Matt and Tina are in a committed relationship, which is sure to last because they are nothing alike, and opposites are said to attract, right? Whoa, what about ‘like likes like’ (we like people who are like us), which should extend to: ‘love loves love’ (we love mates who love what we love, have a lot in common with us). How can these two seemingly opposed concepts concerning love and compability co-exist? Is one right and one wrong? Or is one more right than the other? If so, which one?
Actually the truth is that both concepts – opposites attract AND opposites don’t attract/clash – are accurate, with qualification. Partners who are opposites in complementary ways (one likes to cook, the other doesn’t; one likes to clean, the other doesn’t) will definitely get along well, as long as one other very important trait is also opposite: the authority source must also be different.
OK, but what exactly is ‘authority source’? Your authority source is either internal (you primarily decide for yourself) or external (you rely heavily on sources outside of you in your decisions).
Shopping example: internal – “I love this sweater; I think I’ll buy it.”
external – “What do you think – do I look good in this sweater?”
Convincing others example: internal – “I know I’m right, I have a good feeling about it.”
external – “It’s right because I read about it online.”
Now that you understand this distinction, let’s return to our lovers. When one is ‘internal’ and the other is ‘externa’l (opposites), it’s a match built to last. Internal Matt: “I like to cook”; external Tina: “I love for you to cook.”
Or, internal Tina: “I hate to cook, so I’m glad that you love to cook, and at least we won’t starve!”; external Matt: “Yes, I love to cook and glad that you appreciate my efforts.” Opposite attract.
But what if they have the same authority source, instead of opposite? Both are internal – Matt: “I love to clean and happy to do it all.” internal Tina: “I hate to clean, but your cleaning standards aren’t high enough, so while you think you’re saving me time, I need to re-clean after you!”
Or both are external – Matt: “I hate to clean and you keep nagging me about my sloppy habits”; external Tina: “Don’t blame me, I love to clean but you don’t appreciate my efforts, plus you put off your half of the chores way too long.” Ohh, sounds like a fight coming when both have the same authority source instead of being opposites.
So opposites attract when the trait is ‘authority source’. When do opposites clash?
Yup, having different personality traits can lead to disagreements when applied to other areas, primarily when ‘sorting’, ‘fussiness’, and ‘sensory’ differences are the traits that are not the same.
How do you sort? Do you start with ‘same’ then move to ‘different’? Do you start with ‘different’ and never get to ‘same’? An example of ‘same’ sorting: “This situation is like the previous situation in the following ways.” Different sorting sounds like: “This situation is completely different from the last time (and I neglect to see any similarities).” When one half of the couple sorts as ‘different’ (15% of the overall population) and is not married to another different sorter, all kinds of issues can come up. The worse combo is when a ‘different’ sorter is partnered with a ‘same’ sorter that stays on same and never gets to different (5% of the overall population), rather than a ‘same with differences’ or ‘same with exception’ sorter, which is most common (75% of us).
A ‘different’ likes to change things up pretty frequently – the furniture, the layout of things, houses, jobs, friends, etc. This drives a ‘same’ crazy, who hates change and is slow to warm up to newness. “Why can’t you leave things the way they were, which was just fine!” is a comment lament.
Are you the fussy type – like things just so, perhaps have a touch of OCD? Is your significant other the opposite – pretty laid back, easy going, take most things pretty much in stride? This difference in personality is highly problematic in a relationship, but not so much if you are opposite in authority source: one is ‘internal’ (usually the fussy one, who doesn’t care what others think) and the other is ‘external’ (the non-fussy one, who is happy to let the fussy partner do his own thing).
What about sensory awareness? If you have differences here, it can lead to poor communication, since most people aren’t aware of dominant sensory differences; they think that everyone is the same, which is being just like them. They aren’t. If one spouse is a ‘visual’ he thinks his partner appreciates gifts, a visual sign of affection. But if the other is instead ‘auditory’, the response is likely, “You don’t need to buy me anything. I just want to hear the words, ‘I love you’ which means the most to me.” Sweet nothings whispered in an ear, the clever twist of a phrase, ahhh…
How about the ‘visual’ or ‘auditory’ married to a ‘kinesthetic’ – that partner’s complaint is the lack to physical affection; forget gifts and words, where are the gentle touches, the cuddles, hugs, and hand holding that really express affection? The ‘visual’ hates PDA – god, not in public – someone will see! “Why do you care if someone sees; are you ashamed?” “No… it just should be private.” And ongoing unmet needs continue…
Differences in areas other than in authority source can lead to disagreements, hurt feelings, perhaps a lifetime of misunderstandings when communication and open discussions for mutual understanding of basic needs never happen.
Check out your primary relationship against these standards, then have a good discussion on similarities and differences. And if you’re just starting or are on the hunt for a new relationship, an awareness of personality traits along these specific dimensions is an important awareness to have.
Of course, the basic foundation of mutual love must be in place in the relationship for any of this to be applicable.
To amore! To communication that enhances amore.