• Jill Hinckley

Opposites Attract!

I think so!

We’ve all heard the saying “Opposites attract.” We also know that when you sign up for online dating or any other type of matchmaking service, you’ll typically be matched with people with whom you have things in common. So what kind of person should you be looking for?

The fact is often we are attracted to people who fill in aspects of our personality that we might wish we had more of. For example, my husband Sandy is far more outgoing than I am, and just being near that kind of energy helps me to be more outgoing myself. As many of you know, when you have a high-energy partner, it can be helpful to have an anchor now and then, that’s where I come in. We balance each other out and have learned to really appreciate our different personalities.

On the other hand, we also share a lot of things in common. We grew up in similar families and share a lot of the same values when it comes to family life and our children. We have similar educational backgrounds and share a love for the ocean and boats. Things like that give us a very firm foundation which helps us to understand where the other one is coming from and agree on things like how we want to spend our time and money. That foundation is pretty important when you’re talking about a long-term relationship.

But opposites definitely do attract, because when you find someone who exhibits all the things you wish you could be, that can be extremely alluring, and the tension that these differences create can be exciting. I have a friend, a writer who’d always led a fairly quiet, academic life, who fell madly in love with a charming, extremely outgoing soldier in the Army. (He fell madly in love with her, too.) It was a dreamy love story. Within two months of meeting, they were engaged. Neither distance (they lived 700 miles apart) nor differences (she had a master’s; he’d gone into the Army right out of high school) were going to discourage them from being together. After months of long-distance visits and incredible phone bills (in the days before unlimited long distance!), they got married and bought a house and started building a life together, a life which at the time they agreed suited them both.

Of course relationships are complicated, and there wasn’t any one reason why this relationship ended in divorce, but one of the things that happened, about eight years down the line, is they found they were not spending any time together. They struggled to find things that they both enjoyed doing together – and even when they tried new things, their approaches were so different that the activities seemed only to drive them farther apart. When they finally agreed, sadly, that they just wanted different lives, they both pretty much vaulted in opposite directions. He bought a pool table and took up smoking openly again; she cultivated a taste for fine wine and travel. They could finally be themselves, instead of spending all their time trying to please someone they loved but just didn’t really “get.”

Of course, there are exceptions to everything when you’re talking about human relationships. But in my experience, chemistry often starts with finding someone who’s just different enough to be intriguing and to bring out the parts of you that you hadn’t previously been able to unearth. And long-term success often comes from finding the right balance of both similarities and contrasts.

As the French say, “Vive la difference!”