We all want to find our perfect mate. Should we look for someone is or opposite or someone most similar to ourselves? There has been much discussed on this topic, especially in regards to whether opposites really do attract.
Complimentary interests and girl girls being the salvation of bad boys make for popular Hollywood love stories. Although it’s an alluring fantasy, people who have interests that don’t align often aren’t successful. In fact, a study conducted in 2012 discovered a strong association for romantic preference for similarity in a romantic partner across a variety of cultural backgrounds.
Arrange marriage can serve as an unbiased way to prove that opposite don’t attract. In Indian cultures, arrange marriages involve “vetting” prospective partners by categorizing matches based on social class or caste, religion, education and hobbies. Professional match makers have reported more long-term marital satisfaction when couple share similar values and upbringings. Moreover, the success rate for arranged marriage between two birds of a feather are higher than even “love marriages” where spouses had a more spontaneous courtship.
When then is the Opposites Attract Myth Popular?
One common thought is because opposites are far more obvious than our similarities. Therefore, people talk more about the dynamics of being an extrovert in love with an introvert or finding common ground with an emotional charged person when they are a bookworm. To better understand this myth, we must separate “opposite” from “different” while understanding that similarities researched involve traits deeply tied to one’s values system.
Differences became secondary to shared values. Thus, being a morning or a night person or explore versus couch surfer were not as problematic in a dynamic when the presence of key similarities existed. Although moment of disagreement or conflict could arise, couple lessened the negative impact by drawing on their shared beliefs for solace.
Bridging the Divide
A recent psychological study showcased that in over 65% of the time, marital problems were not fully solved. Successful unions eased the tension by finding ways to navigate around the tension and jointly manage the issue. By being open about the issues and honestly sharing both partner’s feelings about the situation in a respectful manner, and creating a positive solution, allowed the marriage to thrive, despite any difference of opinion.
Example of Successfully Managing Differences
Stuart and George outwardly seem like opposite, but at their core they hold the same inner values. They both are Catholic, from upper middle-class families, graduated from college and love living in their small town. A key difference is George wants to be a father while Stuart was content to be the fun uncle. The couple had an open and honest discussion about the pros and cons of fatherhood as well as how they could successfully navigate the financial implications of starting a family. Stuart mentioned he was not prepared for the needs of a baby, but always wanted to pass traditions and wisdom down to a child. He loved George, and if it was his truest desire to become a father, they would find a solution that would best meet both of their needs. Ultimately, the couple decided to foster a child and they both soon fell in love with six-year-old Annabelle, who they were able to officially adopt last year.
Stuart and George also have an introvert/extrovert difference. George is an accountant who prefers to relax at home near the fireplace with a good book and tea. Stuart is a local business owner who seems to know everyone in town on a first-name basis. He likes to periodically get together with his friends and have a fun night out in the nearby city at the latest hotspot. They manage their differences well. George finds that while Stuart is out with his friends, he can balance time catching up with some work, with reading to Annabelle before bed. Stuart loves the feeling of coming home to George and regaling him with the latest gossip about their friends as they fall asleep. They even agreed that once a week the family goes out for breakfast at the café near their house, and another day in the week they stay in with takeout and a movie. This allows them both to thrive as individual while finding ways to share either’s interest without worry of resentment.
By having honest conversations and periodic check-ins, Stuart and George are healthily managing their differences. They are able to truly accept each other for who they are while finding solutions that allow them to be a more loving couple and engaging fathers to Annabelle.
What are Opposites?
These are fundamental diametric issues that cannot be negotiated and may include:
- Different religions
- Different money management styles (one is super saver and the other spends lavishly)
- Whether or not to have children and how
- Different ideas about raising children
- Whether one has a medical condition the other is not equipped to handle
- Different ideas about where to live (city v. country, rent v, own; house v. condo/apartment v. boat)
- Different core values
- Different ideas about fidelity (monogamy v. polyamory or open marriage)
Ample Commonality is Key
When a couple has enough shared valued, interest and core character traits, their relationship is more likely to be more successful. By promoting vulnerability and transparent conversation partners can nonjudgmentally listen to one another and find solutions that promote them to grow both as individual and in their union.