Opposites attract, but can they stay together?

They had telephoned and e-mailed for several months and gotten to know each quite well. When they met for the first time, it was like an encounter between friends – comfortable, warm and, yes, there was that magic spark. Paul was retired and financially comfortable. An avid golfer, he spent about six months every year in sunny Arizona to pursue his favorite sport. Kate, a native of Phoenix, was a lively divorcee running her very successful interior design business. Both single boomers were seeking a permanent relationship.

Kate’s energy and aliveness were captivating Paul immediately. He loved listening to her latest professional ventures and was impressed with how well she had organized her business and private life. In the attraction department bells were ringing from the very beginning. They also discovered that they shared a number of interests such as music, the arts, fine dining, and they came from similar family backgrounds. But four months later they called it quits and decided to part as friends.

What she says “He likes that I have a beautiful home and can entertain in style. The reason I can afford
my lifestyle is because of my business. I enjoy it and have no intention of giving it up. He plays golf three times a week. That doesn’t bother me, but I feel that I carry the major load in the relationship. I stimulate most conversations – not much happens in his life on the golf course.

“Because he spends so much time there and likes to travel to different golf locations on his vacation, his interests are limited, and his friends are golfers. He expects me to make life exciting – give dinner parties, arrange our weekends, create our social life. It’s too one-sided. A partner is supposed to enlarge your life, not make it smaller. The best thing about our relationship was our sexual life. But that wasn’t enough. Life before Paul was more varied, more fun.”

His side of the story “I need a woman who is far more available. Kate works too much, her business consumes her. I like to have someone around me, just being in the same room, talking, reading. Frankly, I want more attention from a woman, more closeness.

Though I like that she has her own money, and I don’t have to be responsible for her expenses, I wish she didn’t work.” What this pair should do Paul and Kate had too little in common to overcome their differences in lifestyle and life values. Besides, there was not enough incentive on either side to make the necessary changes that could have provided the basis of a life together.

Most psychiatrists today agree that it is shared values, common beliefs, values and lifestyles that are a prerequisite to building a viable relationship. The more similarity exists, the better the prognosis for a positive outcome. So how do we get there? Self-knowledge is the key. The most important ingredient in building a harmonious life with someone else is to deeply understand one’s one likes, needs and character, and feel good about who we are.

To know what’s important to us and what we can or cannot accept in another person or living situation is fundamental to living a happy life. Recently an attractive single professional asked me for advice on how to meet his future love. “I was stuck in a very unhappy marriage for thirty years. I don’t want to make another mistake.”

“What makes you happy?” I asked him. “Frankly,” he said, “I have never thought about it.”
I realized then that he had no idea how to be in touch with his feelings or create a harmonious life. How could he possibly expect to find the woman of his dreams or build a new life if he didn’t even know his how he felt? The advice I have given many friends is to write down the vision of your life in great detail and review it from time to time. In order of importance, list the qualities, values and activities you love.

What is important, where and how do you expect to live? What do you expect from a partner? What is essential and what issues are negotiable? What are the “must have” ingredients in your life that make you happy?  Then list all your inner qualities, character traits and assets (such as debt free, homeowner) that make you a good partner. When you meet a new person and start considering life together, review your list and think about it.

Are you really compatible? Do the “shared categories” between you outweigh the differences? Or are you willing to make changes to accommodate your contrary views or preferences?
While there are always exceptions to the rule, overwhelmingly most of the scientific data suggests that similarity will give you a better chance to building an enduring, caring connection.

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Jacqueline Brandwynne has worked in the health and beauty industry for more than 25 years and is creator of the Very Private line of products. Visit her at veryprivate.com.