When Opposites Attract: The Formula To A Satisfying Relationship

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Relationships: Can Opposites Have A Successful Relationship
Often people talk about how similarities help a relationship be satisfying, but so can differences.

Normally, relationship experts talk about how similarities help to make a relationship satisfying. However, there are those happy couples that you know where you ask yourself how they have stayed together because they are so different from each other.

When I was in my teenage years, I flew across the Atlantic fairly regularly; first when my family lived overseas, and then as I continued to study over there. The flight market between the United States and the United Kingdom has changed dramatically since then, offering challenges to the continued presence of Delta and Virgin Atlantic. In response these two airlines have formed an alliance, despite their many differences. During the first days of April 2014, the two Richards (airline CEOs) went on NPR to talk about this.

 

As they talked about what they had done, how they had experienced it and why they were doing it, clear parallels for couples were very present.

Understanding Differences Going In
Delta and Virgin Atlantic were two very different airlines. Their culture and what their customers expected of them were entirely different. By openly acknowledging this, the airlines worked out how they would function with each other very differently than if they did not acknowledge their differences.

If two people are very different, one key to their relationship being satisfying is for them to understand their differences and to plan on how this will be honored in their relationship. For example, on a practical basis if one person is a night owl and the other is a morning person who goes to bed early in the evening — how will these two work out sleeping schedules that do not disturb each other and when will they be planning to be awake with each other in bed? By understanding the differences and not trying to overlook them, the couple is able to plan so that these do not become barriers to their satisfaction.

Consider Needs For Self Survival
Richard Branson (Virgin Atlantic) was very open that the alliance of British Airways and American Airlines was dominating this particular market. He talked about the alliance being his way of countering British Airways and ensuring that there remains competition and alternatives to what British Airways offers. In fact, people had wagered that Virgin Airlines would no longer be in existence five years from now. The alliance between the airlines was needed for his airline to survive.

Similarly, one or both of the people who are very different from each other may require things that the other person brings in order to survive. Fulfilling the need for self survival is not enough to have a satisfying relationship, but it does provide a base on which a satisfying relationship can be built. Knowing that the other person has given you what you need to survive is a positive part of that base.

Think About What Can Be Accomplished Together That Can't Be Accomplished Apart
When the members of a couple are very different then they each bring a different set of gifts, skills and backgrounds to the relationship. If they are careful in the way that that these are used then it is possible that they can accomplish together things that they could never have accomplished on their own. However, this is only possible if they are willing to see how their relative strengths can come together and can be used in relationship to each other. To allow this to happen requires that neither person be closed off from seeing how the other person's gifts can interact with their own gifts.

Importance of a Unified Banner
One of the challenges that a relationship between people who are totally different from each other is that the differences can pull them apart. For these types of relationships to be satisfying, it is important for each of the partners to agree to come under a unified banner. This banner may maintain the identities of the two partners or it may be something that describes the new relationship. However, in what is done, there needs to be an understanding of how the new reality is one that focuses on the relationship that brings the two together.

Take Changes Slowly To Allow Each Partner To Adjust To Important Parts From the Other
There will be an adjustment to really form the relationship. Even things that are important contributions that one person brings will take time for the other person to accept and embrace. Whereas things that are similar can be embraced quickly, changes around differences need to be taken much more slowly. However, if the partners are willing to have patience in how they deal with things, then over time the relationship will develop so that the important parts are embraced and a strong base is prepared that will allow it to be a satisfying relationship.

Learn From Failures After Previous Honeymoons
In the case of the airlines, Virgin Atlantic had previously been in an alliance with Singapore Air. However, that relationship failed after an initial honeymoon period. Branson has spoken about lessons that he learned from that failure and how this means that Virgin Atlantic is entering into its relationship with Delta in a different way.

Similarly, those who are entering into a relationship can learn from the failures that occurred after previous honeymoon periods. If the partners are entering into the relationship without blinders on and have done the work that they need to do that will stop them from making the same mistakes as in the past then a base for a satisfying relationship may be laid.

Just because two people are totally different from each other does not mean that they have to clash with each other. In fact totally different people can build a satisfying relationship if they are careful and intentional about how the relationship is built. In so doing, they are able to experience peace and wholeness in their lives and in their relationship.

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Article contributed by
Advanced Member

The Rev. Christopher L. Smith

Marriage and Family Therapist

The Rev. Christopher L. Smith, LCAC, LMHC, LMFT has served as a national leader around mental health issues both within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and in professional counseling organizations.  He works directly with individuals, couples, families and supervisees as the Clinical Director of Seeking Shalom in New York City.  He also brings his insight to help a wider audience through writing, speaking and consultations.

Location: New York, NY
Credentials: LAC, LMFT, LMHC, MDiv
Specialties: Couples/Marital Issues, Forgiveness, Spiritual
Other Articles/News by The Rev. Christopher L. Smith:

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