De-coding the Lure of "Opposites Attract"

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Everyone has heard the age-old adage of “opposites attract.” While parts of this concept may be true and certainly appealing, we often misinterpret its meaning and then romanticize a relationship where absolutely nothing aligns. We end up minimizing conflicts by brushing them under the rug, and then filing them into our partner’s “quirks” categories, as opposed to red-flag categories.

The bottom line is that in a successful relationship, partners need to share SOME things...similar interests, some common goals, some shared ideas. Something. To be on each end of the spectrum on EVERY subject can be exhausting as each person attempts to defend their beliefs and opinions. So much time is wasted in trying to meet your partner in compromise when you are so opposite of each other.

When we talk about opposites attract, we are mainly referring to personality types. The introvert and extrovert, or the planner and the free spirit, for example. We innately look for traits in our partners and friends that can help us grow in areas that we can benefit from. The organizer may dream of being more spontaneous, where the free-spirit craves some structure and planning. Opposite personalities can also complement each other in filling in spaces of communication. If two “aggressives” partner up, tense situations can become even more so when each show up to be “right.” When a passive and an aggressive align, arguments can be more manageable as your partner steps in with a fresh new perspective. The fireworks of arguments appear sexy in the beginning, but rapidly lose their charm as the relationship deepens.

If you are aiming for a long-term relationship, it is important to at least agree somewhat when it comes to the big three: religion, politics, and finances (especially when considering having children.) Imagine the heartache you can sidestep if you start to thoroughly understand where you stand on these issues early on. If your partner can’t at least RESPECT your opposite view point, then there is not much to go on.

In terms of committed relationships, it is also incredibly helpful when your Love Languages align or at the very least, are understood. To put it simply, we each show and give love in one or more of five different ways: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, gifts, and acts of service. When a couple has two very different ways that they show love, it can feel like the other person is speaking a foreign language and we just don’t get it. For example, someone who needs words of affirmation to feel loved needs to hear things like “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” or “I think you’re beautiful.” On the other hand, if the partner needs acts of service, they feel most loved when you take out the trash, or vacuum or make the morning cup of coffee. These languages can be learned, but when it is a stretch for the partner to understand what the other person needs, these opposites can become a sticking point in the relationship.

The fireworks of arguments appear sexy in the beginnning, but rapidly lose their charm as the relationship deepens.

Here are some tools to keep in mind when you’re starting a new relationship, and wondering if it could blossom into something more:

·       Don’t become disillusioned by how fun it is early on: Everything is cute in the beginning. Take off the rose-colored glasses, and come out of your endorphin coma and look at reality before you commit to something more long-term.

·       Do not sacrifice core beliefs: Does the following sound familiar? “I really want children, but he doesn’t, but I just keep waiting for him to change his mind,” or “she said she never wanted to go to church, but I figured she would eventually warm up to the idea.” Pay attention to what your partner says and does. For the most part, people will tell you exactly who they are, and expecting them to act any differently is insanity.

·       Stand up for your needs and opinions: At the beginning of a relationship, we all want to be the pleaser and seem amenable. As adorable as that may be, it can lead to heartbreak as you are not being honest with yourself in what you truly want. The more you talk about your true wants and desires, the easier it will be to decipher how matched you truly are.

It is not impossible for opposites to build a happy relationship, but you must be willing to put the work in, and potentially tap into more patience on a daily basis. Some people get turned on by a challenge, and the appeal of someone that thinks and acts so differently than your norm can feel like a fun puzzle to complete. Just remember that long-term, committed relationships are exactly that: long and committed. So, before you elope to Vegas with the cute guy or girl that appeals to your quirk quota, simply take a step back and double check that all of those out of sync idiosyncrasies add up to someone you’d like to wake up to every day.

 

The Aftermath: Healing After a Break-Up

You’ve reached a hard limit. You’ve been in your relationship for enough time to understand habits, and to be able to pinpoint your own true feelings and those of your partner. Today, you have realized that even though you love each other, there is a deep incompatibility, and it’s a deal breaker.

This moment is heartbreakingly painful, and it is important to recognize that. Yet, at the same time, it doesn’t have to be devastating. Previously, I wrote about the journey leading up to this moment, and how to discern if it is time to “say when” and change the dynamic of your relationship. One of the recommended steps is to ask yourself if the boundary that is being tested takes you one step closer to or further from a personal life goal. If you answer that it is taking you away, then this is probably one of the main reasons why the relationship isn’t working for you, and it is time to leave. This decision can be an EMPOWERING one, and it is that mindset that we need to keep as the goal.

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When we are in a relationship that challenges us, it is important to rely on the internal moral compass that typically points us in the right direction. If a boundary is being tested, and yet it feels right and you are excited to stretch and to grow, then that compass is pointing you towards your true north. You will grow TOWARDS your partner, and feel like you are working on something to bring you closer together. On the other hand, if you are starting to feel anxious, resentful and even angry at the thought of making an internal change, then perhaps this boundary is not one to test, and it is time to stand up for what you need and want, and check in to see if this is a true necessity for your partner.

You realize you don’t see eye to eye on some deal breakers, so now what?

