Relationships

Relationship Question: Are You Similar or Opposites?

Beyonce and Jay Z at the Louvre

When Alex and I first started dating, my friend Randy pointed something out…

“You and your past boyfriends were yin and yin,” he told me. “You and Alex are yin and yang.”

He was right. Before Alex, I had dated guys who were like me — energetic, outgoing, anxious. Alex, on the other hand, couldn’t be more laid-back and unflappable. As we fell in love, got married and had kids, that balance has been key. For example, I plan our dates and family adventures, and he calms me down when I have my 11 p.m. nightly freak-out. The only catch is that, as an introvert, he sometimes craves alone time, and I’m like, WHYYYYYY??????

We’re also different in random ways:

* Alex would keep anything and everything, while I love clearing out our home to the point where a month later, we’ll be like, “Wait, where’s the can opener?”

* Public speaking is his phobia. I’m happy in front of a crowd, but I’m scared of basically everything else (elevators, the dark, you name it).

* He has read all the history books on WWII, while I go for emotional deep dives.

* He likes desert heat, and I prefer a misty rain.

What about you? Similar couples can work really well, too, of course. Years ago, before their wedding in Vermont, my friends Abbey and Tim met with a minister. “We didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “We’re nervous, and he greets us and gives us lemonade on his porch and we’re sitting there. And he’s like, so, have you ever done the Myers-Briggs personality test?” Abbey and Tim explained that they were both INTJs — which basically means thoughtful introverts. The minister’s only concern was, who will make the friends? “We did have to work harder on that part because we’re both homebodies,” she said, “But it worked out in the end.” Now married for 12 years, Tim and Abbey are happy as clams with two sweet children.

My friend A. and her husband are both introverts, and they revel in it. They rented an old cabin on Airbnb for a couple weeks last summer, and they’d spend the time alone, cooking, reading and doing woodworking. “We had a couple friends up one weekend, and they said, ‘What should we do today?’ and I was like, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be whittling my spoon.”

Are you similar to your partner (or past partners)? Or opposites? How does that balance work for you? I’d love to hear…

P.S. A first date ritual, and how do you know if your partner is the one?

(Photo of Beyoncé and Jay Z at the Louvre.)

  1. WD says...

    MBTI notwithstanding, a lot of respondents seem to say they are very different from their significant other. I wonder how much of that is just the nuanced understanding that accompanies intimacy. There was a time I would have said my significant other and I were extremely similar (we are the same type), but the more we discover each other, the more different we seem. This is a broad and incomplete generalization, but when you’re in a relationship, you’re looking to know and understand and get down to the core of the other person. So I wonder if when you really see what makes them tick–all of their idiosyncrasies–the thought that anyone else is like them, including yourself, feels absurd.

  2. Jess says...

    This is a tough one! I think we are both similar and opposite in different ways. We both love music, food, and travel and would be just as happy camping for a weekend as we would staying in and watching movies. We both feel very deeply and are hard-headed af. We enjoy time with friends and making people laugh. We are opposite in that he is more introverted, I am more extroverted. He remembers verbatim quotes from movies he’s seen once (and can do the voices) while I confidently stumble through lyrics I’ve known for years. He plans meticulously from the birds eye view; I’m better at going with the flow and thinking on the fly. At the end of the day, we can almost read each others’ minds so idk if it’s the alikenesses or differences, but it works.

  3. Katie Rosenberg says...

    My husband and I are complete opposites in EVERY kind of way. He’s decisive and motivated. I’m analytical and passive. He’s big picture. I’m detail oriented. He’s incredibly messy. I’m tidy. When we are each on our ‘A’ games, our differences are the perfect balance. When one (or both!) of us is “off” in some way, we may initially butt heads a little . . . but then the other person is able to swoop in and help provide the perspective or guidance needed. And, where it counts, we are on the same page: we are passionate about the lives we want to build now that we have a baby boy and aim to model kindness and good-heartedness in what we do.

