Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: How opposites attract
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
My husband is very outgoing and personable and can be the life of a party. I tend to be more quiet, reserved, and shy.
My husband probably could not tell you what color the pillows are on our bed … or how many there are, or why we even have pillows on our bed. I shop and shop trying to find the absolute perfect color combinations, shapes and accent threads, then lovingly arrange these “perfect” pillows on our bed.
My drawers are organized by shape and color of items; his … not so much.
Therefore, how in the world did we find our way to one another, and how is it that we have spent the last 35-plus years “connected at the hip?”
Do opposites really attract? How long should you know someone before you can feel adequately prepared to make a deep commitment? Is there a way to know the “right one?”
As a therapist, I wish I had a quarter every time these questions have come up in a therapy session! I can tell you that I have some thoughts on these topics, but I can also tell you – confession moment – that I personally did not follow that advice! But here we go …
Yes! Opposites do attract!
We tend to be enamored of traits in others that we sometimes have a scarce supply of within ourselves. When I was younger and bent toward shyness, I was completely in awe of how my husband so effortlessly made friends, talked so ably and sincerely, and warmly invited others into a conversation.
Sometimes personalities that are different will clash, but for the most part, they seem to mutually complement one another. You may see impulsives marry planners, steady-plodders connect with adrenaline-chasers, adventure-seekers paired with predictability-seekers and introverts wind up with extroverts. That is GREAT!
The important thing is that as time goes on, however, we must not try to “change” that opposite trait to be more like our own. Not only is it futile because we cannot change anyone besides ourselves; it is important to remember that those opposite traits may be the very sparks that ignited the fire in the first place!
Yes! There is a healthy time period to consider!
When asked, I often say, “Have you known and been with this person across four seasons?”
Of course, this is both concrete and symbolic. My encouragement to those who are deepening the connection and wondering if “this is the one” is to have seen this loved one in myriad “seasons” – under myriad circumstances.
For example, when life is great and when rough waters are present, when one is all dressed up and when one is at his/her worst, when different opinions emerge and when the couple is in sync … all “seasons” must be experienced.
In addition, it’s important to know the person over time. Real personality traits and quirks will be revealed when the relationship is not rushed. Another confession: My husband and I met and speed dated to marriage within six months.
Yes! Have a non-negotiable list!
I always encourage each single person to have built a “non-negotiable list” – this is a list of qualities and traits that are MUSTS!
Examples may include: being equally yoked, respectful of differences, respectful of family, motivated, wants (or does not want) children, worships and lives in lifestyle Christianity, to name a few.
The reason for this list is that if it is “non-negotiable,” you eventually will find (and be found by) the one you are meant to be with. Of course, a “negotiable list” is fun, too! Tall, handsome, gorgeous, athletic, red hair, tattoos, funny … these are important but not game-changing!
Marriage and commitment are not easy … but they can be the most fulfilling, exciting, passionate and safe place to spend your life! Differences can make the passion and excitement soar! At our house, when it is time to make a big purchase, my husband is a researcher, strategizer and thinker, and he completely immerses himself in finding the perfect item. Me? I see … I buy! We love how it makes life exciting!