Friday, September 25, 2015

Do Opposites Attract? by Roz Denny Fox


When it came time to start thinking about what to write in a new blog for some reason I was reminded of an article I read a couple of years ago while waiting in a doctor’s office—Do Opposites Attract? At the time I recall thinking, of course, we romance writers put them in stories every day.

But now I wonder if it isn’t the deep-down similarities our heroes and heroines share that make them fall in love and settle down for a happily ever after.

My thoughts—in some areas what’s good about being different is that one or the other in the relationship makes up for whatever character trait is lacking in the other. Will it work if your heroine is very shy and your hero outgoing—life-of-the-party type. I’ve known couples who think and act so much alike they finish each other’s sentences. Would they seem boring as book characters?

What if one character, say the heroine is headstrong and independent and you pair her with an obstinate man who declares himself always right? Would an aggressive man (in real life) even be attracted to an equally aggressive woman? I remember once when my nephews were teens saying to my very competitive younger daughter—“you need to back-off sometimes, guys won’t want to date a girl who always wants to win.”

Have you ever had a sweet girlfriend who ended up marrying someone you think is a real jerk? If so, what makes the relationship work? Are they truly happy, or does she always give in for the sake of simply not liking confrontation of any kind? Are emotional differences easier to navigate than real differences? In life does “the odd couple” really work? If you’re a neat-nik, could you ever be happy living with a slob? Or say a home-body paired with someone who loves to party. Realistically how long might one person put up with quirks and habits totally out of sync with the attitudes or beliefs of a partner?

In our books we rarely pen couples past the point of time the “honeymoon phase” might wear off. Some authors of on-going serials have on-going characters, but I’ve noticed the marriages are always happy and solid in subsequent books.

I admit to being intrigued by couples who meet via the Internet and fall in love and marry in relatively short amount of time. Are they honest about likes, dislikes, beliefs, and deeply held convictions? How many men or women see little irritations in someone they seriously think they love, and go into marriage assuming they can “change” the other person? I do remember the article I read saying that if you’re not willing to change, don’t think you can change another. And yet debate is healthy. And compromise is a character building strength.

Since I chose this topic I did some online research and found an article where experts say having more of the right similarities is more helpful in a relationship. Then I had to read on to see what “right” similarities are. I gathered it’s a matter of sharing more likes than not. One professor of psychology said he didn’t really think true opposites attract. For instance The Beast looks for Beauty not the other way around. Perhaps he never saw Shrek.

That particular article listed areas where a couple’s similarities are probably significant. Money, physical attractiveness, desire to have children, religion, and education to name a few. Also if long-held values, or how one half of a couple wants to spend their time is vastly different from the other, it will likely lead to a troubled future they say.

But, boy, another group studying the issue of opposites attracting think it’s true. They say people are naturally attracted to individuals who are different – it creates excitement. They conclude that when two opposites operate as a couple, they become a more well-rounded, better functioning unit.

I’m sure opposites do attract. The question that keeps running around in my head is: can a couple be too different, or too alike to insure a successful long-term relationship? To answer this I need you all to jump in and give your thoughts on this subject.

47 comments:

  1. Roz, you always have the most fascinating topics!

    My theory is that we NEED some pretty fundamental differences between both people in order to keep the gene pool fresh. I've always said if my husband had married someone like himself they both would've been strung out on drugs and dead by age 25, while if I'd married someone like myself eventually the landlord would've broken down the door and found us both sitting, fozzilized, on the couch.

    It's the challenges that keep a couple interested in each other...but of course, they DO need some pretty fundamental similarities to keep them together through the rough spots!

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    1. Laurie, I can tell one thing that keeps you and dh going is your sense of humor. And from the great things you put on your diy Christmas cards, your husband has a sense of humor, too. You've made some good points. Thanks.

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    2. OMG Laurie, you're hysterical! :-) :-) :-)

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    3. Aw, thanks, Roz and Shannon! I can't wait to tell Pete -- he's always amazed when anybody likes his sense of humor. :)

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  2. Roz, you struck a chord with your blog. My mother went into marriage thinking she could change my father. She couldn’t, so I heard over and over to never marry with the expectation of changing the person. So I entered marriage accepting my husband as he was. But he changed into someone I didn’t even like. Opposites may attract but they need some similarities between them that’s acceptable to both.

