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Debunking Marriage Counseling Myths: Do Opposites Really Attract?
Debunking Marriage Myths Through Marriage Counseling Wisdom: “We Need to Have Everything in Common”/”Opposites Attract”
After years of scheduling prospective marriage counseling clients, I have heard many reasons for seeking therapy. These reasons can vary greatly, but many couples have very similar concerns. One of the most common concerns I have seen is clients saying they “do not have enough in common”.
You might be familiar with this feeling. Maybe you just can’t seem to find interest in your partner’s hobbies. Maybe you and your spouse have different political or religious opinions and you can’t find common ground. This is not an uncommon experience for many couples. But what really determines compatibility? And why do people say that “opposites attract” if opposites feel so
Today, you will learn about some common misconceptions about compatibility in marriage. Then, you will learn what you can do about it, and how marriage counseling can help.
Compatibility: It’s Complicated
Compatibility seems to be a buzzword nowadays when it comes to relationships. You might ask yourself often, are my spouse and I really compatible? And if we aren’t, does that mean we are doomed to fail? What is compatibility anyway? (Related Article: How Do I Find the Right Partner for Me?).
As it turns out, compatibility is a lot more abstract than you might think. It’s a common misconception that compatibility is an essential part of a healthy, successful marriage. Now, let me explain! A recent study found that compatibility is very hard to measure. Couples who called themselves “incompatibile” tended to also report that they regularly argued. And couples that labeled themselves as “compatible” reported that they generally get along and have good communication overall (Source).
So, compatibility in your own relationship might be a lot different than you originally thought! Compatibility, it turns out, is not based on the number of hobbies and interests you have in common. Instead, compatibility with your spouse is actually how you perceive your own communication as a couple. Successful couples who stay together long term do not do so because they have everything in common. They have better communication skills that help them reach a better understanding and respect for each other.
Do Opposites Really Attract?
So wait, if compatibility is not based on things you have in common, then do opposites really attract? This question also had a somewhat complex answer. And that answer is yes…. And no.
In some cases, yes, opposites attract! This is especially true in the early stages of a relationship. (Related Article: Encouraging Fondness and Admiration). For example, you might be more reserved. But, you find yourself drawn to the outgoing nature of your partner. Or maybe you love the outdoors, and you find yourself attracted to your partner, who is a homebody, because they help you appreciate your time at home together.
Opposites can make your union stronger and balanced. John Gottman, a marriage and relationship researcher, said that “Our partners don’t always have to think like we do. That’s what makes life interesting”. (Source). Having a partner with different interests brings novelty and excitement that are important for maintaining the fun in your relationship long-term.
Sadly, sometimes differences can cause damage to otherwise healthy relationships. However, it is not the differences themselves that might threaten your marriage. After all, differences bring variety and interest to your relationship. Differences can hurt when you try to change your partner to become more like you.
When Differences Cause Division
Let me explain. For instance, let’s revisit the idea that you love the outdoors. And, your spouse is more of a home body. In the beginning, these opposites attract. Your partner appreciates how much you encourage them to love and appreciate nature. And you love how they help your home feel welcoming and comfortable. During the beginning stages of your relationship, you might find balancing these differences to be very easy, and even quite fun!
However, as your relationship progresses, you may find yourself losing that appreciation for your partner’s differences. Going along with our example, you might become frustrated with your partner’s lack of interest in a camping and hiking trip you are planning. You may tell them that they need to change and be willing to come with you. Or maybe you go to a cabin for a weekend and your spouse is resistant to going outdoors to hike and kayak. This hurts your feelings. And your frustration irritates your
partner in return.
See the problem? Differences give relationships strength… if we let them. (Related Article: Debunking Marriage Myths: “Marriage Counseling is For Broken Marriages”). That’s where working to understand your partner comes into play. John Gottman says that one of the most important challenges of a committed relationship is being able to see the world through your partner’s eyes. (Source). The solution to these complicated situations will be different for every couple. It will involve working together, improving your communication, and always striving to find mutual understanding for each other. (Related Article: How to Communicate Effectively).
So, when it comes down to it, compatibility is not about how much you have in common, but it is also not about your opposites. (Related Article: How to Fix Your Marriage Problems). It is about how you treat each other and how you work to find balance as a couple.
Marriage Counseling Can Help You Find The Beauty in Your Differences
If you are struggling to find understanding for your partner, then marriage counseling can help. A therapist can help you and your partner find ways to find strength in the things you share, and create balance with your differences.
Written by Lauren Adkins