Do Opposites Attract? (Plus: How To Keep the Spark Alive)

Learn the secret behind the spark and how to prevent a forest fire from igniting based on your differences.

Happy couples often cite common interests, common values, and strong communications as the glue that keeps them together.  It may indeed be easier to be in a relationship with someone like you.  

But, easier may not be as exciting, fulfilling or rewarding! 

Your pheromones may have led you to a mate, or something entirely different connected the two of you.  One theory is that in a mate we search for the missing part of us; something we have yet to fully develop ourselves. And, we are unable to repel the magnetic pull.

  • A quiet, reserved person is attracted to a fun-loving extrovert
  • A messy person is attracted to a tidy, organized person
  • A risk taker is attracted to a rule follower
  • A flighty person gravitates to someone who is stable and grounded

Over time; however, the same characteristics that drew us to a person can become sources of frustration.  For example, you once waited excitedly and in anticipation of their arrival for your date.  Now, you curse them for being self-absorbed, continually late and dismissive of the impact on you. 

Or, you, who likes to be the life of the party, enjoyed the occasional night of staying in with your homebody, but now it’s getting monotonous and you can’t wait to get out and enjoy a night on the town. 

Another possible scenario:  What you once appreciated about your mate's extroversion – breaking the ice, talking to anyone, now seems like endless chatter to you, the introvert.

Do you want to appreciate and leverage your differences again, see each other with fresh eyes, and get back that spark that connected you in the first place?

Knowing your Myers-Briggs® personality type and your partner's type may be the key to bliss.

Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Briggs created 16 personality types based on various combinations of 4 opposite scales. Each examines what energizes you, how you prefer to gather information, how you go about making decisions, and how you interact with the world:

  • You might get your energy from interactions with others (extraversion) or from quiet periods of reflection (introversion).
  • You might prefer to gather information about what is (sensing) versus what could be (intuition).
  • You might prefer to make decisions logically and objectively (thinking) or based on what you value and the unique circumstances (feeling).
  • Perhaps the dimension that creates the most conflict with couples is the one that deals with how you interact with the world. You might prefer to organize your life, plan activities and get closure on decisions (judging). The polar opposite is a preference to keep your options open, be flexible and spontaneous (perceiving).  Often those with a preference for perceiving feel closed in by a judger's need for control, while those with a judging preference feel disrespected by their partner's perceived lack of commitment.

 

Certain combinations may work well in romantic relationships. For example, Sensing Judgers may honour their commitments more than other types.  Intuitive Feelers may devote themselves to open communications. Overall feelers may place a priority on their relationships and thus invest more. Additionally, having the same preference for how you gather information may be a key determinant of attraction. In meeting someone of the same sensing type, you might feel that you are immediately understood. 

Having just a few preferences the same may be enough to enable you to relate while still experiencing the positives of the differences.  Beyond that, couples who don't jump to conclusions quickly and come into the relationship with curiosity are less likely to allow differences to become a source of conflict.  Instead, they view differences as an asset.

Carl Jung believed that as we age, mature, and develop psychologically, we strive to evolve the underdeveloped parts of ourselves. Differences in preferences become less relevant over time. Tension then produces passion.

The key to relationship happiness is riding the wave, being open, and getting through potential misunderstandings and opposing goals.

Practically speaking, it means stopping yourself before you meltdown over your partner's words or actions. When your spontaneous partner can't commit to a plan for your upcoming vacation, just breathe and remember what made you fall in love with him in the first place.  You'll end up doing something fun.  Stay patient and let his pressure-prompted inspiration kick in!

Remember the spark that ignited from your differences.

Finally, ask yourself these critical questions:

  • Is my life more complete and whole with this person?  
  • While sometimes complicated, do I want to see my partner as a unique, fantastic being? 

If you answered "yes," then you're halfway there to accepting your partner (and yourself) for who you are and what you bring to your love match.  Let your similarities stabilize and unite you, and let your opposite ways continue to exhilarate you.

Lisa Petsinis is a career and life coach.  Contact Lisa if you’d like to discover your Myers-Briggs® Type Indicator and learn how you can use it to enrich your relationships, starting today.