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    1. Marion, thanks for your thoughtful post. I've met so many people who went into marriage sure they could change the other person. I believe by the time most people marry that change is difficult and unlikely.

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    2. Getting married young has its hazards, but also advantages: you get to grow up together instead of already being stuck in your ways.

      A couple of old quips come to mind: One is that men go into marriage thinking that she'll never change, and women go into marriage thinking he will. The other is that women aren't looking for the perfect man, just a good fixer-upper.

      I agree with just about everyone here, alignment of core values is key, but even more important is a sense of humor and a trust that no matter how obstinate and pig-headed our loved one is, they are still our loved one and we are theirs. Being considerate of one another is a basic component of being loving regardless of whether you're opposites or alike. How many couples treat each other in ways they'd never imagine treating a co-worker or even a stranger?

      Thanks for a thought provoking post, Roz!

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  3. Roz, your post made me smile. I have to say that opposites do attract, as my husband and I are proof of if. Having said that, I believe that for the relationship to work, especially in the longer term, there has to be a foundation of shared values, beliefs and principles. If there isn't alignment on core ethical and moral beliefs, for example, I believe such a relationship would be challenged.

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  4. I think you have to have some core likenesses (wanting kids, for instance), and it's really important not to expect to change each other like Marion said, but being way different can also be a lot of fun. I want every day to be an adventure, and living with a man whose thought processes are entirely different from mine (read: wrong) give us both that adventure!

    I agree with everyone else, Roz--your posts are always thought-provoking and fun to read!

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    1. Liz, your observation about both in a couple wanting children really is something essential. And there still has to be some willingness to change on a few issues.

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  5. Roz, again...I agree with everyone, your posts make me think....so early in the morning, too! HA!.
    I do think there is a measure of opposites that provide challenges that can be adventurous sometimes. However, those core beliefs and goals do need to be similar. These bonds are the things that last for a lifetime. Just the fact that men ARE men and women ARE women creates opposites. Just as a woman can't really change a man, a MAN shouldn't think he can change a woman. If they can grow together and change together, then there is longevity.

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    1. Catherine, yes, your response made me think of the book Women are from Venus and Men from Mars---or was that the opposite? Ha, I recall the book, but not the title.

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  6. This is such a fascinating topic, Roz. You've obviously done your research. I feel opposites often attract because we might admire a trait that a person has that we wished we had, such as generosity, patience, etc. I agree with Marion about trying to change a person. No one can change another person unless they're willing and want to change. If you go into a relationship with those beliefs, you'll live an unhappy life.

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    1. So, Jill, do you think being too far apart on the core belief systems might be a reason for so many divorces? I read recently there's been another uptick. I wonder if couples who love each other are coming apart because of other pressures like the stagnant economy, etc.

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    2. Although, I was in the accounting department, I worked for eighteen years at a domestic relations law firm. No doubt, financial problems often play a role, when it comes to difficulties in a marriage. Honestly, nowadays, I think the internet plays an even larger role.

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  7. Roz, I absolutely love this post. So thought-provoking. I don't see how a couple could be too much alike to ensure success, unless they got bored with each other. But then you would essentially be bored with yourself, right? LOL! I do think TOO many differences could make things rough especially in those areas that make for a solid foundation - religion, child raising, money.

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    1. Carol, exactly. I remember hearing Suzie Orman say that people who fall in love need to talk seriously about issues like money. People who marry need to be on the same page (mostly) with spending and saving.

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  8. What a great topic! I'd say that my husband and I are opposites in superficial ways---he's a country boy, I'm a city girl; he likes scifi, I'm romantic comedy; we eat different food you name it. But, we have the same core values, family first for example. And we work really well together. Maybe what matters is how you deal with your differences.

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    1. Sophia, and what you've pointed out is how I see those of us writing romance choose our heroes and heroines. They may come from different backgrounds, but at the base of both of their lives are firm foundations that fit with each other.

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  9. This is fab. Opposites attracting works great in romance especially...creates organic conflict . I like what Sophia said...it's how you deal with the differences that matter. Love it, Roz! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Anna, and I believe romance writers are good at showing situations of differences that can and do work out in relationships. Which is one reason I've always wondered why romance writers take so much heat over supposedly writing unrealistic fantasies when it comes to love and marriage. I think we do the opposite.

