So, the other day I’m on the bus and I see a young man and a young woman get on together. I assumed they were brother and sister because they looked so much alike and thought, “Aw, that’s nice to see a brother and sister doing stuff together.”
Then they sat down and started canoodling and I had to revise my opinion of their relationship. I suppose they could still have been brother and sister, but let’s assume not. So then I started thinking about how perfectly normal it would be for people to be attracted to people who look like them.
Why shouldn’t it be that very familiarity that draws you together, I thought. You’re both ectomorphs; both have fair skin, light hair; both have small facial features; both have an overbite. These are things you’ve seen in the mirror every day of your life. You know them and are, at least on some level, comfortable with them. So, you see these features in someone else and that person isn’t going to seem like a stranger to you; which has to make them more attractive, right? (This could explain why you so often see older couples who look so much alike – it’s not being together for so long that has turned them into twins, it’s that they looked alike to begin with! Brilliant.)
Makes sense, no? It’s sort of the same principle that comes in to play when you’re forced into close proximity with someone day after day after day — like the workplace. You might not look twice at this person if you’d just met them casually somewhere; you might even think they’re completely unattractive when you first meet. But because you’re together every day and their features become so familiar to you, you eventually begin to find them attractive. Not just their personality — you actually start to find them physically attractive as well. (This would be a good time to switch jobs, by the way. Getting’ down with someone you work with every day is never good, is it?)
Anyway, during this bus ride with these two lovers, who may or may not have also been siblings, I began pondering the notion of opposites attracting and who would have come up with such a notion and why.
Because it can’t be true, can it? Surely the best relationships are between people who have more similarities than differences? Of course, clones would probably bore each other to death, but there must be some fundamentals that couples need to have in common in order to succeed as couples, no? Can people who are opposite in these fundamentals be compatible for the long haul?
- Introvert/Extrovert: One likes to go out and be with people, talk, party, have fun. The other likes privacy, quiet, reading.
- Ingrained Personal Habits: One is punctual, clean, tidy, efficient, exercises, an early bird, eats well, takes care of him/herself, focused on career. The other is a slob, always late, a procrastinator, a night owl, a couch potato, junk food lover, chronically jobless.
- Sex: One of you thinks twice a year is perfect. The other feels deprived at twice a day. And the problem with this one is that you don’t really settle into your natural pattern until way late in the relationship.
- Money – A biggie. One likes to save, invest, make money grow, spends carefully. The other wants to live for today and blow whatever money there is on fun, vacations and cool stuff.
- Education/Profession: Let’s say one is a scientist and the other a street performer. Neither would be able to understand what the other really spends most of his/her day doing. What would you talk about?
- Background: Most often people with a similar social class, culture, family structure, geography end up together. First because you are more likely to meet someone of your own background than someone from a very different background. And, people with similar backgrounds have similar frames of reference from which to build a relationship. (That being said, however, as the world shrinks this seems to be becoming less and less of an issue).
- Philosophy: This would include politics, religion, personal values. Can a vegetarian be with someone whose favourite restaurant is The Keg? Can someone with a very socialistic, humanitarian attitude be with someone who is a stodgy, conservative corporate person?
- Family: Is family important? Yours. Theirs. Does one live a very family-centered life and the other has been estranged from their family forever? Does one want kids and the other has no desire to have kids?
- Physical Attractiveness: Do you ever see couples where one is gorgeous, fit, confident, well turned-out and the other is the exact opposite? No, not often. (Teenagers don’t count since the girls all look pretty good, while a good-looking teenaged boy is a rarity. Seriously, is there anything more awkward, gawky, gangly, spotty, slouchy, scruffy and dopey than a teenaged boy?)
- Gender: One is male, one is female. How do two people ever work their way through this vast abyss? Ha ha ha…
- Sense of Humour: For me this should be at the top of the list. If you can’t laugh at the same things and make each other laugh every day, you got nuthin’ – in my opinion. You know sometimes you meet someone and you make what you think is a pretty hilarious remark and they just look at you blankly before continuing on with whatever they were saying? This is when the relationship death knell sounds for me.
Anyway, where am I going with all this? (Who knows, it was a long bus ride. )
Oh yes, back to the opposites attract thing. So, ya, I reckon we need someone similar to ourselves as life partners, but aren’t we also always looking, on some level, for someone to complement us? If we’re an introvert, we may need to have someone who will draw us out of ourselves more. If we’re a spendthrift, we would be much better off to have someone who can rein those habits in a bit. If we’re lacking in education or career direction, someone who will encourage us to learn and grow may be just the thing.
Which brings me to a final thought. Flexibility. (No, not that kind you, guttersnipes). I think differences in a relationship can be okay as long as both people are flexible. As long as both can compromise a little without feeling resentful for it. And while that sounds really nice in theory, I find it’s a bugger to put into practice. But maybe that’s because I’m inflexible…mentally….which is why I’m single….