Beware when opposites attract

From the book ” Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships” by Drs.Henry Cloud & John Townsend.

” He is so strong and I’m so insecure.”

” She’s a people person and I’m into my own space.”

” He’s good at making money and I’m good at spending it.”

” She is confident and I need reassurance.”

” He’s everything I’m not. He completes me.”


Completion. At our deepest part, we all want and need it. To be complete is to become whole, without deficit, or undivided. At some level, most of us are aware that we do not possess completion, that we are unfinished and not what we should be. Yet there is within us a God-given desire to find the missing pieces that will finish us. This desire drives us toward relationships and experiences that will help us attain completion. Yes, as we will see, this desire can also be confused with the desires of dating and mating, and bad things can happen.

This is the problem of the “opposite attract” mentality. The thinking is that you bring to the table certain qualities, and your date brings the opposite qualities. The result of your relationship is that you both end up better off; the sum is greater than the parts. For example, you may be careful but sometimes indecisive person. You fall in love with a guy who knows what he wants and goes for it. You may think, What a good fit! He can help me learn to know what I want and go after it!

The Problem of Opposite Attractions

We should use and appreciate the abilities of those who have what we don’t. However, the danger occurs when we make opposing styles or abilities a basis for relationships. At the outset of the relationship, this may seem like a good thing. You are complementing each other. You each provide what the other needs. You are stimulated by the other’s different point of view.

However, the danger of going for an opposite-type person is this: opposite-driven relationships often confuse dependency with true love. That is, people may feel intense longings and attractions for an “opposite” person. They may appreciate the “completion” they feel with that person. But they run the risk of simply needing that person for those functions, and never giving the true loving feelings any relationship needs to grow and flourish. Dependency is only part of love. It is not the full expression of love. The full expression of love is to give back from a full heart.

For example, Lindsey was more of a lover than a fighter. She was good at caring and connecting with others, but she had a hard time with assertiveness and conflict. It seemed she often ended  up having to put up with maltreatment or inconsiderateness from others. She was a nice person, and therefore a magnet for irresponsible persons.

Lindsey started dating Alex, who was her opposite in this area. Alex was strong, confident, and had no problems entering into conflict for what he believed was right. He had clear moral and spiritual values, was successful in his career, and took initiative to solve his problems. Lindsey was attracted to Alex’s strength. She was even more smitten when it helped her own life. For example, Lindsey’s apartment manager neglected to have an electrical wiring problem repaired after she had made several requests. She mentioned the problem to Alex over dinner. The next day, he had called her manager. Lindsey never found out what he said to him, but the wiring was fixed within twenty-four hours. She was elated,grateful, and even more attracted to Alex. He certainly had other good qualities, such as being caring, responsible,and funny. But she felt a lot of relief when she encountered conflicts that Alex would handle for her.

The relationship continued to grow and deepen. However, Lindsey began relying more and more on Alex to enter into conflict that she felt ill-equipped to deal with. He negotiated with her garage mechanic over problems with her car. He talked to her boss about her weekend work hours. He even confronted her mother on how she used guilt to get Lindsey to make inopportune visits.

Finally,the confrontational Alex sat Lindsey down for their own confrontation. He explained, ” I really love you, but I’m starting to feel some resentment. I don’t mind helping you; it makes me feel useful. But with some of these relationships you are afraid of dealing with, I’m feeling more used than useful.”

Lindsey understood what Alex was saying. She had been utilizing the “opposite-thinking” mentality to keep from working on her own growth- specifically, her fear of conflict,anger, and arguments. She agreed that she had been using Alex without realizing it, and she began working on assertiveness in her support group at church.

[…] Often, we date and want  “opposite” people because we do not want to do the work of developing for ourselves what the other person does well. Whatever her opposite trait is, it appears easier to appreciate,admire, and use hers rather than to grow in that area. It is a matter of not taking ownership of what we need to repair or develop in our character. And this is the essence of the opposite issue. It is not really about the other person. It is about using another person to avoid dealing with our own souls. When we decide to stop piggybacking on someone else’s strengths, they are not the problem. We are. And growth can begin.

Cloud, Henry, and John Sims Townsend. “Beware When Opposites Attract.”Boundaries in Dating: Making Dating Work. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000. N. pag. Print.

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