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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Opposites Attract...BEWARE!

This week's assessment comes from someone who wishes to remain anonymous. It's great timing that I can feature it this week, as it's right in line with the personality type series I'm doing! (Access the personality type overview here.)

Anonymous wrote in with a simple question: What personality types generally attract each other?

What a fitting question with Valentine's Day just around the corner. *sigh* If only there was a simple answer. Since people are so varied in what attracts them, it would stand to reason that there isn't a formula to spout for what type attracts what type.

We base who we find attractive on several factors: looks, age, race, religion, educational level, geographic location, social class, familial obligations, and financial status. With these components, the old adage "like is attracted to like," comes into play. We generally want to be with someone around the same age, who adheres to the same faith or lack thereof, who comes from our ethnic and cultural background because they are more likely to be like us, and who lives in the same area, as that is infinitely preferable.

But all those things can attract on an outward level. Once a person finds out that someone makes over $100,000 a year, or that they are a Christian, or that they hold a PhD in physics, or that they have the right social connections, then they decide to move forward with getting to know the person. At that point, personality becomes a factor, and this is when the old adage, "opposites attract," comes more into play. Indeed, people who are the exact same on more complex personality tests (like Myers-Briggs) are highly unlikely to marry each other.

In general, we are attracted to people who have strengths where we have weaknesses. For example, a Beaver, who is so meticulous and detailed, might fall for a Lion, someone who sees the big picture. Or a outgoing Otter might be attracted to an loyal, introverted Golden Retriever. It's exciting to reconcile differences...encountering someone just like ourselves would be boring.

Once two people pair off, then what commonly happens is a "honeymoon" period. Your mate can do no wrong during this time (or at least you can't see the flaws as readily). But inherent in the very idea of opposites attracting is opposition. Eventually, the opposition becomes greater and greater and you'll find yourself trying to change them to conform to your personality. This is called the Pygmalion Project.

Depending on which resource you read, Pygmalion was a Cyprian artist who, upon not finding a woman to be his equal, began to create a sculpture. He worked long and hard to make the statue perfect, and when he was done, he fell in love with it. According to legend, Aphrodite took pity on him and brought the statue to life. Pygmalion and Galatea were married and had a child.

Of course, the analogy today is that people try to change their mates/spouses to be who they want them to be. Even good marriages have this as an irritant, but it's also a huge factor is break-ups and divorces. It's something we've all tried (if not with a mate, than with a child). This really does great damage to the relationship. It tells the other person that they aren't enough just as they are. Of course, our mates also try to conform on their own, in a way to please us. But this is when we look at our relationship in a few months or years and wonder where the zzzzzzing went.

What's the solution? Recognize our impulse to change the other person, and hold our tongues in favor of remembering what attracted us to them in the first place. The more conformation our mate makes in our direction, the less exciting things will be.

So how's that for a roundabout answer to your question, Anonymous? Hope that this gives you--and all my readers--something to chew on.

Q4U: How many of you married/hooked up with someone who is your opposite? Did you try to change them?

Come back tomorrow for a special Wednesday book review and giveaway of Mary DeMuth's memoir, Thin Places!

This service is for fictional characters only, so any resemblance to real life examples is entirely coincidental. Any other fictional character assessment questions can be directed to charactertherapist (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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Jessica Nelson said...

I definitely married my opposite. Heh. And I find him very attractive! *grin* Most of the time... LOL I try hard to love him for who he is and not who I want him to be. Sometimes I'm successful in that, sometimes not.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

i hear you, jessica! me, too, with my dear opposite husband.

Karen Lange said...

In some ways I married my opposite, in some ways not. It makes for an interesting adventure. Once when I was particularly challenged with it all, I remember thinking that I'd rather live with him than without him:)

Katie Ganshert said...

I married my opposite in many ways too. I'm outgoing. I have no problem being the center of attention. Hubby is not outgoing, and HATES being the center of attention.

jackie-a-go-go said...

"Or a outgoing Otter might be attracted to an loyal, introverted Golden Retriever."

That's right! I'm crazy about you!

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.