Opposites Attract

Dec 09, 2011 |Kara Schwab

Magnets only work when they're facing polar opposites — maybe they're trying to teach us something.

"No Hon. Listen! Lift your left side, my right, about 35 degrees—"

"Wait—my what?"

"No, my right! At an angle. Lift!"

"A right angle? Or, your right?"

"Right! Your left! Tilt your left end to the right. C'mon! Walk it backwards to the south east corner."

"The south wha? Where?"

"Just walk it 70 degrees caddy corner to the table. On three!"

"Caddy who? I thought we were going over there."

"We are, but it would be easier to maneuver it perpendicular to the coffee table if we rotate it 90 degrees counter clockwise past the north part of the hutch."

"Uh, yeah I guess you could call that easy if I had my high school protractor handy."

"Well, c'mon, what do you want me to do? Just shove it?"

Don't worry. I didn't answer that question. Yes, I realized the honeymoon was definitely over the first time I moved a couch across a room with my husband. While his scientific brain is computing and calculating and collating the data and degrees of difficulty and the trickiness of twists and turns, I'm thinking to myself, let's just start pushing the thing over there!

Ah yes, furniture rearranging. Just one example of how my husband and I see—and do—things differently.

He likes to watch golf on TV. I find that as interesting as plucking my eyebrows.

His car is immaculate. You could feed a young family of four off the remains of Happy Meals on the floor of mine.

He likes to save money. I like to save money while impulse shopping the sale rack.

He's very diplomatic. And I'm, well ... I'm Italian.

He likes to contemplate the speed of light and space and wrinkles in time. I can't understand Mountain Time vs. Central Time.

I read all the time. He reads all the sports scores off the Internet.

I'm easy going in traffic. He vows to join the NRA in traffic.

I'm more like Tigger. He's more like Eyeore.

I view napping as a hobby. He'd rather watch golf on TV.

It's funny how the longer we're married ... the more I realize how different we are. Some may even say we're proof that opposites attract. I wonder about this. Looking back, I don't remember dating Jeff and thinking, "Boy, now there's my opposite. Whooooweee, am I attracted." I just felt drawn to him. I didn't really notice that we were so different. I appreciated what I saw in him. Maybe that's because a lot of the great qualities I saw in him were things I lacked.

The theory that opposites attract has been around for centuries. Personalitypage.com says, "We are naturally attracted to individuals who are different from ourselves and therefore somewhat exciting. But it's not just the exciting differences that attract us to our opposites. It's also our natural quest for completion."

Perhaps it's true that we're naturally drawn to those who have strengths we're missing. Which makes it easy to understand how two opposites could become more well-rounded when they function together as a couple—especially when the Lord brings them together.

Carl Jung first developed the theory that individuals have a psychological type. Made even more popular by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality tests, the theory suggests that there are two basic kinds of "functions" people use in their lives: how we perceive information and how we make decisions. Within these two categories there are two opposite ways of functioning and relating to the world. We can either process information with our senses (using objective logic)—can you say, "my husband?" — or with our intuition (through subjective feelings), the method I am most drawn to.

Research from Personalitypage.com suggests, "Although we are attracted to people who are very different from us in the way we deal with the world, we are most attracted to others who have a similar focus in their lives. Couples who have the same dominant function in their personalities seem to have the longest and happiest relationships."

Well, that pretty much blows my husband and me out of the water. We couldn't score more differently on that test. He shows up as a Scientist-type and I'm the Artist. I see the huge canvas of life while he focuses on the individual brush strokes.

One night we were expecting out of town guests for the weekend and the house was a wreck. I enlisted my husband's help about an hour before they arrived asking, "Would you mind finishing up the kitchen? I'll get everything else, okay?" He assured me he could do it. So, after an hour of frantically cleaning bedrooms, scouring bathrooms, changing sheets in the guest room, vacuuming and pulling myself together, I was horrified to walk into the kitchen and realize it was messier than when I'd seen it last.

"Whoops-a-daisy. What happened here?" I asked in disbelief, looking at the clock, then at my husband, who was grinning sheepishly.

"Well, uh ... I organized the junk drawer," he replied a bit nervously.

On the bright side, my husband has an amazing attention to detail—something I totally lack. I'll admit, I can whip a house into shape very quickly ... but you may not want to open the closet doors for fear of causing an avalanche of who-knows-what on your head. (Jeff likes to have our guests sign a hold-harmless waiver before putting their coats in our front closet.)

One personality test we took rated conscientiousness. He scored off the charts; my score was so low it landed somewhere on the floor. But that doesn't mean we can't have a happy, successful marriage. In fact, during an incredible marriage retreat we attended last year, we learned the leaders and their spouses were each polar opposites.

Through wry little glances and knowing smiles, they shared how over the years they experienced the challenges of learning to accept each other's differences, admitting it wasn't easy. But they also said that with time, they couldn't help but discover sweetness beyond the initial thrill and excitement of being attracted to their opposite. They shared how God has used their differences to sharpen them, transform their wills, help them learn to sacrifice and give to each other. Their fruitful ministry together was proof of how God used their different strengths to reach out to others.

Which makes me wonder about all the people who've found love on those online matchmaking sites touting a scientifically proven matching system for finding a compatible mate. I don't know about you ... but as a single person, I was looking for much more than compatibility. Aren't you? I mean, what ever happened to fireworks?

Don't get me wrong, compatibility is important. And I'm not knocking the fact that you can "find the love of your life" online. (I have several friends who fell in love with the help of Internet matchmaking services and know a few who even got married.) I'm just wondering how many "opposites" are allowed to be attracted to one another if total compatibility is the goal. Maybe those services are missing something.

If you find the Lord is drawing you to a person who seems your opposite, I say, "Yeeeeeeha!" Get ready to experience thrills that (in my humble opinion) far exceed mere compatibility. But be prepared for challenges, too. You'll have to work a bit harder to communicate; learn to listen with your heart. You'll have to check your expectations. And you'll have to learn to accept the differences initial infatuation can mask or downplay. Then watch and see how your different strengths will help you experience true joy and depth in your love and in serving others.

Whether you're attracted to the opposite or flocking together like birds of a feather, the key is prayerfully trusting God to unite you with the person He's chosen for you. That way, no matter how similar or different your personalities, you'll be with the one you're meant to be with—even if that means moving furniture together tends to be a bit hairy. Hey, just ask a neighbor for help. I do.

Copyright 2005 Kara Schwab. All rights reserved.

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