Paula Abdul said it's true in her '90s jam "Opposites Attract," and that's enough science for me. Well, that and the fact that every single person I have ever dated has been my total opposite, including the person I eventually married. Being opposites with your partner isn't a big deal. Sure, it's annoying sometimes, especially when you'd rather play in traffic than watch another murder-themed reality TV show, but with some good communication skills and a willingness to compromise, you just might discover that dating your total opposite is basically the best thing ever. Because while you may joke that you'd love to date yourself, you'd probably not get along. Let's face it, there's only room for one you in the relationship, and you already have that covered.
On a serious note, when couples came to see me for advice during my time as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, many of them thought their differences were an immovable mountain. In reality, they just needed some tips, attitude changes, and a little more willingness to see things from another perspective. So if you're dating your opposite and scratching your head about how it's ever going to work out, fear not. I got you. Just remember, you can't put these tips into action alone. You and your partner both need to be on board.
1. Let Your Partner Be Your Teacher
When I met my wife, I was a hardcore introvert who loved to do a lot of things — in my house. My wife is a wild child, and she is at home on the road, chasing wild horses, and climbing mountains. At first I was like, "You want me to do what? That sounds a lot like exercise," but I was willing to give it a try. Turns out I really like traveling with her and seeing the world. And she loves seeing it again through my eyes. Plus, I have taught her to appreciate the well-timed lazy Sunday. She even sits still for some of it. The point is, if you're open to the things you think you won't enjoy, you might surprise yourself.
2. Dive Into Their Hobbies On An Emotional Level
If you really explore why your partner is interested in something, how it makes them feel, and what good it adds to their life, then you'll at least be able to appreciate it, even if you don't want to join in. Your partner's happiness and fulfillment can be a very satisfying thing to witness, and showing a little empathy can help ease tensions when schedule conflicts and other little annoyances pop up. Then take your partner through what's important to you so they can get the same appreciation for what motivates you to do the things you love.
3. Compromise Like It's Your Job
You have to compromise in all healthy relationships, but you get really good at it in relationships where two people are total opposites. Sometimes that means little things, like listening to bands you hate in the car or seeing scary movies even though they make you feel like rotten meat. And sometimes that means big things, like going on a whole vacation themed around your partner's interests or moving so you an be closer to something they love. The upside is that your partner will be making these kinds of sacrifices for you, too.
4. Learn To Argue Like Grown Ups
Being total opposites might mean you also have opposite opinions, beliefs, values, religions, or even preferred pizza toppings. So you have to learn how to disagree and resolve your problems or you'll be on the fast track to a life of resentment. Some tips: make sure you're listening as much as you're speaking. Focus on resolving things instead of winning. Keep it above the belt. Say what you really think and feel. Aim for middle ground instead of one or the other. And when in doubt, agree to disagree.
5. Set Up Boundaries
Boundaries aren't walls, and they're not controlling or manipulative. They're actually crucial to a healthy relationship. They're how we teach others to treat us in the way we need to be treated. Your boundaries might include things you won't do in bed, things that make you uncomfortable to talk about, kinds of jokes you don't want to hear, how you want to be spoken to, or things you need your partner to not do when you're around. These aren't ways to get out of doing things you don't like. They're ways to communicate what you need to be happy and to feel safe in your relationship.
6. Schedule Time Apart
If you both have hobbies your partner hates, pick a day where you can both do them solo or with friends. It takes the pressure off of feeling obligated to do something you hate. To be fair and nice, though, occasionally do those things together, just to show that you support your partner's interests. Make sure not to spend too much time apart. But never feel bad about wanting to do your own thing sometimes.
7. Find Something You Both Like
There has to be something in this giant universe that you both enjoy doing together, besides sex (though sex is also a great way to spend your time). Figure out what that is. Try new things. Go to new places. Maybe neither one of you knew you were super into dog training, or trapeze, or Sunday morning breakfasts at a diner you both love. Keep working on it until you find a few things you can both agree on. It's kind of like a life full of new adventures, if you think about it.
8. Make Some Decisions In Advance
Gather all of your take out menus. Make three piles: places I hate, places my partner hates, places we both like. Then you have your go-to pile for that ever-annoying question, "What do you want for dinner?" Plan a vacation you like, then book one your partner likes, so you both have something to look forward to. Talk about how you want to raise your children, where you want to live, and where you see yourself in the future so that it's not a shock when your assumptions turn out to be wrong. This is basic stuff for any healthy relationship, but it's more important when you're dating your opposite.
9. Practice Empathy
When bae is getting impatient with you, put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Practicing empathy is a great way to take anger down a notch so you can compassionately resolve conflict. Remember that time you had to go to a sports game and you were hot and sweaty and bored and you wanted to die? You were pretty irritable. That's how your partner is feeling right now at your fishing expedition. If you can't take comfort in empathy, take comfort in your occasional joint misery. It means you're doing the hard work of being in a relationship.
10. Get Your Half
The key to compromise is to make sure you're getting as much as you're giving. It sounds selfish, but if you don't get your half, and if you make tons of sacrifices and don't see your partner doing the same thing, you're going to end up angry and resentful. On the flip side, if you're getting all the benefits and making none of the sacrifices, you have to know that's pretty selfish, and likely taking a toll on your partner. Make sure you're meeting in the middle whenever you can, too. It's often the most fair thing to do. So next time you're disagreeing, ask yourself, "What's the middle ground here?"
11. Appreciate Your Differences
You can learn to love your differences. You can learn to see them as a whole new word you get to be a part of. It's like living two lives in the span on one lifetime. There's also much truth to the idea that often all you need is a little attitude adjustment to turn your differences into something worth celebrating. Choose to be happy when you can. You're not going to die if you have to do crafts. Unless things get really crazy with the glue gun.
Learn to enjoy the ride, even when there are bumps, and you'll discover that dating your opposite is the best thing ever.
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