I once dated a guy who believed wearing the same pair of underwear a few days in a row is completely acceptable. I am doing my laundry as I write this column.
He lived and breathed hockey. I get bored after the first period.
He owned two pairs of shoes. I own … more than two.
He spoke at a decibel level fit for a concert. I would get embarrassed at restaurants.
I thought I could change his irritating habits.
I was wrong.
The lesson I learned from this odd pairing is the laws of physics do not always apply to relationships: Polar opposites don’t attract, despite our best hopes that they will.
Dr. Neil Clark Warren, a clinical psychologist and founder of eHarmony.com and now eHarmony.ca online dating sites, says the initial attraction to someone who is opposite to our own personality comes from our attraction to the strengths and abilities we lack. But over time, those are the very qualities that break us apart.
“Generally, opposites attract and then they attack,” says Warren.
Singles on eHarmony fill out a questionnaire to determine the 29 dimensions of their personality, and are then matched with potential partners who have similar personality traits. In the seven years since eHarmony.com’s inception, Warren says he has never seen a good relationship where five or more of the 29 dimensions did not match.
According to Warren, the areas most likely to cause problems in a relationship are energy level/motivation; communication styles; spending habits; and personal habits such as cleanliness.
Yet dating a clone of ourselves is far from exciting.
“I’ve come to saying similarities are like money in the bank, differences are like debt you owe. It’s alright to have a few debts — as long as you have plenty of equity,” says Warren. “If you agree with the person on most things, you can have a couple of things that you don’t agree on.”
From my personal bank of dating stories, just be sure they aren’t things you secretly expect to change with time and a little gentle nagging.