Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Do Opposites Really Attract?

It certainly works with magnets, but people? 

Try to put the matching sides of two magnets together and it just doesn't work, no matter how you try. But if you turn one of them around so the opposite sides are facing each other, it can be hard to get them apart.

According to the Internet match-making sites out there, young people say they are searching for partners who are just like they are. They say want someone with all the same interests, hobbies, background, likes and dislikes.

But studies of mature couples who have been together for many years show that the partners tend to be complementary. Each supplies something that the other lacks or needs. Together, the two of them become whole.

Too much alike?

I once dated a guy who was very similar to me in so many ways: we went to the same places, did the same things, ate the same food, we were even both divorced and each had a pre-school son. It was OK for about six months, but then I realized that he was thinking we were the perfect couple and I was becoming bored to death.

Losing ourselves in the relationship

Like so many women, I have often found myself in situations where I have adapted to a partner to help things work. It happens a little bit at a time - one thing here and another there. After a while, I always came to realize that I had changed so much that I didn't even know who I was anymore. The person I had become had little to do with the real person inside of me. I had almost forgotten the hopes and dreams that I had for myself.

Discovering myself again

After my second divorce in 1992, I chose to avoid being in a relationship so I could remember what it was like to enjoy being myself. It was wonderful to make my own decisions and live exactly as I wanted for the first time in my life. I finally got to go to college at age 40. It was amazing! I loved every minute of it and graduated with distinguished honors. Then I started a business that allowed me to develop the artist inside of me and support myself, too. Once the kids were grown, I was able to make the huge step of retiring to Mexico without having to consult with anyone but myself. I finally decided that if I wanted to really be me and live the life I chose, I'd better stay to stay single.

But. . .

By the time I'd retired, I had started missing having someone to share my life with. I had given up on the idea of it ever happening, and, of course, that's when I found the best partner I've ever had. And he is certainly nothing like me! East coast - west coast. Tall - short. Athletic - intellectual/artist. Extrovert - introvert. Republican - democrat. TV - books & Internet. Meat & potatoes - vegetarian. I never would have thought it possible that we'd get along so well.

We both realize that we each fill in something that is lacking in the other. I tend to hide out at home and he's the socializer who gets me out once in a while with other people. I'm his secretary and he's my fix-it guy. He taught me to fish and is proud of the fact that I can out-fish most of the guys we know. He likes to think he's helping when he gives his opinion when I'm trying to decide between two fabrics for a quilt. He can reach the stuff in the high cupboards while I can easily bend down to the low ones. He gives me peace and quiet to write and I join him on fall Saturdays to watch some college football. I cook vegetarian meals and he makes himself some meat to go with it. He bought us both Nooks and has learned how to check the fishing weather on the computer. Neither of us is going to change political parties, but we can agree to disagree and just not talk about it.

We give each other plenty of space to be ourselves, yet we are always there for each other. We actually spend a lot of time apart - he's at the coast fishing while I'm at home in the mountains. I join him for two weeks each month and we talk on the phone every evening we are apart. I encourage him to going fishing and play tennis and have a few beers with the guys, and he watches with interest when I paint or draw or design a quilt.

The moral of my story

The main thing is to not try to change or control the other person. I like what Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk,says: "The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers."

We have to take care of our flowers to keep them happy. Pay attention to what they need, or want - what is important to them. That's what we do when we first start dating, so why do we so often forget that we get out of a relationship pretty much what we put into it?

And don't forget to water your flower tonight.


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