Significant personality differences are often seen as a relationship deal breaker. To put it simply, I disagree. I believe that opposites attract and the differences in a relationship keep it fun and exciting while also helping you grow.
Imani and I first started dating spring semester of our junior year, and we couldn’t have been more different. They say that opposites attract, but on the surface it looked like we were combining soy sauce and ice cream (I hope that is not actually a thing). Not only were our personalities different, but you were far more likely to find free pizza in the common room than you were to find undergrads in a committed relationship at Duke; it was all hook ups.
I was a relatively introverted guy who would rather play video games than go out and dance. I liked to party, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of meeting new people and I preferred small group gatherings. Imani, on the other hand, was always the life of the party. She was and is to this day, the most extroverted person I know. She could talk to anyone for five minutes and become their best friend. It seemed like she knew everyone on Duke’s campus. She loved going out to dance and she certainly didn’t like video games.
I was a very competitive person. It didn’t matter if it was video games, rugby, or beer pong, I was determined to win. Imani couldn’t have cared less. She even said once “I don’t like winning, because I feel bad that the other team feels bad.” Needless to say, she was a terrible beer pong partner.
We were on opposite ends of the communication spectrum as well. Imani loved talking about anything and everything while I was a relatively quiet person. Imani could easily articulate her thoughts, emotions and how she felt. She could talk a million miles a minute and could instantly formulate responses. She needed zero time to process what she had just heard. Meanwhile, I had a hard time identifying my emotions, let alone communicating them. I was a much slower talker and I needed time to interpret and process what I had just heard. It was so frustrating to me that I could share something that I thought was profound, and Imani would be replying to it the moment I had finished my statement.
Imani and I also had very different visions of what we wanted to do with our lives. During one of our first private conversations, Imani proudly said “I want to change the world”. I replied “why would you want to do that”. Imani had a strong sense of self and knew she wanted to do something meaningful and worthwhile with her life. Meanwhile, I was struggling through school and was more interested in finding the nearest beer than doing my homework or changing the world for that matter.
Finally, our mental states were also vastly different. Imani was erratic to put it lightly. She had yet to start dealing with her trauma and its effects. She felt more self-described “random” emotions in an hour than I felt in a week. Meanwhile, in part due to my lack of contact with my own emotions, I was a rock. My emotions and personality didn’t oscillate a lot.
Our differences created a bit of tension early on. Imani always wanted to go out and dance, while I had absolutely no interest in doing so and wanted to stay in and drink with my friends. She always wanted to talk and ask me questions when I was perfectly ok with silence.
This plethora of differences could have signaled to us that we were too different or that we wouldn’t work. However, we forged ahead and compromised and defined what we were and were not comfortable with. We never forced each other to do what the other wanted. Imani would go out dancing with her friends and I could stay in with mine. We gave each other space and more importantly, we trusted each other. We trusted each other not to hurt the other person, regardless of our differences.
Despite all of these differences, what tied us together were our interests, morals, and what we provided for each other. I was a steady presence during an unsteady time for Imani, and Imani’s ability to stir and draw out my emotions opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed.
On the surface, there were a million reasons why we shouldn’t have been together. But at the end of the opposites did attract when we focused on what was similar, what brought us together and trusted one another.
What are some of the differences between you and your partner? Comment below if you’d like to share.
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