Why Do Opposites Attract?

It happens.  Often.  We’re attracted to someone who has strengths that we wish we had or someone who looks at life through a very different set of lenses than our own.

Why does it happen?  Is it a good thing?  The answers depend on the motivations behind the attraction.  Are you grasping at a characteristic in someone  in order to not have to own and nourish that characteristic in yourself OR are you attracted in the hopes of developing that strength yourself?

Our personality type (if you don’t know yours, take this test and remember your letters) reveals very important traits about how we perceive the world around us and then how we express ourselves. There are eight categories of this in-take/out-take of our environment.  Depending on our personality type, we have a first preference and a secondary preference in these categories.  Our primary preference begins developing with our first thoughts and actions as infants.  As we mature, our secondary attitude should develop, but many of us end up clinging to the primary and not allowing our secondary its due presence in our personality.   Below are the primary and secondary attitude preferences for all the personality types.  Look for your letters:

…… TYPE …………. Dominant ……………. Secondary …….

  • ENFP         Extroverted Intuition        Introverted Feeling
  • INFP          Introverted Feeling            Extroverted Intuition
  • ENTP         Extroverted Intuition        Introverted Thinking
  • INTP          Introverted Thinking         Extroverted Intuition
  • ESFJ          Extroverted Feeling            Introverted Sensation
  • ISFJ           Introverted Sensation       Extroverted Feeling
  • ESTJ          Extroverted Thinking         Introverted Sensation
  • ISTJ           Introverted Sensation        Extroverted Thinking
  • ESFP          Extroverted Sensation       Introverted Feeling
  • ISFP           Introverted Feeling             Extroverted Sensation
  • ESTP          Extroverted Sensation        Introverted Thinking
  • ISTP           Introverted Thinking          Extroverted Sensation
  • ENFJ          Extroverted Feeling            Introverted Intuition
  • INFJ           Introverted Intuition         Extroverted Feeling
  • ENTJ          Extroverted Thinking         Introverted Intuition
  • INTJ           Introverted Intuition         Extroverted Thinking

(If you want a more detailed explanation of these characteristics visit this post.)

If we enter an “opposites” relationship, we’re attracted to an attitude that is not our primary.  If we haven’t developed our secondary processing, we’ll rely on our partner to “live out” that part we’re missing, hence creating a partnership that is symbiotic (a relationship between two people in which each person is dependent upon and receives reinforcement, whether beneficial or detrimental, from the other) rather than relational (a truly healthy bond consisting of both partners being interested in learning and expanding a relationship so that it continues to improve).

At first, symbiotic relationships give us a sense of well-being, a sense of being fulfilled; both persons rely on each other to become a complete “whole”.  We embrace expectations of this fulfillment making us “happy ever after”, but this is an unrealistic and unsustainable lifestyle.  Once the honeymoon phase is over, one of two things happen: 1) the relationship stagnates and both partners live “as is” forever, never growing nor maturing, eventually drifting apart as they cling to their primary attitude and pursue different life interests or 2) one of the partners starts growing and developing their secondary process and hold an expectation of the other to do the same, hence threatening the delicate balance of the partnership.

So, how do we move from a two-dimensional symbiotic alliance to a multi-dimensional  relational kinship?  The answer’s very simple: give up the expectation of our partner making us a whole being.  This feat can’t be accomplished in one huge leap; it requires small steps.  Surrender a small expectation you have of your partner.  Examples: -If you rely on your partner to control the social part of the relationship, initiate an engagement on your own; -if you rely on your partner to make all the money decisions, take over a portion of it; -if you rely on your partner to do all the communicating with family and friends, start opening your mouth more often; -etc..  Take a small step, own it, develop it, with no expectations of your partner – you’ll be amazed at the liberation you feel.  Most likely, your partner will appreciate this simple step and will reciprocate by taking a small step to try something they had previously left exclusively to you.  Before long, you’ll both have taken enough steps that you can walk side-by-side instead of joined-at-the-hip or going opposite directions.

If the “opposites partnership” is a relational one or becomes a relational one, both partners embrace that characteristic that drew them to their partner and then allow themselves to develop that strength in their own personality creating  a solid life-long bond.  The partnership becomes a rich tapestry of both persons’ attitudes – a beautiful, intricate design weaving together the differences of each individual and even more… a third dimension emerges – one born of the varied relationship; it envelopes like a frame of priceless jewel surrounding the ever-expanding tapestry.

7 thoughts on “Why Do Opposites Attract?

  1. Hiya Debi! Nice to *meet* you over at Gotham and here. I just started a new author blog, and I’ll add yours to mine.

    I’ll have to take that personality test again. I think I was an INTJ, but can’t remember for sure. I’m an introvert to the nth degree, though, and have been trying to convert myself for years 😉

    1. Mysti,

      I want to read your novelette! I wasn’t able to find it, though. I’m so impressed that you’ve published.

      We’re both up for this week’s booth. Did you submit early?

      As soon as your blog is up and running, send me the address – can’t wait to see it.

      I’m very much an introvert, but now that I’m guilty of middle age, I find extroversion pushing itself into my personality. It’s kinda fun.


  2. It’s up and running, not that long running, but it’s going nonetheless. You can see it at mystiparker@blogspot.com.

    The link for my novelette is here: http://www.midnightshowcase.com/midnight/HeartsTomorrow.htm

    I’m only hoping to improve from here on out. I’m sure that one could have been better, but it’s there and a good tale anyways, if I do say so myself 🙂 Not sure when I’ll stop feeling so “green” at this writing thing though.

  3. this is absolutelybrilliant
    what is amazing is that these basic precepts are so obvious but so ignored
    thank you for putting so clearly what is probably the most important factor to realize and internalize if one is truly committed to a happy, healthy life long relationship

    1. We definitely are opposites – you an ENTP, Extroverted Intuition and Introverted Thinking, me an ISFP, Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Sensation (and it shows – haha – ;)).

      Obviously, we are attracted to the personality differences between us. Every day, I’m thankful that you accept me as I am, actually enjoy me as I am. And visa versa – you are my incredible mindmate.

      Life is good.

  4. How to nurture a relationship one step at a time – your instructions sound helpful and not too hard to follow… Thanks, Debi.

  5. Love your beautiful description on the relationship… “partnership becomes a rich tapestry of both persons’ attitudes…” Thanks for reminding us that being in love is to feel fully alive, to be fully aware of ourselves, our partners, people around us and the world. Really enjoyed this!

Leave a Reply