I’m fully aware the reason couples break up is no one else’s business. But when I hear ex-couples say, “We’re two different people,” I always want to ask a million questions. What does that really mean? Whatever happened to the idea that opposites attract? We are all different people at the end of the day. So, is there truth in this statement, or is it a cop-out to avoid managing differences in a relationship?
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Instead of annoying recently single people with my nosey questions, I asked a few experts. Additionally, I asked if there’s any truth to the idea that opposites attract. Experts also weighed in on when differences become too much to manage, how much compromise is too much compromise, and more.
Is it possible to have a happy and long-lasting relationship with someone who has completely different interests and opinions?
Experts agree that it is absolutely possible to have a long-lasting, healthy relationship with someone with different interests and opinions. However, each person must be open and willing to understand and accept those differences. “Different interests and opinions are not red flags. It’s how the differences are handled that makes the difference between a tumultuous and a healthy relationship,” says Dr. Laura F. Dabney. A mutual agreement that no one is right or wrong will go a long way. And if you have a “curious, nonjudgmental stance on your differences, you can really learn to understand all parts of your significant other and feel much more understood by them in return,” says NYC-based psychotherapist Alexis B. Kaufman, LCSW.
However, it’s important to note some difficult differences to work through lie in topics such as marriage, sex, children, money, career goals, and other guiding life beliefs or goals. “You may need to consider if you can be with someone that isn’t aligned,” added Kaufman.
We always hear that “opposites attract,” but how accurate is this?
Let’s think about the storyline we’ve seen repeatedly in books and movies: The good girl and the bad boy fall in love. The story is always the same. They are attracted to one another because their lives are so different, and that feels interesting and exciting. Then, their differences get in the way and cause conflict. Finally, they learn to respect and understand each other for a happy ending. We love this trope.
And it happens in real life all the time, except one requirement for a happy relationship isn’t as easy as it looks in movies: accepting each other’s differences. So yes, experts agree that opposites do attract quite often, but they don’t always stay together. Michele Miller, LCSW of Manhattan Wellness, says, “Opposites in relationships won’t work unless couples are accepting of each other’s differences, including their strengths.”
Every relationship requires compromise and sacrifice, but is it possible to have too much?
Rachel Holzberg, LMSW of Manhatten Wellness, says, “While compromise and sacrifice are natural, we want to make sure that one partner is not self-sacrificing to the point that it feels unbalanced.” For example, balancing time with family can be difficult when you’re in a relationship—especially on holidays. If you find yourself spending time with your partner’s family every holiday instead of your own, this could make you feel there is no balance. “If you notice that you feel resentment toward your partner, it may be a sign that you’re bending too much and no longer feeling like there is room for your needs and interests in the relationship,” says Kaufman.
To maintain a healthy balance of compromise and sacrifice, each person will need to communicate their needs. Then, you can make decisions that are fair and respectful of each person. Dr. Dabney says, “No one person has to, or even should, sacrifice everything to make the other person happy,” and we couldn’t agree more.
Finally, is the statement “we’re two different people” during a breakup a cop-out?
Long story short: “Saying you are ‘two different people’ is only a cop-out if you or your partner don’t take the time to actually explore [your] differences, and how much of a deal breaker they really are,” says Emily Fiorelli, LMSW, of Manhattan Wellness. If you are unwilling to put in the work it takes to create a strong partnership, you will not be able to thrive. This work includes open and honest communication, an equal amount of compromise, and acceptance of the other person’s differences.