Opposites Attract, but Should They Marry?

opposites-attract

Opposites Attract, but Should They Marry?

Traditional advice is that one should marry someone whom they have many things in common with. Common interests, norms, morals, hobbies and a similar view of the world are thought to help keep harmony and balance throughout the course of a marriage. One blogger however is advising her readers do the exact opposite. Kara Storey in her newest blog post The Perks of Marrying Your Opposite explains that since she and her spouse are nothing alike, their marriage is an adventure and a process of discovery. She is always learning something new as time unfolds. Storey says her marriage prods her into trying things she would have never considered before, and how this fosters personal growth, and keeps things engaging. So the old idea that opposites attract but shouldn’t marry seems a little far-fetched, at least in her case. In fact, many psychologists suggest that this type of marriage can be healthy and beneficial for both partners. The most important thing to find out is whether or not your personalities are compatible or incompatible. If you complement one another, you will enjoy your marriage. This can be one of the most satisfying of relationships, offering two aspects that each person craves; safety and novelty, or nuance.  A balance should be struck within the marriage between comfort and learning something new, thereby keeping the spark alive.

The most important parts are sincerity and communication. It used to be, since courtship in the Revolutionary period, that couples were instructed to be completely honest with one another. Noted historian Ellen Rothman says, “For both men and women, the best defense against deception was openness. After the turn of the [nineteenth] century, openness became almost an obsession for courting couples. In the nineteenth century, it was no longer enough to be sincere in one’s affections; lovers were urged to be frank and open about everything.” Certainly lots of things have changed since then. But we could all use a bit more candor in the dating scene. Men for instance today are socialized to believe that sex with anyone that will preserve or elevate their social status is the end goal. This can lead to all kinds of dishonest methods, poor relationship choices and other negative consequences. Meanwhile, many women are socialized to “put on their best face” and not let the man know exactly who she is, specifically what her shortfalls might be, until after marriage, cohabitation or whatever commitment style she is longing for. The irony in all of this is deception undermines love, but they are using deception to try and get it. Love is intimacy which cannot be had without mutual respect, openness and honesty. Yet these false stances threaten to undermine the very intimacy lovers seek to establish.

Being honest is one part but not judging others too harshly is another important element. People could go out and just be themselves, not try to put on their best face. They would also be upfront on what kind of relationship they were looking for, or open to, without fear of ridicule or rejection. The trouble is compatibility is complex. It’s difficult to know when it will inhabit a relationship. There is no test to see if two people will be good together for the long haul. Just when you think you understand it, a happy older couple will throw you for a loop and you are back to square one. Moreover, how two people interact changes over time. The two may be compatible now, but will they be in five, ten or twenty years? When you date someone, and marriage or a serious commitment is your goal, what do you look at? The best you can really do is keep your evaluation process streamlined and accurate. What do you look at when you are searching for someone to date seriously, and perhaps marry? Do you look at how the two of you interact, if you laugh and enjoy each other’s company? If it is only how you feel about them or when you are with them, realize that the fluttering of the heart like a hummingbird sooner or later fades. What‘s left is two people who hopefully like each other and can get along. Too many think that the honeymoon phase will last forever. It really can but not in the same way. That initial giddiness will be gone, but so will the monumental fear, a part which everyone forgets. But you can have a deep, abiding love and fondness for one another for the rest of your lives. If you are happy together, supportive of one another, and can work out problems as a team, you just might be the right fit. Whether you are the same or complimentary is really irrelevant. What truly matters is how you interact. If you are still wondering if the one you are dating is right for you pick up a copy of, Before You Save the Date: 21 Questions to Help You Marry with Confidence by Dr. Paul Friesen.

The Stages of a Relationship

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The Stages of a Relationship

Just as no two people are alike, no two relationships are alike either. That said, there are nine stages that a relationship can be in. These phases are basically different checkpoints to evaluate compatibility as you move along from infatuation to marriage or cohabitation. Sometimes you meet a couple that seems perfect for one another. Then you come to find that they break up sometime later. It’s shocking. But perhaps they got caught up in some later stage. The first phase is infatuation. In this stage you are both strongly attracted to one another. The chemistry is at its peak. You can’t get enough of each other. The sexual tension is thick as fog. Neither one of you can see the other’s flaws. In fact, you look absolutely perfect in each other’s eyes.

