We all know that couples with similar personalities do well together, but what about couples who fit the saying “opposites attract”? In a recent study, Marcel Zentner of the University of Geneva wanted to find out what exactly our personality has to do with our relationship happiness. In his research, he found two ways of matching personalities that work well in relationships. He found that if we like our personality, we often tend to seek someone who is similar to us. When we don’t like our own personality, however, we try to find someone who complements our personality. Which category do you and your partner fall under? Does it work for you? Here are some tips to help improve things if you’re struggling:
Couples who match personalities are likely to find strength in their relationship because they enjoy similar activities, understand each other, and can feel comfortable together. They key to this type of match is that similar personalities work best together when both partners like their personality. If we feel like we’re missing something in our personality we may not get along well with someone who’s too similar to us because we’ll see the same weaknesses in them. For this reason, we may sometimes desire someone with some different personality traits, which brings us to the second type of match.
Two personalities complement each other when they fill in the gaps for each other. For example, someone who’s very introverted may be quiet in social settings and may not be very assertive. If an introvert has a more extraverted partner, however, they may be able to expand their social circle in ways previously unavailable to them. Unlike similar couples, complementary couples usually enjoy different activities, have difficulty understanding each other, and are often pushed outside their comfort zone. This can present significant challenges to the relationship, but can also be a way to strengthen each other.
So how do you make different personalities a strength for your relationship?
1. Challenge each other while offering safety.
The first key is to challenge each other, but also be a “safe base”. Think of the game of tag many of us would play as children. Typically, there are certain spots which are “safe” and you can’t be tagged as long as you hold on to that spot. In the same way, a partner who complements us can bring us outside of our comfort zone, but also be a “safe base” for us when it gets hard.
For example, if an extraverted partner wants to challenge an introverted partner, they may try going to a party together and meeting new people. This would likely be a little uncomfortable for the introverted partner, but if they’re close to their extraverted partner and are not left to talk to new people alone, they’ll be better able to enjoy the experience. In addition, they’ll feel more secure in their relationship.
2. Opposites Aren’t Ideal
The second key is that the two personalities should not be complete opposites. Think of two puzzle pieces that fit together. Two partners who fit together may not necessarily have all the same personality traits, but they’re likely to share common relationship or life goals and desires.
For example, if an extravert has no desire to ever stay indoors and spend time with their introverted partner, it’s unlikely that challenging each other will strengthen the relationship, and more likely that it’ll create tension. This is why this type of match is more likely to work if you are interested in being challenged by your partner because of similar relationship goals.
Take the RELATE Assessment with your partner today to find out how similar vs. complementary you and your partner are!
Written by: Dallin