Bernice and I agree that if we had met earlier in our lives, we would have killed each other. At the very least we wouldn’t have gotten married. For those who understand the arcane coding of Myers-Briggs, I am ENTJ and she is an ISFJ. For those who do not know, it just means we are very different. Yet, often opposites attract each other. And run into trouble later.
1. Opposites attract
You are a quiet person. You are drawn to someone vivacious and outgoing, energised by his or her personality. This person in turn is drawn to the quiet you, seeing you as someone who can keep him or her rooted and less superficial. You can name any number of opposites who attract each other. We are drawn to people who we think will complete us and compensate for our weaknesses.
2. Opposites attack
After the opposites marry, tensions arise. The quiet person is worn out by the constant socialising of the outgoing partner. The outgoing partner wonders why the quiet partner is such a wet blanket. They fight. The situation is different from when one is dating. When you are dating, you can still go your separate ways at the end of the day, back to your individual homes and your individual lives. When you are married your lives are intertwined and impact each other directly.
3. Opposites accept
At some point, the “opposite” couple must make the choice to accept each other. There are two things that they must accept. First, they need to accept the partner who is different from them. We take pains to point out, when we do marriage preparation counselling, that people getting married must accept the partner as he or she is. It is very dangerous to enter a marriage rejecting key elements of your partner’s personality and behaviour and hoping to change your partner after marriage.
But the partners must also learn to accept themselves. Sometimes conflict arises because one or both partners are insecure about themselves and compensate by aggressively trying to make the other person accept him or her.
4. Opposites appreciate
A mature couple reaches a stage where both parties appreciate their differences. They no longer compete but complement each other. They see their partner’s strengths not as a threat but as an asset, realising that together they are stronger than if they had been alone. They realise the truth of the Bible’s teaching that two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
Ideally, a couple should have enough similarities so that their marriage is stable, and enough differences so that they can enrich one another. The same principle applies for other relationships too, like the relationships between members of a leadership team. Indeed, the Bible sees unity with diversity as the norm for the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). But it is in marriage that this principle is most needed and most tested.
Let me give an example of this principle in action. For the longest time I knew about the “opposites attract” and “opposites attack” sequence. I wanted a third point, with a word starting with an “A,” to make a positive statement. Last weekend I suddenly thought about “opposites appreciate.” I was excited and shared it with Bernice. Here was a three-point talk. Mister Big Picture was ready to roll. But Bernice was thoughtful and said you need to accept first before you appreciate. Hence the point about “opposites accept.” The final framework is what you see above, the combined work of two people who are very different but who are at a stage of life where they appreciate each other and complement each other.
You know we would be lying if we said that our marriage is free from conflict. But we are getting better.