The next is the getting-to-know-you stage. This is when you talk deep into the night. Everything they say seems fascinating. You cover things you like and don’t like, past, exes, friends, family; the works. The world seems shiny, beautiful and new. Soon comes the first time you don’t see eye-to-eye. Generally this is a few months into the relationship. How you disagree however will have varying consequences as things progress. Should you communicate well and overcome fights without hurting each other the relationship will sail on smoothly.

In the next stage you form opinions about one another. You decide how committed you and your partner are to this relationship. The expectations of one another are made clear. But sometimes partners don’t make what their expectations are clear. You may have emotional highs and lows depending on your partner’s ability to meet or exceed expectations. For instance, your partner may surprise you with a weekend getaway, and you’re elated. But they forget your anniversary after you dropped half a paycheck on their gift. You feel so upset.

Next is the molding stage. Both of you try to mold the other one into what you think is the perfect partner, or into the patterns you observed in your parents when you were a child. They will do the same. This is where you locate your emotional baggage and they theirs. You two can either recognize it and produce policies to counteract negative effects or you can learn to live with them. Each person must work on their own as well. What follows this is acceptance. You’ll feel like the perfect couple. This is generally when people cohabitate or get married. For more advice read, Love’s Journey: The Seasons & Stages of a Relationship by Michael Gurian.

Things to Preserve from the Honeymoon Phase

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Things to Preserve from the Honeymoon Phase

Nothing beats that feeling when you first fall in love. You want to do everything together. You can’t get enough of each other. It feels so spectacular that you never want it to end. But of course sooner or later you have to move into a more comfortable phase. That too has its positive qualities. But just because you are out of that lovey-dovey part of your relationship, doesn’t mean you have to stop doing all those beautiful, romantic, sweet and special things for one another. In fact, if you continue to do those things you will keep the spark alive, appreciation alive, and love alive. Here are some things to preserve from the honeymoon phase in your relationship.

First, physical contact often takes a nose dive after you move into phase two. But physical contact and touching is one way we as humans show affection. You can’t live without contact. Some people need more than others. This is called our attachment style according to psychologists. Some people are open and loving, others closed and more reserved. Realize which one you are and which one your significant other is. But make sure to keep touch alive. Hug, kiss, hold hands, give each other massages, cuddle, and get physical. Studies have shown that couples who show physical signs of affection are the happiest. Couples who have sex at least once per week and on an average two to three times per week are among the most blissful.

When you are first together you want every moment to feel spectacular. If you do something wrong you can’t wait to apologize and wait with pangs of pain and guilt until they forgive you. But once you’ve been together for a while apologizing seems less important. Some couples get very adversarial; blaming, shaming, screaming and giving the cold shoulder. But wouldn’t a simple “I’m sorry” be so much better? Lots of times long term couples get so wrapped up in being right that they forget how much their romantic partner means to them. Remember how much you love them. When you’re wrong apologize. There isn’t any shame in it. If they love you they will forgive you.

The feelings of appreciation in the beginning are tremendous. Every little gesture and gift seems to set your heart soaring. But as time wears on the gifts, gestures and thank yous seem to fade. But don’t let them. Show how much you appreciate one another. Do little cute gestures for each other. Write notes. Text sweet sayings. Thank one another even if it’s for things you agreed will be there chore. Appreciation breeds appreciation in kind. Everyone wants to feel appreciated. It will also keep your love and satisfaction level sky high. For more advice read, Love Is a Flame: Stories of What Happens When Love is Rekindled by James Stuart Bell and Gary Chapman.

The Benefits of a Long-Distance Relationship

long-distance-relationship

The Benefits of a Long-Distance Relationship

Lots of people argue against long-distance relationships. But if you two are the right kind of people, a long-distance relationship can make love stronger, the relationship deeper and can make each party rise to the occasion, utilizing traits and skills that make them better people. First, a long-distance relationship has automatic breathing room built in. Balancing time for yourself and time together is a great challenge for many couples. Some people like to be together more often. Others like to be apart. Everyone has a relationship style.

