I have a client who is in a relatively new relationship. Evidently, the honeymoon is over because he asked me, “Roy, will a ‘saver’ always attract a ‘spender’ when it comes to money and finances?”
My guess is you’re smiling at his question, because you know, maybe all to well, what they’re experiencing. If you’ve ever been in a relationship that has gone beyond the initial attraction/chemistry phase, you’ve experienced one of the most bizarre aspects of relationships: Opposites attract.
I say it’s bizarre because when we first meet our partners, they didn’t seem like our opposites. Quite to the contrary. We fell in love because we felt so comfortable and compatible with them, as if we’d known them in a past lifetime or something. We had things in common and we saw the world in similar ways, even completing each other’s sentences. Everything felt easy. Things clicked, we fit—and we fell in love.
But then the inevitable happens—you discover you’re complete opposite from one another. Instead of being like cookies and milk, you’re more like cookies and beer. And even if you did recognize your differences when you were dating, those differences were cute, weren’t they? Now they’re annoying or even obnoxious.
We attract our opposites, to one degree or another. There are literally dozens of examples of this, but here are a few categories that come quickly to mind:
• Pace of life—fast v. slow
• Time—punctual v. late
• Lifestyle—homebody v. party animal
• Communication Style—Emotional v. Logical
• Childrearing—permissive v. disciplinarian
• Home life—neat v. messy
• Risk-taking—cautious v. careless
• Money—saver v. spender
There’s a good chance that you and your partner are complete opposites in many of these categories, and probably others that I didn’t mention. In fact, make a list of how you are different from your partner. It shouldn’t take you long.
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you’d attract someone so different from you? Why not attract someone more like us? There would be much less conflict. But it doesn’t work that way. Why?
Here’s what I told the client who asked about the ‘spender’ vs. ‘saver’ dynamic: “Opposites do attract and that’s a good thing because both of you are out of balance and need to open to a wider, more complete view reality. If the two of you understand this, you can become allies in support of each other’s growth; if you don’t, you will become enemies fighting to change each other.”
You will attract your opposite in any area of life in which you are out of balance or where your perspective on reality is skewed.
That statement means that if you and your partner are really different from one another, you must be really screwed up! (Smile, your partner must be screwed up too. But, you knew that already, didn’t you?) Let’s look at the spender/saver dynamic to get a better understanding of what I’m saying.
Both sides have a point, don’t they? The spender, with perhaps a deeper trust in the universe, can encourage the saver to see the abundant nature of reality. That’s an important truth for the saver to integrate into their being. The saver, however, emphasizes responsibility and proper stewardship, a truth the spender needs to integrate into his or her being in order to be more whole, balanced person.
Though both have a point, yet each is out of balance if they only see reality through their own lens. They need each other to become more balanced, whole people. In other words, the universe has brought the two of them together (you thought it was chemistry!) so that they can help each other see their respective blind spots.
Therefore, the purpose of any intimate relationship is not happiness. It’s wholeness. Now, I don’t mean that spiritually, for I’ve written a whole book debunking the “you complete me” mindset. Spiritually we are whole and complete. But psychologically we’re fragmented and out of balance. It’s like we have huge biceps, but weak and flabby triceps. The purpose of intimacy is to bring about your full development and evolution as an individual. Your current partner or your former partners (or even your future partners for that matter) have been, and will continue to be, masterfully chosen to help you become a more balanced, complete person.
Understanding this ultimate purpose in intimacy, that you have attracted your opposite for your own benefit and growth, changes your relationship completely. Now the other person’s differentness is a blessing rather than a curse. They are your ally rather than your enemy. Additionally, you don’t fight in an attempt to re-make each other into your respective images, arrogantly thinking your perspective is right and theirs is wrong, but you each commit to integrating the other’s perspective into your life, so that you both are more balanced, complete people.
So, go back to the list you made of the differences between you and your partner. Be honest now. Drop the ego for a minute. Don’t you need to be a bit more like them? If you’re a homebody, don’t you need to get out more and improve your social skills? And if you’re a party animal, don’t you need to see the complete beauty that exists in quiet, private moments?
If you’re raising children and you’re the permissive one, don’t you need to enforce a few more boundaries? And if you’re the disciplinarian, don’t you need to relax your incredibly high standards just a bit?
I’m a face-paced guy. Even if I’m not on a deadline, I’m in a hurry to get wherever I’m going. My wife, however, has never seen a rose she didn’t want to stop and smell. It drives me nuts. Why couldn’t I attract a woman who’s in a hurry all the time too? Well, because I’m out of balance. To be a more complete man, I need to learn to slow down and recognize that “there” is not better than “here,” to enjoy the perfection of the present instead of striving for fulfillment in the future. And oh, man, did God give me the woman for that!
The best spiritual growth playground that the universe has ever created is not a monastery, and ashram or even a church. It’s intimacy. While meditation, asanas and worship are fine, if you’re really interested in your full development as an individual, get into a committed relationship. Attract your opposite. You’ll be forced to evolve or die!
Relationship Coach & Author