Do opposites attract?

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Meredith et al.,

I am coming out of a career-long string of rejections and bad relationships, where, as a common theme, it turns out that my counterparts feel we are not compatible. This almost always comes as a painful surprise to me; personally, the kinds of asymmetry that I would expect to be fruitful in a relationship have been things they have found to be indicative of a bad connection.

I am hoping you can clarify generally about what type and nature of differences are boons in a relationship (chocolate and peanut butter) as opposed to those differences in vision that can be harmful (chocolate and tuna).

It has been suggested to me that a partner’s differences should be able to do what you can’t, but I get all my spiritual vitamins and minerals on my own, and would much rather close my own shortcomings than depend on someone else to do so for me. In effect, I think that (sexual issues aside) I’d be happily-ever-after with a carbon copy of myself, but it seems like they don’t make those.

It seems I have little acuity for this – your perspective is very welcome!

- Putting the Sad in Understanding

There's no formula for this. I think people feel chemistry with random people, and then they make a case for why the other person's strengths and weaknesses complement their own. There's some science that proves opposites attract, but other science shows that's not true at all. Basically, pick a partner – then pick your study of choice. I think we work backwards.

For the record, I used to think I wanted someone who would have what I don't – an opposite – but now I'm like ... if someone’s coming over, I hope they like vampire shows too, and that they like the same snacks. Sharing a life philosophy is nice, I think.

When someone tells you it's not working, what they're really saying is that they're not feeling that click. That moment where they say, "Despite differences and concerns, I'd like to see this person again. And again ... and again." What makes a person feel one way or the other? I have no idea. It could be about where they are in life. Not everyone is looking for a long-term match.

My advice is to bring it down to the simplest level and ask yourself, after any date, "Was that fun? Do I want to do that again? Do I want to know more?" Once the answer is "yes, yes, yes," over and over, after many outings, you can tell me why you think it works and whether there's any rhyme or reason to it. I'd be curious.

– Meredith

Readers? Tell this LW whether they should be looking for like-minded people – or anyone in particular ...