Can Opposites Be Compatible?
by Dr. Jay Lindsay
Mary, a young wife, sat in my ofﬁce looking at me with a hopeless expression. “We’re just too different,” she said. “We don’t get along… and we never will.”
Her husband Tom nodded solemnly. “Yes, we’re complete opposites. We clash constantly. We’re incompatible, and I don’t see that changing.”
Tom and Mary then went on to tell me that when they were courting, all they could see were their similarities. Now, two years into their marriage, all they can see is their differences.
1. Insight: Many couples who are opposites fear that they are hopelessly incompatible.
Tom and Mary really are opposites in a lot of ways. They contrast on many levels including their backgrounds and personalities, as well as some of their beliefs and values.
When they began their marriage therapy with me, they feared that because they were opposites, they were incompatible and always would be.
Are you and your partner opposites? If so, have you feared that you’re hopelessly incompatible? Have you wondered if marrying each other was a huge mistake?
If so, you’re not alone. Many couples who are opposites felt this way when they ﬁrst came to me. However, most found in their marriage therapy that they can be opposites and compatible at the same time.
2. Insight: Couples who are opposites can be highly compatible.
That’s because inherent differences always represent counterbalancing strengths that can work together for your mutual advantage.
For example, when it comes to personality, Tom is an extravert and Mary is an introvert. Because of this, they host a great party. Tom makes sure that their guests get acquainted and Mary makes sure they have plenty to eat.
Whatever your built-in differences as partners, there are counterbalancing strengths inherent in them that can beneﬁt you both.
If you and your partner are opposites, you can make your innate differences work for you rather than against you.
3. Insight: The way for opposites to be highly compatible is for them to bond at a deep level.
Are you and your partner opposites? If so, it’s very important that you develop a strong emotional connection in which you both feel safe, secure, and supported.
That’s because a marriage of opposites, according to research, is more challenging than a marriage of similars. It takes more effort and it takes more heart, but the rewards can be great.
If you have a strong bond, your innate differences in personalities, values, etc., will be less threatening to you. You’ll be able to enjoy the personal growth and enrichment that can come from being different.
To Tom and Mary, I quoted these lines from Paula Abdul’s hit song, Opposites Attract:
“Don’t really think we’ll get our differences patched. Don’t really matter because we’re perfectly matched.”
By “perfectly matched” Paula means aligned at the heart level, in other words, strongly bonded. Because she and her partner have a powerful emotional connection, the inherent differences don’t really matter.
You and your partner as opposites can develop a strong bond that will allow your built-in differences to work for you rather than against you.
Tip: Create a strong bond by learning how to share with each other your deepest feelings, especially those about your differences.
For example, your innate differences might trigger fears, like these:
“You’re a risk taker and I’m cautious. I’m worried that if we invest our retirement funds your way, that we’ll lose it all and go broke. We’ll be living in our children’s basements.”
“You’re an extravert and I’m an introvert. I’m scared that some day you will have had enough of my shyness and that you’ll go off without me. I don’t want to lose you.”
“You’re a conservative and I’m a liberal. I fear that as our kids grow up you’ll convince them of your views. Then, they might lose respect for me.”
It can be hard to be vulnerable like this. Many couples don’t know how.
For Tom and Mary, sharing with each other about their deepest feelings, especially about their inherent differences, was like sailing in uncharted waters.
In their marriage therapy with me I showed them how to open their hearts to each other and listen with empathy. In particular, they learned how to share with each other about the fears that their differences triggered in each of them.
Tom and Mary found that over time doing this strengthened their bond and helped them to feel more compatible. The same can happen for you and your partner.
Learn how to open your hearts to each other each about your deepest feelings, including those about your built-in differences. Learn how to listen to each other with sympathetic understanding. Doing these things can strengthen your emotional connection.
Then the following beneﬁts can come your way:
- Feeling safe, secure, and supported by each other.
- Experiencing your differences as stimulating rather than threatening.
- Being able to take full advantage of your counterbalancing strengths.
- Spending less time clashing over your differences.
- Resolving disagreements that stem from your differences.
- Spending more time focusing on common ground.
Very likely, you and your partner will discover together that you can be opposites and highly compatible.
If you’re in an “opposites relationship” and having trouble making it work, I can help. Call me at 303-545-9828.
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Copyright © bouldermarriagecounseling.com | 2012
Master couples therapist and psychologist Dr. Jay Lindsay utilizes Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT), one of the most researched and effective approaches to marital therapy. Based in Louisville, Colorado, Dr. Lindsay is a marriage counselor who is sought after by couples from all across the country. He can be reached at 303-545-9828.