Do opposites attract? Often they do. It’s extremely common for partners to be temperamentally opposite. Even couples who are not opposites will discover they have some opposite traits. All couples struggle with their opposite traits instead of appreciating their differences. One person may be a loner while the other loves to socialize. One person may like adventure and the other avoids change. One person may be very generous and a spender and the other one very frugal.
What is the key to appreciating differences? The key to handling opposite traits is to make these differences work for you rather than against you. Often the differences which bother a couple are the very traits which attracted them to begin with. During courtship, for example, your partner’s carefree, spontaneous temperament fascinated you. After marriage you view it as impulsive or irresponsible.
After marriage we make the mistake of trying to make our partner behave like us. In order to live together happily we need to respect each other’s personality and realize that it has deep roots in that person’s childhood or even in their inborn temperament. Appreciating differences helps us grow.
How to Appreciate Your Differences
1. Don’t attack each other’s basic personality. Instead, be specific about what bothers you. For example, instead of saying, “You never want to plan anything,” say, “I feel nervous if I don’t know ahead of time what we’re going to do.”
2. Be adaptable. For example, experiment with doing some things on impulse that your spouse wants to do. If both of you are willing to modify the extreme aspects of your styles, both will have learned from each other and will have grown in the process.
3. Communicate about the ways in which your styles differ and how you are willing to adapt. A wife might, for example, let her partner know she is fearful of anger. He may then agree to control his anger by cooling down before attempting to talk about an issue. You may realize that you admire your partner’s ability to express feelings. He may realize that he admires your self-control. The trick to getting along and to your growth as individuals is to recognize that there are some benefits to the other person’s approach as well as some draw backs to your own.
Problems occur when couples are unable to appreciate their differences and when either individual only operates in one fixed way. Someone who is spontaneous or impulsive all the time leads a chaotic life. Someone who plans everything ahead would not know how to relax on a vacation. I hope these ideas help you learn the importance of appreciating differences.
Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them. Proverbs 18:15 NLT
This article originally appeared on my Faith Notes blog.