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The caveat to dating your polar opposite


You’re shy and reserved. You meet a man who knocks you off your feet, but he’s the type who walks around with a noisemaker in his mouth. It’ll never work out, right? Not so fast.

We’ve all heard the saying “opposites attract,” but what, exactly, does that mean? Should we avoid dating men who share our love of tennis? If we have a dog, should we only date cat lovers? Is it unwise to look for love in your place of business or even in your city?

Much of what we’ve heard about oil and vinegar combining forces to make lettuce a lot less boring is a bit of a mystery. Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist, professor of psychology and author, says when people bring in an opposite, it may seem at first like they have nothing in common, but that the things they do share in common — such as similar backgrounds, expectations and activity levels — are what truly make them an ideal match.

More: Why your significant other might not be your soul mate

“People will attract to an ‘opposite’ because they hold traits that the person doesn’t have and admires, like discipline, circumspection and gregariousness,” Durvasula said. “But, many times, they may be opposites in terms of window dressing, but when it comes to brass tacks — loyalty, commitment — they are similar.”

Durvasula says that in her practice, she has seen couples who strike relationship gold because they are striving for “balance.” A numbers-oriented scientist may appreciate the offset of a creative artist. A woman who works in a male-oriented field may seek a partner who is softer and more feminine than her. A “card-carrying Right Wing Republican” will fall in love with and marry a Socialist Democrat.

As unlikely as these couplings seem, they have happened. And, you have to admit, there would never be a dull moment in any one of these unions.

But the expert cautions that there are times when finding your opposite isn’t healthy or the best advice. Someone who feels empty and is looking for a live spark to “complete” her is never going to find the happiness and satisfaction she seeks in someone else. Likewise, when differences run deeper than just, hey, you’re a vegetarian who eats fish and I like meat and potatoes, it may be more difficult for couples to meet in the middle.

More: 6 Ways couples can use their differences to their advantage

Men and women with opposite interests — she’s a social butterfly and he loves his couch more than life itself — don’t always work as well, according to Durvasula, because that can cut into shared experiences, which can contribute to distance.

With all of that said, sorry guys, love is still one great, big whopping mystery at the end of the day.

“It does come down to connection,” she said. “I have seen taciturn men who didn’t finish high school marrying college professors, and both of them crazy in love. I have seen gals that socialize seven nights a week falling in love with men who don’t own suits and rarely leave the house. If there truly was a formula, it wouldn’t be fun.”

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