  4. Lily says...

    My partner and I, married 3 years, are similar. He’s an ISTJ, I’m an INFJ. It’s made for a harmonious relationship. Both of us are structure-loving introverts. I’m fairly analytical for a feeler and he’s pretty in-tune emotionally for a thinker. The area we don’t have in common is that I’m all about ideas and possibilities and he’s very practical and grounded in the present. We balance each other out nicely in this area, although it stressed him out in the beginning :).
    I used to worry that we didn’t have enough balance otherwise, since we tend to feed off each other in terms of staying in and doing routine stuff. We decided recently that we would get out a few days a week and do things we’ve never done before. While not the natural tendency for either of us, it’s been so fun and good for our relationship.
    My parents are complete opposites. While they have had to work hard to see eye-to-eye over the years, they really balance each other out and were a fantastic team as parents. I think there are benefits and downsides to both.

  5. Roxy says...

    We are opposites, and it works so well with parenting! There have been times in our relationship where I’ve wished my husband was more like me or that I was more like him (he’s a complete extrovert and I’m an INFJ, which is sometimes described as the most introverted of the introverts), but now that we have a very energetic, extroverted 3 year old I am so thankful for the differences in our personalities. My husband will take our son out on lots of adventures and is great at introducing him to new social situations without approaching it with hesitation or anxiety like I would, but he’s not so interested in just sitting down and playing or doing an activity or craft, which is what I like to do. So we kind of cover all bases and can expose our kid to different ways of engaging with the world, and we both get to avoid doing things that we really don’t like, at least some of the time. I don’t think I would survive parenthood if I were married to another introvert, especially with a super active, outgoing child. Some friends of mine are both introverts with an extroverted five year old and they decided to only have one kid because they’re both just too exhausted by the whole thing.

  6. We are complete opposites! Sometimes I wonder how two people with so many differences can survive in a relationship, but it just works. He is everything I’m not and everything I need.

  7. Kathrin says...

    Complete opposites, even in Myers-Briggs-personalities. He’s a ESTP, I’m an INFJ but it works pretty well, we’ve been together for 8 years now. He pulls me out of my comfort zone, we do adventurous things that I alone would be too hesitant to do and he can comfort me when I’m anxious or emotional. I am the responsible one and remind him that he can be a little too direct or insensitive at times. I think the key is to have similar hobbies if your personality traits are different. I mean, sure, he’d rather go whitewater kayaking (forever into extreme sports) and I like endurance running (anything that is meditative) but we both like to be in nature, go camping or go hiking. And we respect each other’s traits and don’t see it as flaws (99% of the time ?)

  8. We’re opposites. I’m the outgoing friend-maker, get worked up over everything, ask you a million questions when you walk in the door, and always need a project. He’s much quieter, very even keeled, and is great a stepping back to look at the big picture instead of getting bogged down by details. When we first started dating I was like “Why doesn’t he ever ask me how my day was?” but when we talked about it he said “If you have something to tell me you can just do it!” Even though our personalities are so different we have similar interests (reading, travelling, eating), and I have come to love (and need) our differences.

  9. Megan says...

    This is such a nice post! I’ve loved reading the comments!

    When we first started dating my partner and I thought we might be the same person. We had similar upbringings, liked doing all the same things and had a weird tendency to be thinking the same thoughts. As we’ve grown in our relationship I’ve realised how different we are! He’s always so steady and grounds me and I bring the emotions (both good and bad)! I love to plan and he would rather see what happens. He reminds me finances are a thing, and I remind him to have more fun! Although I’m happy we both want to go skiing/climbing/biking on the weekend, I love that he sometimes has this totally different take on the world from me! It’s what makes our relationship so special :)

  10. Em says...

    I have a personal theory that yin&yin works and yin&yang works but yang&yang is a recipe for disaster (maybe very passionate but ultimately unsustainable).