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Do Opposites Attract?

The Old Adage Has Some Truth In It


Differences and Opposites
Photo: Shalom Ormsby / Getty Images

Bob liked the meat and potatoes type of dinner.
Sheri likes the pasta or vegetarian type of meal.

Bob liked Ray Charles music.
Sheri has been a Henry Mancini fan forever.

Bob liked a vacation out in the woods, in a tent.
Sheri prefers a nice condo on the beach.

Bob usually got up early in the mornings.
Sheri believes the day should start around 10 am.

Bob liked flannel sheets.
Sheri likes silk ones.

And the list can go on and on ... different tastes in movies, clothes, softness of mattress, books, TV shows, drinks, hobbies, food, sports, temperature of the room, size of dog, height of mirror, furniture styles, and how to spend free time.

So how does a couple like us, who are so very different, stay married for nearly 50 years?? Well, we believed it is because we weren't attracted to one another by what we liked or ate or which movie we liked best. Sheri was attracted to Bob's spontaneity, kindness, creativity and ambition and his being over 6 feet tall was an additional bonus! Bob liked Sheri's wiggle in her walk and her intelligence, compassion, and humor.

What is interesting now, years later, is that what initially attracted us, can really bug us later on. Bob's height meant Sheri's hanging plants were a no-no. Sheri's love of reading made Bob feel like he was playing second fiddle to her books. Bob's spontaneity was no longer fun when it meant Sheri had to get their kids ready in a half hour for an unplanned trip to a neighboring state.

Some couples find that their spouse's playfulness is really annoying, or the predictability they so highly praised is now boring them to death.

This is normal. The old adage of opposites attract has some truth to it. All of us often look for someone to sort of complete ourselves. But then, we can begin to resent it. The key to dealing with this is a willingness to talk about it with one another.

Marti and Michael Laney: "Why do opposites attract? Evolutionary psychologists believe that one reason we find partners who are different from ourselves is to spice up our gene ool. Our chances of survival as a species increase if we sniff out a partner with genetic strengths we don't possess ... Another reason that opposites attract is the opportunity to learn sklls from a partner with a different background or abilities. The last and most important reason is that partnering outside our "clan" allows us to appreciate and adapt to people who are not related to us. This is beneficial because we must continue to grow and stretch our abilities to adapt to an ever-changing world."
Source: Marti and Michael Laney. The Introvert & Extrovert in Love. 2007. pg. 12.

Express your expectations and feelings. It is not fair to expect your spouses to change, and in reality, most of you really don't want that change to occur. Sheri really did value Bob's spontaneity and would be upset if he had lost that trait.

It can be fun to list what attracted you to one another when you first met, and what you continue to appreciate in one another. It could be a challenging thing to do on a windy, chilly day when you can relax together, share some memories, and talk about your love for one another.


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