A Reader Asks:
In my dating life so far, I have looked for someone with a different personality from mine because everyone always says “opposites attract.” Recently, I have found that I connect more easily with those that are more similar to me. Is there an approach that can lead me to a healthier and more lasting relationship?
Dating Coach Rachel Burnham Answers:
Let’s explore the notion of “opposites attract.” Whether it is a personality trait, talent, intellectual ability, or mindset, each partner filling a void in the other creates a feeling of mutual completion. As parents, such partners have the potential to create balance for their children. Furthermore, as children watch their parents successfully navigate life in vastly different ways, they can learn that there is more than one way to accomplish a task or reach a goal.
However, when a couple’s opposite traits are so extreme that each has trouble relating to the way the other sees the world, handles life situations, or reacts to social experiences, trouble can arise. This difficulty in understanding can bring (often significant) strain to a relationship.
“Birds of a feather” tend to “flock together” due to the comfort that emerges from shared personalities, outlooks, and experiences. This type of relationship can bring great satisfaction in a deep feeling of being understood and in sharing life with someone who sees and experiences the world as you do. It can truly feel like you found your other half.
Common challenges with this type of relationship are boredom and too little interpersonal stimulation. When you and a dating partner possess multiple identical traits, you may not find as much room for expression or opportunities to make meaningful contributions to each other. Finally, even if relationship partners find such a dynamic satisfying, it may not provide children with the same degree of balance.
So, which is best? How do we figure out which direction to take?
This is difficult to answer in the course of one catch-all article, but there is one critical piece of advice that I can share.
Visualize a Venn diagram where one circle is pink and the other blue, with an overlapping shade of purple in the center. The outer parts of the circles are each person’s unique traits, outlooks, talents, and character. The purple center represents those elements that are shared.
A relationship’s necessary components must be in the purple center. These include each person’s needs, values, shared life goals, and vision of the home they’re looking to build.
If these critical elements are in place, relationships can work whether there is a lot of overlap (a very large purple area) or very little overlap (a purple area that contains only the relationship’s most vital components).
Ultimately, whatever dynamic you choose, the most important thing is that it works! Theory is great but practice is better. Sometimes, what doesn’t seem to make sense on paper does work in reality and vice versa. As these are difficult issues to navigate, I’d recommend seeking the help of a coach or mentor if you’re experiencing ambivalence around this issue in your relationship.
May we all experience balance, connection, and uniqueness in our relationships, allowing us to emerge into a greater version of ourselves. A date that shares commonalities while also providing balance, color, texture, and perspective, is more likely to lead us down the shortest distance to our longest relationship.
By Rachel Burnham