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  10. I used to teach high schoolers about healthy relationships. And one of the things I told them was that it's okay to be opposite in some things, but there were values they needed to share--where they stood on faith and religion, the way they spent money, honesty, trust, faithfulness. I lso told them that what they found so attractive at age 17 would probably not be what they did at 25. They thought I was crazy. But, I would have thought the same thing when I was 17. lol

    Loved this post.

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    1. Patricia, your note has made me think about the different stages in our lives, and how it's true our thoughts change. In fact I remember telling my sister a week ago that I think I've matured. LOL since I'm getting old it's about time.

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  11. Roz, I always love the topics you discuss. I think it's important for couples to have some differences or they will become bored with each other. There still does need to be a solid foundation of similar beliefs, but it's those differences that make like together interesting and exciting. Just my thoughts...Rose

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    1. Rose, very worthy thoughts, too. I love debate, so I doubt I'd be happy in a relationship with someone who didn't hold different views on many things. However, that said I'm forever grateful that Denny and I were always on the same page when it came to dos and don't for our kids. And they're still funny, reminiscing about how they tried hard to pit one of us against the other and it never worked.

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  12. Roz
    Wonderful blog. I think with opposites if you look hard enough you'll find similarities. When Michael and I first got together some of my friends and family couldn't see it. One of our long time friends hit it on the nose when he said," Each of you have good qualities that cancel o it the others bad."

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    1. Elaine, in having the pleasure of observing you and Michael interacting, what I see at the core of your feisty banter is how deeply each of you cares for the other. One of my teachers wrote in my high school year book---if variety is the spice of life, you are definitely the pepper. I think spice in a relationship is imperative.

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  13. Wow, Roz! You always come up with the most provocative subjects, I think opposites do attract, but attractions can be all it is if core values aren't compatible, and if you don't like to spend your free time in the same way. Ron and I are very, very different in temperament, general outlook, and a million other little things, but we've lived mostly happily together for 47 years because we agree on God, family, and how to treat each other. We're both wondering if the pope would like to be adopted by an American family.

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    1. Muriel, LOL on the Pope. It seems everyone who is commenting agrees there has to be agreement on some basic core issues. Thanks for weighing in. In 47 years you obviously agree on a lot of things.

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  14. What a great question. You're the expert, in my opinion, in creating romantic couples that work together, but I guess I'd say they need a mixture of qualities that are different and similar to make an interesting and successful relationship. Plus the guy should always be willing to take care of spiders :) - Vicky *who can never figure out how to log into blogspot*

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    1. Vicky, you logged on fine. Aw, thanks for thinking I'm an expert at anything. I like your notion that there needs to be a blend. And definitely on the spiders and other creepy crawlies.

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  15. Opposites do attract, my sweet hubby John and I are proof. I'm from Venus, and John is from...Planet John! He's very outgoing and loves to attend parties. I'm a quiet homebody and attending huge parties is exhausting. But we are solid ground with our core values.
    I've learned so much from him over the past 23 years and we're still having fun!

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    1. Suz, love that you're from different planets and that John has one of his own. So funny. I'm sure you ground him. And you do like to do many of the same things sans parties.

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  16. Hm. Interesting topic, as always, Roz. I'm in the same boat as Marion. I married a man I didn't expect to try to change but he turned into someone who caused me to wonder, "Who is this man? What happened to that nice guy I married?" However, I've seen many couples who were complete opposites and were very happy in their differences. My favorite aunt and uncle were a prime example of that. They were so opposite, but so happy, and good companions throughout their lives.

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    1. Gosh, now you've tossed in a different aspect from everyone by saying how opposite your aunt and uncle were but happy together. And the articles I read didn't really explore what happens if one person of the couple really changes as you and Marion point out. That is probably something for deeper thought.

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  17. I think opposites attract, but those differences need to be something the other person perceives as a good quality that he or she lacks. A shy person may wish to be more outspoken and enjoy being around someone who is outgoing. However, if the differences are not ones they can admire in the other- say, she's always sure she's right and he likes to consider all points of views, then ultimately they will rub each other the wrong way and not work out as a couple-. My best guess :)

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    1. Karen,
      I think you've hit on something. I especially think two extremely shy people would have difficulty with life together in general.

