Opposites Don’t Just Attract — They Complement
By Spencer Bugg
My wife and I are very different. I’m artsy and creative. She’s a scientist with an insanely impressive memory. I live in a fantasy world of imagination. She’s an avid non-fiction fan. I’m a designer. She’s a biologist. (Both Scorpios, though . . .) She was concerned early on in our relationship that the divide in our interests would eventually drive us apart. But I was able to convince her of the advantage we have over most couples: we work together because we’re different.
Opposites attract and have always done so in all the great romances: Pride and Prejudice, Taming of the Shrew, Beauty and the Beast, etc. But what always frustrates me is that these stories of fractious couples always end right as they fall in love. We never get to see the work that goes into staying in love with someone so different from you.
So here are some survival tips for falling (and staying) in love with your exact opposite.
Go TO Things. Go DO Things
The best way to keep discovering each other—and to find the occasional bit of common ground—is to get out. Leave the house and trek into the great unknown. Go hiking. Go ice skating. Go to the zoo. Go to the pool. Go to a fancy dinner. Get out and expose each other to new things. It will be hit and miss, especially at first. We had many dates early on that were terrible for both of us, but in our experience, nothing bonds people together better than bitter complaining.
“Ugh, the lines were terrible and the food was disgusting at that theme park.”
“Clearly, camping is not our thing. We woke up wet, cold, and hungry. Do people do this on purpose?”
“The concert was great, but traffic made it almost not worth the trip.”
Good or bad, the experience will be something that you both can look back on with varying degrees of unifying fondness or playful regret.
One of the benefits of being with your opposite is that it will expand your horizons. One of the drawbacks is that expansion isn’t always comfortable.
Push each other
My wife is a wildlife biologist. I’m decidedly not. I never had a problem with animals per se, but we never had pets in my home, and other people’s dogs always put me on edge—especially the bigger ones. Pest control was one of the biggest hurdles for me as a new husband. I had to set and check the traps when we had a rodent problem. When a bat got into our apartment through an open window, my reaction was decidedly squeamish, to say the least.
My wife has since exposed me to all sorts of amazing animal experiences. Her aviary internship, her volunteer work at a rehabilitation refuge, and her fascination with birds of prey quickly spilled into my life. Since then, I’ve assisted with wing surgeries on owls, glove-handling eagles, and lure-training falcons. There are still occasional gross parts, but I’ve come a long way, and I know for certain that I would never have gotten to have such rare wildlife experiences without her. By challenging me and pushing me beyond what was familiar, she’s irrevocably enriched my life.
Be roommates, too
It’s OK to leave each other in your respective comfort zones, though. When my wife and I first got hitched, it was exhausting. Because of our school and job commitments, we lived about four hours apart while we were dating and engaged. When we moved in together, I was determined to (1) keep the apartment presentable, (2) keep her entertained, and (3) remain a gracious host.
That was the problem, though: I was “hosting” someone in her own home. After two weeks of painful, constant checking and rechecking to make sure she was happy, that she was comfy, and that there was never a lull in conversation or awkward silence, I collapsed. She let me down easy. “You know, we can do our own things at home,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we’re drifting apart.”
My whole body sighed with relief. Since then, our apartment has been an odd tableau of modern romance: Her in the bedroom, buried under a mountain of covers and chocolate wrappers bingeing season 37 of whatever serial killer/true crime/DNA forensic documentary with dramatic reenactments is currently streaming, and me in the living room, lounging on the couch while sketching on my tablet and listening to some sci-fi audiobook I’m too old for. Separate rooms, separate shows, but not separate lives. She’ll dig herself out of bed and steal a kiss from me on the way to the fridge for a snack. I’ll come in and give her a hug (often as a pretext to steal some chocolate, but still). Shouting “I love you!” randomly from separate rooms doesn’t mean you’re distant. You’re just different.
Approach is key
Over the years, we discovered that not only are our interests different, but we also differ widely in our approaches to certain problems. As you get the hang of each other’s approach patterns, you’ll learn how to see the world—or at least the problem at hand—through each other’s eyes. Adapt to each other’s approaches; see the points in their argument, not just yours. And for God’s sake, say sorry. A quick “I’m sorry” can do wonders in the short and long term.
Fights happen, and when they do, most can wait till morning. Whoever told you “never go to bed angry” never had 18 credit hours in a semester, a part-time job, and/or a newborn to juggle in one night. Your head will be clearer, and you’re less likely to say something you’ll regret. Agree to postpone the debate until the light of day.
It’s complementary, my dear Watson
So let’s see: If your interests are different and your approaches to problems are different, it stands to reason that your strengths and weaknesses will be different, too, right? This is true of most couples—we all play to our strengths, after all—but since you’re already polar opposites, you’ve gotten some practice in adapting to each other. Let your partner take up the slack where you’re lacking, especially if she’s better than you at negotiating with salespeople or setting up the WiFi.
My wife is not afraid of a little conflict, and we use that to our advantage. She’s not afraid to make a little fuss to get the check from a distracted waiter or gun it a bit to get the good parking spot. I, on the other hand, tend to lean more on the more demure side. I’m the diplomat: I can usually prevent a disagreement from spiraling into something much worse, and that skill set has its place, too. Cooler heads should always prevail when speaking to a landlord, professor, or the cop who just caught you speeding. As you each play to your respective strengths, you’ll find that your skills complement each other quite well and make you a stronger unit.
It hasn’t always been a smooth ride for us. And sure, there are some collaborations we’ll miss out on. I’m never going to help her publish a biology paper in a scientific journal. She’s never going to help me write and publish a best-selling children’s book. There are some things we’ll do on our own. But not alone.
But one collaboration we’ll always be proud of is our son. We joked early on in our relationship that since we’re so different, our kids will be very well-rounded. God, I hope so. Our son will certainly have all his bases covered after school: Need help with chemistry homework? Talk to Mom. Need fresh eyes to help out with that English paper? Papa’s right here.
Boom. I couldn’t be happier that I married someone so different.
Spencer Bugg draws upon extensive training in a myriad of multimedia disciplines and six years of experience designing for various clients across a wide spectrum of industries and interests that bring a creative flair and professional polish to any project. He obtained a bachelor of fine arts in illustration from Brigham Young University. When he’s not drawing, animating, or designing, his interests range from Australian history to wild raptor aviculture to Turkish cuisine. He and his wife have a python that loves to cuddle and a monitor lizard that loves to bite.