If you and your significant other spend more time apart than together, you may be good candidates for a long-distance relationship. It also makes the time you spend together more fulfilling, significant, even magical since it is rarer and therefore, more precious.  In this, you may find that you have a deeper appreciation for your sweetheart and are less likely to take them for granted. Some in this type of relationship claim that a couple sustains the honeymoon phase of the relationship longer. The two aren’t together often enough for it to fade. So each time they see each other the steamy, magnetic giddiness of the honeymoon phase is renewed, at least until they stop being long-distance.

A long-distance relationship builds its own world, for just the two of you through email, Skype, and more. In regular relationships, friends, hobbies, and lifestyles blend together. But in a long-distance relationship, the world is more private, shared only between the two, almost sacrosanct. Excellent communication skills is the number one most important skill for any relationship and long-distancers have it by the boat load. In fact, communication seems to be what they have most of. Affection is also diversified and creatively put forth. If they mention they ran out of Keurig cups you secretly go online and order if for them. If you mention a movie you want to see, your partner will see it too so the two of you can discuss it and have something to look forward to.

Long-distance relationships are more secure in their love. If you’ve seen each other face-to-face for a long time, you start to wonder how committed the other person is. But in a long-distance relationship the fact that the person returns to Skype time and again, calls time and again, and shows their investment time and again keeps you from guessing. If you are considering a long-distance relationship, look at the benefits along with the drawbacks, talk with those close to you, and do some soul searching to see if it’s right for you. For more advice read, The Long-Distance Relationship Survival Guide by Chris Bell and Kate Brauer-Bell.

Science Confirms the Honeymoon Effect

HONEYMOON-EFFECT

Science Confirms the Honeymoon Effect

You know how a relationship seems spectacular, whimsical and perfect in a relationship or marriage just at the beginning but as time wears on more and more problems, issues and things that drive you and your lover crazy start popping up? This is called the “honeymoon effect” and it’s not just what people say, science has confirmed its existence. Researchers at New York University, led by Dr. Michael Lorber, studied 396 newlyweds in their initial two and a half years together as husband and wife. Researchers found that 14% of the husbands experienced the honeymoon effect. Though elated at the beginning, these men were highly unsatisfied by the end of the study.

10% of the wives in this study also encountered the honeymoon effect. But researchers found something interesting here. These women were not as satisfied at the beginning of the relationship as women who did not experience the effect. According to Lorber, “Men who were more depressed or aggressive, or whose fiancées were more depressed or less satisfied with the relationship, were more likely to exhibit the honeymoon effect. Things worked out pretty similarly for the women as well … The more depressed or aggressive women were, or the more depressed, aggressive, or dissatisfied their fiancés were, the more likely they were to have fairly high initial satisfaction that dropped sharply.”

According to Lorber, if you can see this idealization at the beginning of a relationship it could tip you off to steer clear of this person, saving you grief and time. As things move on there could also be interventions to help couples navigate the harsh waters of marriage and get their relationship back on track again. But this forecasting method of course isn’t foolproof. According to Lorber, “We can make some predictions about which highly satisfied newlyweds or soon-to-be newlyweds may not stay that way, and then try to help those people … it might be easier to do some relatively ‘light touch’ interventions early on than to do intensive marital therapy after things have already soured.”

Anyone entering into a relationship and especially a marriage should not just dive in with their gut feeling without evaluating the relationship. Are both partners being practical about its ministrations? Are they practical in their outlook of their relationship and their evaluation of one another? It’s important that you do recognize your soon-to-be spouse’s shortcomings and have come to terms with them. Accepting who we are, who our lover is and what our relationship is like, and how it should be in a practical sense is important. Realize that no one is perfect. If you feel like you are marrying someone who is perfect, or they think you are perfect, be wary. Perfection does not exist in the world. Find someone who is instead perfect for you. For more advice read, Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships by Marnia Robinson and Douglas Wile, Ph.D.