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  18. This post is so great. Everyone's comments are so insightful, and I agree with just about everybody. I absolutely believe opposites attract. I was attracted to the qualities in my husband that I lacked, and evidently vice-versa. However, our core values were the same, and those haven't changed. I also think that in my case the differences I was attracted to were more closely linked to character traits. I loved that he was reserved, focused, mature, respectful (especially of women), and took care of his body (working out)....I hadn't mastered those qualities, and at that time working out was the last thing on my mind. However, I like to categorize our differences as nothing more than idiosyncrasies. Those little things can be irritating at times, but certainly not break-up worthy, e.g., he likes to watch t.v., I like to read; he loves sports, if I never saw another game in my life I'd be okay with it; our taste in food can be vastly different at times. Those are the little quirks that we learn to live with and still love each other immensely.
    Something I've noticed with men and women as they age is that many women like personal growth; they like trying new things and experiencing life more fully by exploring different hobbies, etc. While some men just stay status quo. They work, come home, eat and watch t.v., and they seem to be content with that their whole life. Consequently some couples "grow apart". I think that's sad. Ideally the key is to grow together. This is off topic, but I think it's the reason why more men tend to re-marry after they lose a spouse. Many women learn to find other ways to occupy their time, and they seek out friends and family even though they're still grieving their mate, while men don't always know what to do with themselves, and so they need to find someone else to keep their routine. These are just some of my own observations. Hey....maybe someone could tackle that subject in another post one day - "Why do you think men are more likely to re-marry after losing a spouse than women?"

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    1. Laurie, I agree that the size of the differences make acceptance more palatable. I actually knew a couple who split up because he was a bit older than she and he retired, moved in a big screen TV and parked himself there except for meals. Meals in, I might add, never out. She had a lot more living to do. Now you've made me wonder what makes some couples grow apart. You often hear that the wife is consumed with raising the family and then when they're gone she has nothing in common with her spouse. So did they only communicate about the kids?

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    2. Thanks for tolerating my long comment. I clearly got carried away. That's sad about the couple you knew.
      With regard to couples growing apart, as far as the wife being consumed with family, I think it depends on personality. When my daughter grew up and moved out that's when me and my husband REALLY started living, and we were perfectly content with the empty nest. Sure, I missed her (but modern technology easily remedies that), and I love her dearly but honestly, I never made her the center of my universe.

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  19. To clarify my long-winded post, I meant that more men tend to re-marry much quicker, sometimes within some months or a year. Women may stay single, or not re-marry for at least a few years.

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    1. Laurie, I have thought about this question. I believe that men require more nurturing in a relationship than the woman. Possibly because as you said in your first posting, women like a wider range of things and so on their own are willing to explore new things to occupy themselves.

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  20. Hi Roz,
    Great post. I think opposites can attract, but they can't be opposite in everything. They must have something that brings them together. Take my husband and I. I am a pig and he is a neat freak. It works because he "encourages" me to be less messy (meaning he gripes a lot until I clean up the house) and I make him relax and loosen up a little. But when it comes to the important things we are in agreement.

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  21. LeAnne, I like the sound of "encouraging" each other---not demanding. The things you mentioned are one fulfilling a need in the other to change, but because you want to. Thanks for dropping in and leaving a thoughtful comment.

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  22. I think, as in most questions, the answer is "It depends." Some opposites complement one another, like the long-winded philosopher who marries a great listener. Others, like the man who wants a herd of kids and the woman who avoids babies at all costs, will find it hard to find common ground. I do think sometimes people pay too much attention to a couple both liking sushi, when it's the basic mindset and values that they need to have in common for a successful relationship.

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  23. I think, as in most questions, the answer is "It depends." Some opposites complement one another, like the long-winded philosopher who marries a great listener. Others, like the man who wants a herd of kids and the woman who avoids babies at all costs, will find it hard to find common ground. I do think sometimes people pay too much attention to a couple both liking sushi, when it's the basic mindset and values that they need to have in common for a successful relationship.

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