This can be very disappointing when you think you’ve finally found the prince or princess with the magic kiss that makes everything OK. And when you realize your happy ending is threatened, seemingly by some “innocent” comment or a minor misunderstanding, it can get really ugly (which compounds the threat).
When we’re fighting for the happy ending, it can feel as though we’re fighting for survival. You might desperately rationalize, “If only I hadn’t said that” or “If she would just let it be,” but the issue is more significant than it seems. What you said reflects who you are; and she’d have to be somebody else to “just let it be.”
While you can both grow into “somebody else,” you’re not likely to do it overnight. It would require some really intense work to enjoy a satisfying relationship together. And that’s why so many people tell you that relationships are hard work — they hold an opinion based on two people who are mismatched or prematurely matched.
When you’ve accepted yourself as-is, you can also accept your partner as-is … and you’re more apt to appreciate the differences than be annoyed by them. And when you feel accepted — rather than pushed by an exasperated partner — you’re more apt to grow into all of who you are.
So when you’re attracted to your opposite, give the novelty a chance to wear off before you commit. If you’ve already committed, and you want to scream, work toward accepting yourself and your sweetheart.
Acceptance leads to harmony, but it can be a slow process.