The law of attraction has been fueling new relationships for centuries, particularly the law of opposites. The things we are lacking in often look exotic and appealing in others. This leads to the common phenomenon of “opposites attract”, in which we find ourselves in relationships with others with personalities or behaviors seemingly opposite our own.
When I first met my husband, I was enamored with his systematic approach to fun, the way he had a plan and a process for everything, and his logical decision-making. “Systematic” and “logical” would never be words used to describe me. I had found my opposite, and our pairing seemed like the perfect balance of personalities.
After we had been married a few years, I realized my outlook on our “perfect balance” had shifted. I became annoyed with his systematic approach to life. The behaviors and thoughts I once found interesting and creative I now found frustrating and cumbersome. What happened? Why was I put off of the things I once admired?
I have spent many years introspecting and teaching others to do the same for the sake of emotional intelligence growth. Through this, I have learned and taught that the things we consider “opposite” of our personality are actually the areas of our own personalities that are weakest. We are attracted to the traits in others that we lack ourselves. This starts out as a growth opportunity, but can devolve into a “why can’t you be more like me?” scenario in which you resent the other person.
Rather than taking the time to recognize my weakness in the areas my husband was strong, it was much easier to despise those things in him. I found myself scoffing if he made a list for the weekend or put a vacation planner together for us an upcoming trip. In fact, I went as far as to utter phrases such as “why can’t you ask me about my day?” “why don’t you want to talk and be more emotional?” and “why can’t you lift my feelings up?” I thought I was helping him, demonstrating my needs, but what I was actually saying was “why can’t you be more like me?”.
This is where the breakdown in relationships really happens. It is at the point where we have shifted our focus from our partner to our self. When we have decided not to appreciate the things in others we don’t see strongly in ourselves. When our law of opposite attraction has become the law of diminishing returns.
Picture a line drawn on the floor. We want to improve our relationship but the action we take when focused on ourselves is trying to pull the other person over the line to be more like us. The better approach is jumping over the line to be more like them. Learning to appreciate the traits that we don’t possess naturally helps us make better connections with our opposites.
Personality consists of the traits we are naturally wired with, the ones that cause our natural reactions to situations, however our personality doesn’t define us, our character does. Our character is how we act – in spite of our personality towards the world. Both of these are related to, but different from, emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is being able to use or not use our natural personality for good character.
Relationships require work. Relationships require appreciation of perspectives we don’t share. Working closely with those opposite ourselves can quickly shift from interest to annoyance. However taking time to empathize with the motivations behind our opposites is the key to improving our emotional intelligence. By developing the insight and empathy to see opposite personality traits as growth opportunities for ourselves, we develop a stronger emotional intelligence and in turn, better relationships.