Why Opposites Attract

Getting together in a relationship is the easy part. Keeping it together is what's challenging — especially when the charming little differences between you become big thorny annoyances. You used to think his homebody ways were sweet, even though you love to go out. Now, those romantic (okay, quiet) nights at home are feeling a bit claustrophobic. And it never used to matter that he preferred Metallica to Jack Johnson, but these days one more slamming guitar riff and you're over the edge. It is possible to stick together, even when the novelty wears off. Drop in on these four couples who are polar opposites and see how they cope with — and benefit from — their, uh, better half.

Kristina Grish, 28, author of We Need to Talk. But First, Do You Like My Shoes? and Scott Mebus, 29, author of Booty Nomad.

Dating 6 months.

How They Met: Kristina was working on a magazine article about going on dates with guys who write romance-genre novels. Scott, who had recently finished writing his book, was one of the lucky guys.

Why They're Different: She loves the hot spots, he doesn't.

Kristina: Our differences are so obvious to anyone who meets us. I read modern literature, he loves Stephen King. I love shopping and fashion. He lives in T-shirts and the same three pairs of pants. He eats the same thing for lunch every day, I love trying new foods and wines. His book is about finding love. Mine was 15 ways to dump a man — and what to wear each time.

Even our friends are different. My friends love the scene, and are single. His are all coupled, and live in Westchester. They talk about buying washing machines.

Scott: She has a fashion sense, and I don't. I wear the same shirts I had in high school. She'll say, "Wear this, wear that." I'll wear the pants, and then she'll say, "Oh my God, not with that shirt!" I don't really know how important all that it is in the end. Her favorite thing is to go to a restaurant. That's the one thing I find intimidating: fancy restaurants.

How They Deal: They share in their differences. (And they agree that she should pick the clothes.)

Kristina: I'm not asking him to be a different person. I'm just asking him to wear pants and shirts that match.

Scott: I don't mind looking good, I just hate putting it together. I would rather she bought it all for me, put tags on it, and told me what to pick. She never tries to force something down my throat, and she tries completely to see things from my point of view. She went to a Yankee game with me once, and she hates baseball. She actually fell asleep during it, but she went. Every time we stay in and get Chinese, I feel like she's indulging me.

Kristina: In the end, our differences made me fall for him. I think it's refreshing that he doesn't care about the things other people care about. But he knows when to acquiesce. He knows food is important to me, so I choose the restaurant. If it's music, I let him choose. Because we have such differences, we rely on the other person's strengths.

Expert Says: Be realistic. Don't expect your partner to change that much.

"While these differences sound trivial, they can bespeak different values," warns Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle. "She values social, societal experiences, and he's more of a homebody. She's more into appearances than he is. These oppositions in taste are actually quite serious, because they're long-term. At some point, he might not want to wear her style of clothing, or she might not want to go to a baseball game. They could get tired of always trying to please one another. They need to be realistic about their differences, their need to modify each other, and make sure they like the changes. Small changes are fine; they just need to be happy with them. It sounds like they're happy, so they're probably on the right track."

Marc Baptiste, 41, photographer, and Jenny Baptiste, 45, manager for Marc's studio

Married 8 years, with Three kids, ages 7 (twins) and 14 (from his first marriage)

How They Met: On the phone. She was working for a Los Angeles record company, he was a New York photographer who had just shot one of their clients. She called him to renegotiate the fee, and a few months later, he flew to Los Angeles.

Why They're Different: He's outgoing, she's quiet.

Marc: Sometimes my approach will be too aggressive. She's got a softer sell. She's good at keeping things inside. If I don't like something, you'll know it right away.

Jenny: He's really loud and animated. I'm quieter, I observe more. It's apparent every day. And even though he's a photographer — I really don't like having my picture taken. I just sit there, and when it's developed, if I don't like it, I tear it up.

Marc: If I pick up my camera, her hand will be on her face. I have a ton of those pictures. Here's Jenny, hand on her face again.

How They Deal: They accept one another for who they are.

Jenny: We balance each other out. Sometimes I try to calm him down or tone him down. And he tries to get me out of my shell, all the time. There are these industry parties, and he's always encouraging me, please come. And when I go, I do have fun. But really I just don't like to go out. My excuse is always that I can't find a baby-sitter. So he'll just go and get a baby-sitter. And then I have no excuse.

Marc: Actually, we barely fight. She lets me be me, and I let her be her. You can't change people. You have to like the person for who they are. She's just Jenny, and I appreciate that.

Jenny: It's hard when you work and live together. At work, if he's on top of me, I'll just stand up — I'll go take a walk, get something to eat, get a pedicure. And by the time I get back, we're fine. Or if he's annoyed with me, he'll stay late at the studio. We take our space whenever we need it. We're not afraid to say, "You are really on my nerves."

Expert Says: Carve out your space in the relationship.