1.       First things first: Be gentle with yourself. It doesn’t matter if you have been with someone for two months, or for two years, ending a relationship, and breaking a habit is stressful. During the first couple of days and weeks, it is important to be kind to yourself, practice self-care, and keep in mind that a break-up can be comparable to a death. There is a grieving process that needs to be honored, and if you skip any of the emotional phases from anger to denial, they might come back to visit you later.

2.       Transition needs room to breathe. If you are living with your partner, this separation can be even more challenging, but finding your own space is essential to the healing process. Our own physical space is one of the most influential factors in how we feel, so stay with a friend, or get a hotel room for the night or a week, but either way, take some physical space in order to re-group, and re-build.

3.       Once you have some distance, both physically and emotionally, it is more likely that you will be able to make a decision from a healthier place. We often stay in toxic relationships out of fear...the fear of change and not knowing what’s on the other side. Once the big fear is confronted, we can look back on the relationship with a clear perspective and make a decision from a place of abundance, as opposed to a place of lack.

4.       Lean on your family and friends. During a period of grief, some of us deal by isolating and cutting off our support system. Don’t do that! Let those who truly know and support you into your process, and let them be there for you. It is more than acceptable to ask for help and accountability during this fragile time.

5.       Take time for yourself without judgment. After a break-up, there are many questions. Unresolved issues pop up, leaving you confused and questioning. On top of that, friends and family want to know what’s next for you, and what your status is. To those questions, you can simply reply “I don’t know about any of that, but for today, I am pursuing my own happiness.” Your happiness is the top priority in all of this.

6.       Lastly…..have fun. There is no doubt that you had wonderful times with you partner, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make happy memories with other people. Get out, and do something new, challenging or plain old fashioned fun. This will boost your endorphins, and help you build more memories to draw from for strength.

If a boundary is being tested and yet it feels right and you are excited to stretch and grow, then that compass is pointing you toward you true north.

We go into fight or flight mode in these stressful times, and our cave-man minds like to remind us that we don’t want to be alone; therefore we make hasty and instinctual decisions for survival purposes. We get rushes of emotions and missing that person, and wondering if we have made the right decision. It is crucial to steel yourself against that pull, and keep in mind the long-term goals you are seeking. Remember, you broke up for a reason, and if distance and time ultimately brings you closer together, that’s a bonus. Allow this time to be one of reflection, happiness seeking, and goal tending, and your true north will be revealed.

Just Say When: 5 Steps to Keeping Boundaries in Relationships

I’ll be the first to admit that I am the type of girl that likes to bury my pasta in parmesan cheese, so I always get a bit angsty when the waiter walks up with the grater and utters the dreaded line of “just say when.” At that point, I have two internal voices in dialogue with each other. The carb and cheese lover inside of me says “don’t you dare stop him before that white mountain of cheesy goodness reaches a peak,” while the other voice says, “you don’t want to look greedy or be judged, so get the minimal amount and stop there.”

This “say when” line applies to so much more than just cheese, or pepper on salad, or filling up a wine glass. When broken down, that phrase essentially means, “how much can you handle?” or “what is your boundary?” At some point or another, we have all reached a moment in a relationship where we ask ourselves if we have reached our “when.” The difficulty arises when the respective angel and devil on our shoulders start to argue about how much we really can tolerate and the “when moment” that used to be crystal clear continues to get pushed back and back until we no longer have any perspective. 

It is not easy to set boundaries and to keep them, and it is ever harder to stick to an ultimatum or a deal breaker moment with someone you love. The question of “how do I know when it’s time to go?” is a popular one because of the fear that we are throwing in the towel too early, or that if we just stick in a bit longer that things will change or be like they used to be.

If you find yourself at a potential boundaried moment in a relationship, there are a few steps to take to guide yourself through this roadblock:

1.       Ask yourself this simple and yet not-so-simple question: What percentage of the time am I truly happy in this relationship as a whole?

2.       Next, look at the situation from a third party point of view: If your best friend were in your same situation, what advice would you give him/her? Then, whatever that advice is, try and apply it to yourself.

3.       Is your body giving you any signals, like anxiety or headaches, panic attacks or a loss of appetite? When thinking about your situation, if you have any of these symptoms, this may be your body’s direct way of telling you that you have reached a certain limit.

4.       We grapple with wondering if this is a challenge to push through or a hard limit that needs to be heeded. In those moments, it is necessary to ask yourself if you care to learn this lesson. Does pushing this boundary teach you something that you desire to be better at in your life, or are you doing this solely for your partner?

5.       Lastly, you must be very honest with yourself about your realistic, long-term goals. Does this moment take you one step closer or one step further away from a personal life goal?

The aim of these questions is to help provide you with a more definitive understanding of your own boundaries. We create and apply boundaries for a reason, and it is usually to protect us from something, and our bodies are very in tune when something is being pushed or tested. So, if you find that the majority of your answers above had you feeling defensive in the moment that is a true signal that something isn’t right in your world.

The hardest part is what comes next. If you have identified your current situation as a “say when moment” having the courage to change the status of your relationship is the largest challenge.  For advice on how to move forward from here, please take a look at my next blog!

Does pushing this boundary teach you something that you desire to be better at in your life, or are you doing this solely for your partner?