I’m looking for some relationship advice. I went out on a date with a girl yesterday and we had a great long conversation. However it seemed like on most things we are quite different. Just to go through a short list.
I’m from the city, she’s from the country
She’s a catholic (not sure how dedicated) and I’m agnostic
I like jazz music, classical music, and instrumental music. She likes more popular stuff
We are both into keeping fit though, and I think she has a curiosity about her to experience new things. We are also both teachers employed in different schools. We had a good conversation and the flirting / talking was at a comfortable level. I think we both have a relaxed demeanor and a similar sense of humour.
We’re going to meet again. What do you think though. Do opposites often attract? What is your experience?
I think opposites often attract in the short term, because you have lots to talk about. Finding out things about someone is exciting, and it sounds like you have a lot more to say than “Oh, yeah, me too.” crickets
In the long term, it depends on how attached you are to your point of view or taste in media, how open you are to learning to appreciate the other side, how well you can both “agree to disagree” and whether or not you plan to have kids. Kids throw a huge wrench into things. When you have kids, “yeah, she’s a Catholic and I’m an agnostic, but it’s not a big deal” bumps into, “She wants to get the kids baptized and I don’t.” As long as there are no kids involved, you can sort of distance yourself from the difference because it’s rarely a logistical concern. But once you have to face actually contributing to the upbringing of other people and these things become more than theoretical, problems are common.
The important things I think you are better off having in common to make a partnership work long term: Are you both savers or spenders? Are you both neatniks or slobs or can you afford a maid? Are you go-out-and-party or stay-at-home-and-veg people? Do you want to work hard young and retire young, or work moderately and past retirement age? Do you want to have kids, how many, what method and when in your life and relationship seems like a good time to do that? What are your child rearing/discipline philosophies? (Being teachers, you probably have a better vocabulary for this conversation than most, but don’t assume you’ll parent like you’ll teach - my mom as my substitute teacher was bizarre to me, because she was so different from my mom as Mom.) These are the sort of logistical things that put a heck of a lot of stress on partnerships, and if you’re not in sync, your chances of making it go down. I’m sure there are some couples who make it work, but I’d wager the fewer of these things you have in common, the more conflict in the relationship.
Other than the religion issue, I find the stuff you listed to be somewhat superficial. I can’t remember the last time I’ve shared my political opinions or music tastes with someone. A lot of the surface shit I’m willing to compromise on (with one exception-personal hygeine. Though as a reformed slob, I’m sympathetic to messy people even though I’ve turned into a cleanliness freak myself).
OTOH, I couldn’t see myself dating someone who didn’t share my values on education, ambition, how to spend money, role of the family etc…
So, polar opposite on opinions? Don’t care.
Opposite on fundamental values? Would be difficult. For example, it would be impossible for me to agree to raise a future baby atheist/agnostic. I would prefer my own religion, but am willing to compromise on raising a kid in a liberal denomination of Christianity. OTOH, I am 95% positive my s.o. is voting McCain/Palin and I don’t really give a shit.
Long car rides with my husband are…interesting. There’s only so many miles of shoegazer music I can stand before falling asleep behind the wheel. There’s only so many miles of showtunes he can stand before wanting to stab me with a spork. We’ve had to each make some compromises there.
Most psychological studies show that a certain amount of homogamy has to exist for a relationship to be successful. This means that certain conditions such as socio-economic status, class, ethnicity, or religion are important, as well as sharing some similar interests (music, movies, sense of humor, political viewpoints, etc.).
Of course every successful couple has variations in taste and interests, but when the other basic factors don’t gel, it is extremely rare for a couple to stay together very long.
One other way to look at it is the theory of schema therapy and life-trap. It’s not really opposite attract, but your worst nightmare attracts. That sometimes, IMHO, may lead to the opposite attracts idea - I’m a warm person but I tend to like guys who are cold towards me - could be a lifetrap in action
Even though I agree with DMark that “opposites attract” is largely a myth, and that the person on this board who once talked about wanting to find an opposite sex clone to have sex with is really not that far off the mark from how most people approach dating :p, I enjoy dating someone who is different from me in ways I find interesting. I guess my way of looking at it has always been if I were looking to date a version of myself, I’d just stay home and masturbate. I tend to be bored by people who remind me too much of myself.
It IS important to agree on topics that have to do with how you want to keep your home and raise your children (oh, and it is pure madness to get involved with someone who has different plans regarding whether to have kids at all). However, I think it is silly to dismiss someone just because they grew up in a different background or have different hobbies. Plenty of marriages have survived where the man was a huge sports fan and the woman couldn’t care less, after all.
My boyfriend and I are very different on many political issues, but fortunately we agree on the issues that are actually relevant to our life/relationship (for example, we have different opinions about if abortion should be legal but both agree that we wouldn’t want an abortion if we had an unplanned pregnancy ourselves - and that’s all that really matters). We have pretty different religious views, but agree about how we would discuss the issue with our kids.
Most importantly, we do respect people who are different from us. If you’re the kind of person that thinks people who are different from you are bad, stupid, or immoral, yeah, it probably won’t work. But then again, for someone like that, getting to know and love someone from a different perspective might be a good learning experience.
Only if she’s Paula Abdul, and you’re an animated cat with a gift for dancing and rapping.
Seriously, though, it depends on how much your differences are balanced by your similarities. For a relationship to work, it’s good to have a mix–enough differences so you can have interesting conversations, but enough similarities so you can understand where the other person is coming from, even if you don’t agree in every respect.
You mention that you’re both teachers, with a similar sense of humor, and that you’re both into fitness.
Your only real differences seem to be musical taste and, possibly, religious views. I don’t see musical differences as a major obstacle. The religious differences may or may not be a big deal–IME, Catholics get along more easily in relationships with people from other faiths (or lack thereof) than do people from more evangelical denominations (e.g., I have two fairly devout sisters, one of whom is married to an agnostic, and another one who is married to a Baptist–I should point out that, in agreement with their husbands, both sisters are raising their children to be Catholic). This would especially be the case if she identifies with Catholicism more on a cultural than a religious level. Even if she’s hardcore (e.g., attending mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation, going regularly to confession, praying the rosary), she probably won’t proselytize in the way that, say, a Southern Baptist might.
The city/country background could be insignificant, unless this turns into a long-term relationship and you have very different ideas about where you want to live. If you get to that point, though, the two of you will probably have learned to compromise to the extent that you’ll actively search for a place that suits both of you without making one person miserable.
So, from this one date, it’s too early to say if your differences would outweigh the similarities or not. It’s clearly a positive sign that the two of you will be meeting again, so I’d suggest that you not worry about it too much at this point–have fun, see how it goes, and then if things start to get serious, then revisit these questions.
I think it works if you’re complementary opposites. For example - me and my husband, he’s very sensible and I’m more of a risk taker, so I encourage him to take chances now and then, while he stops me from doing foolish things. I don’t sweat the small stuff, but break down in a big crisis - he worries himself half to death over the smallest little things and needs me to give him some perspective, but is very calm in a real crisis, and is there to catch me when I fall.
And there were other things we had to compromise on - I love a good argument, but he hates conflict, so I learned to control my temper and find other ways of expressing my anger. That has been a very good thing for me, and I’m a better person for it.
It’s important though, to work out what your dealbreakers are, and not compromise on them. I couldn’t have stayed with my husband if he didn’t want children - some differences are too great to get past.