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WHY DO OPPOSITES ATTRACT?

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 28, 2012

BRYCE ON OUR CHANGING WORLD

– Good question and something that has puzzled us from time immemorial.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

On a recent trip to work one morning I was tuned into a local radio talk show. One of the DJ’s mentioned he happened to be married to a vegan, yet he was a confirmed meat eater. The other two DJ’s sharing the microphone with him found this amusing, as did I, and they asked him what life was like living with a vegan, particularly at dinner time. Somehow they found a way to avoid squabbles and respect each other’s culinary preferences. One didn’t intrude on the other, and they have lived happily together for quite some time.

I am always intrigued by couples who appear to be incompatible on the surface, yet somehow find a way to build a successful marriage. I have seen tall people marry short people, fat and thin, wild versus mild, mixed religions, mixed races, and mixed politics. As to the latter, there is probably no better example than political pundits James Carville (Democrat) and Mary Matalin (Republican) who were married in 1993 and have two daughters. Even though they worked on opposing political campaigns, they somehow found the right chemistry to make their marriage work. This particular union has puzzled people for years, particularly due to their different personalities. When they appear on television, Carville is very animated and chatty, and Matalin appears more sedate and thoughtful. Both have strong personalities in their own right. When they appear on television together, they make it clear they do not agree on several political issues and try to correct each other, which can be rather amusing to watch. As I understand it though, politics is a taboo subject at home, particularly around their children. As an aside, I wonder if this political odd couple votes at election time since they will undoubtedly cancel each other out.

Then there are the law-abiding citizens who marry convicts while incarcerated. I never did quite understand this; a spouse who is free on the outside and a convicted criminal on the inside, never having physical contact or living together. Even people committing some of the most heinous crimes seem to score well from within the walls of prison. Maybe there is sex appeal in the forbidden fruit of a mass murderer, or maybe they’re just plain nuts. Somehow I have a hard time grasping death row as a lover’s lane.

How the opposite ends of a magnet are attracted is easier to explain than human compatibility. Scientists have a lot of theories for the attraction of people, but no conclusive facts. There are those who believe it is based on a biological and chemical arousal whereby people are attracted by scent which somehow matches the female’s hormonal status. This would suggest it’s all in the DNA. Then there are those who believe it is based on complementary psychological makeups, or maybe based on some astrological compatibility where the stars must be in some specific alignment.

As for me, I don’t buy any of this. Frankly, I’m not sure what it is that makes another person float your boat. Maybe it’s physical, maybe it’s logical. I tend to believe there is some specific element of the other person we find intriguing, and realizing they are complete opposites, we tend to work harder at building and maintaining a relationship than those people who are much more compatible. Keep in mind, there has to be more “give and take” in a marriage of opposites as opposed to those who are evenly matched. They have to work harder if they want to sustain it. A relationship of opposites will be obviously more challenging than a compatible relationship which will likely be more sedate. I guess some people thrive on a challenge, and some do not.

Maybe the only way this can be proven is by studying the duration of marriages and divorce rates of compatible couples versus polar opposites. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the opposite couples were more successful? Keep in mind, Carville and Matalin have now been married for 19 years, and it certainly couldn’t be due to their politics. In 2009, the two were interviewed by CNN’s John King who asked them how to maintain a happy marriage:

Carville: “I don’t have a position on anything domestically. So I just say yes, and then go on and do it. I mean it. I would say the three ingredients to successful marriage is surrender, capitulation and retreat.”

Matalin: “Spoken like a true liberal. What a martyr. Faith, family and good wine. That’s how we do it.”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


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3 Responses to “WHY DO OPPOSITES ATTRACT?”

  1. Tim Bryce said

    A W.A. of the Dominican Republic wrote…

    “Good one, Tim, as my wife (2nd wife as 1st one passed away after 18 years of marriage) have been married for 25 years and I don’t think you can find 2 people more opposite, yet we definitely love each other after all these years. PS She is a vegan, and I love meat!!!”

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “While reading this, a number of “opposite” couples came to mind. All are in happy, long term marriages. It’s my theory that quiet, shy people are brought out by their more outgoing spouses and the quiet, calm one keeps his/her spouse more grounded. It’s a balanced relationship, with gears meshing smoothly and pieces fitting together to make a whole picture.

    As for the attraction, maybe we seek what we don’t have. Each couple splits up chores according to talents and that varies. There is little or no competition this way.

    I like your theory that opposite couples work harder to make things work. Those who don’t work to be compatible will not succeed. Many couples who seem perfectly suited end up in divorce court.”

    Like

  3. Tim Bryce said

    A W.C. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin wrote…

    “This was a great post! I found it extremely interesting….

    I think that opposites do, indeed, keep one another balanced…..bit is important that they always have some things in common as well, so that there is a common basis or foundation for the relationship….

    My lifemate, Ian, and i were just talking about relationships this morning…..so this post came at a great time………one of the things that Ian and I were discussing was the fact that, as time goes by, we seem to be more alike than we were when we first met…..”

    Like

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