Ever wonder how you can be drawn so strongly to a person at the beginning of a relationship and then feel perpetually annoyed with them later on? It has to do with that age-old relationship paradigm: Opposites attract. This cliché happens to hold a lot of truth. Just like magnets, humans are pulled to each other by opposing poles or traits. Later in the partnership, it’s as though those same magnets are flipped on their ends and suddenly repelling away from each other. We’ll give you some tips on dealing with those inevitable challenges, but first, let’s discuss:
The 4 Reasons Why Opposites Attract
1. We tend to be attracted to individuals who have strengths or traits that we don’t have. Yes, you probably share common values, interests and tastes with the person you are drawn to. But when it comes to personality characteristics, you will often be on the opposite side of the spectrum from your mate.
2. It is the unconscious mind’s way of filling in personal gaps and deficits. For instance, if you tend to be more shy and introverted, you might be attracted to someone who is gregarious and outgoing. If you consider yourself to be a neat freak, don’t be surprised if you are drawn to someone who loves clutter. If we look at it in survival of the fittest terms, a couple who has strengths in all areas will do better in the long run than a couple who’s strengths are unilateral.
3. In terms of sexual chemistry and attraction, we are more triggered by someone who challenges us and brings out suppressed personality traits that we don’t possess. If you matched up with someone who was exactly like you, there wouldn’t be any zing or fire in your relationship. True story. The differences in a relationship create tension, and tension creates excitement.
4. At the risk of sounding too Freudian, we tend to be attracted to people who remind us of the good and bad of our parents or other close family members. It might be nature’s way of giving us another chance to work through our childhood conflicts and struggles. Not very nice of nature, eh? But a great opportunity for growth.
So what happens after the honeymoon period is over and the “being on your best behavior” phase is long gone? Many couples find themselves feeling continually irked with each other. I often hear in my counseling practice, “Why can’t my husband make decisions the way I do?” or “Why in the world does my girlfriend approach things that way?” or “Why does everything have to be a struggle?”
We hear your pain. Here are:
4 Tips for Rediscovering The Magnetism In Your Relationship
1. Remember why you were attracted to your partner in the first place. Consider making a list of the things you were drawn to in your mate. Example: My husband has a garage full of sports equipment, wood working tools and other remnants of hobbies and collections. All of these items and activities require money and time. When I begin to feel annoyed with the clutter or the financial costs, I have to remind myself of what attracted me to my husband in the first place: he was adventurous, interested in many things, curious and knowledgeable about a lot of subjects. When I remind myself of these traits, I feel more tolerant of the clutter and admiring of his continued passion for life.
2. Appreciate the strengths your partner has that you don’t have. Example: One of my clients, we’ll call her Sue, hates how her husband takes the kids on all-day adventures and brings them home past their bedtime, covered in dirt and bug bites. When she pauses, she remembers that she fell in love with her husband’s adventurous spirit and carefree attitude. Sue notices that her kids are smiling and that they are probably benefiting from her husband’s different parenting style.
3. Ask yourself if you have something to learn or gain from your partner’s opposing traits. Example: Another client of mine, we’ll call him Alan, get’s extremely frustrated with his wife’s insistence on keeping their house immaculately clean. He said that he feels like he is living in a hotel — it doesn’t feel like a home to him. When he explores his feelings more, he acknowledges that he has a history of being a slob and that his wife’s cleanliness has helped him to be more neat and organized in his own life.
4. Make small requests of each other when you feel like you are on opposing teams. Just because you appreciate your partners differing strengths doesn’t mean that you can’t communicate your unmet needs or concerns. When the timing is right, use the soft start approach, and give your partner gentle requests. These requests just might help your mate to inch a little bit out of their comfort zone and experience personal grow as a result. Here are some examples based on the scenarios above:
Kirsten (to husband): I love how you are interested in SO many things. Would you like me to buy some storage bins so we can organize the garage this weekend and you can have easier access to all of your crap? (Oops! That was a little passive aggressive. Let’s try again.) Easier access to all of your gear?
Sue (to husband): I know that you and the kids will have an amazing time on the greenbelt today. Do you mind getting them home before bedtime tonight so we can be fresh for the soccer game tomorrow?
Alan (to wife): Wow, the house looks great. How about if we take the day off from cleaning today and just relax with the dishes and laundry? I’ll help you catch up tomorrow.
Here’s the kicker. Don’t be surprised if one or more of your kids also has opposing traits to you. That child might challenge you just as much as your partner, but if you use the suggestions above, both you and your little one will flourish.
Here’s to Sanity & Magnets,