If Opposites Attract, How Can We Get Along?
by Patricia Crane Ennis, LMSW
Opposites may attract but how on earth can we get along? Quite well if we understand the value in personality differences.
There is no such thing as a good or bad personality trait. Any trait, carried to the extreme may be negative, but there are positive and negative aspects to every trait. They are flip sides of the same coin.
Being a “Saver” may sound positive but what do we call someone who saves “too much?” How about: cheap or miser? And “Messy” may sound negative but if the term is applied to us, we might say we are just “relaxed” or “creative.”
Before marriage we may realize these traits complement each other. But after, the rose-colored glasses come off, the same traits we admired can cause a rub. For example, a woman might view her fiancé as “laid back” but when married, she calls him “lazy.” Same trait, new perspective!
Or, instead of putting our best foot forward, like we did when we were dating, we may each revert to our comfort zones and refuse to budge. So the sociable wife says to her loner husband, “Let’s go out.” He barks, “Leave me alone” and she wonders why the sudden change. So she starts badgering him, they argue, and soon they are polarized. When we find ourselves arguing like this we may conclude that there is something wrong with the marriage. But this is perfectly normal. There will always be tension in those areas where we are opposite. And we probably didn’t marry the wrong person either. On the contrary, we probably married exactly the right person.
So how can opposites get along?
- Appreciation – Why did the serious wife marry the clowning husband? Because the clowning husband helped her be playful. And she helped him be real. How do you and your spouse’s differences balance you? How about thanking them?
- Meet each other half way – like when you were dating. Suppose the wife is super nurturing and the husband is a strict disciplinarian. Instead of polarizing the situation, either can start being a little less extreme. For example, if the wife moderates her “spoiling,” her husband will probably not feel such a need to overcompensate; while if he eases up, she may not feel the need to “protect” her darling so much.
- Become a student – Wherever you are different, your weakness is your spouse’s strength. So you’ve married the perfect teacher. Try emulating them in an area where you are different. Your personality will not change, but you will become a more well-rounded person.