"In many cases, when one partner is more outgoing than the other, it's cause for a tussle," says Dr. Schwartz. "Often, the individuals feel resentful, jealous, or both. They would have to try to meet each other halfway, at least part of the time. But these two get plenty of each other, at home and at work. In this case, it's a good difference, because it gives them their own space. Being together all the time can be stressful, so Jenny needs to have boundaries and not be as social. It's fine, because she's secure about herself and their relationship. They've got a lot going for them."

Tatijana Labato, 28, fashion designer, and Paul Marando, 26, business owner

Dating 6 months

How They Met: At a party at Paul's cousin's lounge; she snuck her number into his cell phone.

Why They're Different: She's a planner, he's not.

Tatijana: Me, I'm the planner. Everything I do goes into my BlackBerry, in detail. He thinks I'm crazy. He's very reserved and relaxed about our relationship. And that's what causes problems. I'd appreciate it if he made more of an effort.

Paul: She loves to plan. I hate to plan. She's more adventurous, but I love surprises. I like going out and just letting things happen.

How They Deal: They're willing to compromise. (And they're nuts about each other.)

Paul: What I love most is her strong attitude. When I see her planning, I know it's because she wants to do something with me. I know where she's coming from. When we met, I'd just gotten out of a 7-year relationship, and I didn't want to see anybody. But with Tatijana, it's always a lot of fun, there's never a dull moment. I thought, "I can't not do this." So I've really never been in a relationship like this before.

Tatijana: We're working on it. I never try to push him. When we do argue about the plans, I won't let him leave until it's settled. Some people hold a grudge, but we don't. I don't like to argue. I've never had a relationship like this, either. I'd date a guy for a week, and I couldn't stand him. With Paul, it's the opposite. I've never met someone like him. I'm happy.

Expert Says: Plans are good, but take time to relax together and just be yourselves.

"The fact that she's a planner doesn't have to be a deal-breaker," says Dr. Schwartz, who is also the resident consultant for the Web site perfectmatch.com. "They just need to be willing to trade off on what they want to do, and they should talk and figure out when the planning suits. They need to make time where they can each just be who they are. They seem to be doing well, though, because they're happy with each other. With all of these differences, flexibility is key."

Miriann Guazzini, 23 legal assistant, and Bryan Yates, 27, financial software consultant

Dating more than 1 year

How They Met: Through friends when she was visiting New York City for a job interview.

Why They're Different: She's a feisty liberal, he's a low-key conservative.

Bryan: A perfect example of how we're opposite is that Mirs is dying to do this interview, and I'm not.

Miriann: He's South African, and I'm Cuban- Italian. He's level-headed, and I get worked up — and that dynamic carries over to everything. Politically, I'm the biggest bleeding-heart, all into nonprofit work. We're supposed to go to his friend's wedding in South Africa in December. He's nervous about bringing me to a place where there's racial divide. He's used to it, I'm not — and I get really upset about these things.

Bryan: Her mother's from Cuba; she's a spirited lady, and that's crossed over to Miriann. She's very dramatic, and I'm much more chilled about stuff. I'm pro-Israel and she's not. We're walking in Union Square [in New York City], and I see people picketing about the Palestine thing. It bothers me, but she'll want to stop and listen to it.

Miriann: So we have these discussions, and most of the time, I get upset and walk away. I call it my silent period. I don't talk to him — sometimes it's 5 minutes; the longest has been a week.

Bryan: It's tough. I want to talk, and she'll be silent. It's either fire with fire, or I ignore her.

How They Deal: They agree to disagree.

Bryan: The fact that we disagree is partly why I love her. I wouldn't want to be with someone who was too much like me. But I do get pissed off. As much as she hates it if I try to talk about it, when I ignore her, sometimes she'll realize she's not always right.

Miriann: Sometimes, when I lose it, I see this sadness in his face, and it makes me stop. I don't mean to be mean to the person who supports me most. I consider his feelings, but I still need to walk away and cool off.

Bryan: Once you realize the foundation is strong, you don't worry that the fight will end things. We acknowledge that we're different. And at some point, we agree to disagree and get on with it.

Expert Says: Different opinions and time-outs are okay — as long as you respect your partner's point of view.

"These differences are by no means deal-breakers," says Dr. Schwartz, also the author of Everything You Know About Love and Sex Is Wrong. "In fact, they could broaden the relationship, and Bryan and Miriann could learn from each other.

It's a question of management and respect. It doesn't matter that they have differing political outlooks. It's most important that they respect the other person's views and feelings. That said, it is not okay for Miriann to step out of an argument — it's self-indulgent and punitive. It's okay for a partner to take a time-out for a couple of hours or even a day if they can agree to do that when things get heated. But then they must still address each other and work at understanding each other's feelings."
6 Views    
Facebook Facebook Twitter Linkedin Google Pinterest

Related Articles

Refer your 10 female friends! Earn Instant 500