Dr. Romance on Relationships 101: Do Opposites Attract?

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Dr. Romance on Relationships 101: Do Opposites Attract?
I often see people drawn to their opposite ‑‑ because it's new and exciting.

Dr. Romance writes: It seems logical that like would attract like, but in my private practice as a marriage counselor and psychotherapist, I often see people drawn to their opposite ‑‑ because it's new and exciting.

However, what’s exciting in the newness of romance often becomes unbearable in the constant contact of a long time relationship.  If you and your partner don’t have a certain degree of similarity, your relationship will be too stressful to last. On the other hand, if you’re too similar, your relationship could be boring. The excitement and challenge of your relationship comes from your differences; the security and ease of your relationship comes from your similarities.

Here are some relationship dynamics you can learn to understand to overcome challenging differences between you and your partner:

Gender differences

Although times are changing, most men and women are socialized differently as children, and these differences can trip us up in romantic relationships. Women's and men's brains, and therefore language processing and reasoning, are organized differently. Cultural anthropologists theorize that it's because of the different survival skills they needed to learn. They maintain it takes different perception, ideation, cognition and communication skills to raise a baby versus hunting down a mammoth. Whatever the case, the differences can be bridged.

The main thing you need to understand is that most women take a meandering mental route, full of emotional (and distracting for men) side trips, which are rich in meaning for the female. It is why research shows that women are so good at multitasking, cooperation and relationship‑building and less focused on reaching a specific goal. Men value competency and problem solving. Women value intimacy and emotional connection. Women, you may think he's focused entirely on time, power, or money, but what he's really trying to do is create enough security that he can feel safe to let his guard down. Men, you might think she's illogical or irrational, but she's responding to emotional cues you haven't been trained to see.

Different Families and/or Cultures

It's not just that "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" ‑‑ it's that all of us have grown up on different planets. Whatever your family did seems "normal" and "right" to you, and couples can get caught up in arguing about who's right rather than focusing on what will work. This is especially difficult in mixed‑culture families. Blended couples have blended children, who need both cultures. Learning to combine traditions, cuisines, and family celebrations can really create a brand new culture that celebrates everyone. When a couple can accomplish this the result is joyful.

Coming Together

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.
Article contributed by
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Dr. Tina Tessina

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Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D.
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Location: Long Beach, CA
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