Why We Get Attracted To People Who Are Different From Us

What we have, we never seek.

This is why people often get attracted to others who are completely different from them.

Relationships aren’t just about togetherness and connection. They are also about the spaces of separateness.

While togetherness time promotes greater understanding and connection between both partners, the times between experiences of connection are just as important to the health and sustainment of the relationship. When partners are together, they naturally tend to be attentive (in varying degrees)  to the needs, concerns, and experiences of each other. This attentiveness is not only essential to the well-being of any relationship, but it is a natural aspect of the process of relating verbally or non-verbally, to another person.

Since it’s not possible to direct our attention to more than one thing at a time, when we are  doing this (focusing on another’s words, behavior, desires, concerns, needs, or outward behavior), there can be a tendency to de-prioritze our own experience. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

 

Too much attention to self can be as problematic (although it creates different problems) as too much attention to another.

The former can promote excessive self-centeredness and an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a tendency to be pre-occupied with our own desires, while the latter predisposes us to neglect or diminish the importance of our own needs in favor of those of others.

Some of us are inclined to focus our attention on our partner, sometimes to the point at which we lose ourselves  in the process, often resulting in neglecting essential needs and concerns that require our attention. This is often done in the hope or with the expectation that our partner will reciprocate and give us the attention that we crave and in so doing, fulfill our needs and desires.

As many of us have discovered the hard way, this expectation often is unfulfilled, frequently causing disappointment, resentment, and arguments.

If you’re someone who tends to focus more of your attention on your partner than yourself, chances are pretty good that you have attracted or do attract partners who do the opposite, that is focus more of their attention on themselves than on the relationship or at least more than you think they “should”. The opposite, of course, also applies.

This pattern is governed by the law of complementarity; that is the inclination to be drawn towards others whose tendencies complement or fit together in a way that creates a more complete or whole system. They provide a counterbalance to each other and in doing so prevent the relationship from becoming unstable and geared towards one extreme or another.

For example, the way that free-spenders often find themselves drawn towards penny-pinchers, or how introverts and extroverts find themselves in relationship, or how highly ambitious strivers can be attracted to relaxed, laid back pleasure-seekers, or how intimacy-cravers find themselves with solitude-lovers. Left to their own devices, or in relationship with another kindred spirit like themselves, those of either side of the equation would, in all likelihood be leading an unbalanced life, one that is always leaning towards whatever side their inclination lies, like a misaligned car.

A common combination that we see in many relationships is one in which one partner tends towards  more of a relationship-focus, and with a strong preference for togetherness, and although there is a wide-spread belief that in heterosexual relationships, that is generally the woman, we’ve found a great many exceptions to that “rule”.

When the other partner has the opposite tendency, that is to seek out a greater degree of distance or solitude rather than connection, when overstressed, things can become strained and conflict can arise between them if one or both partners judge the other and attempts to coerce or shame him or her into compliance. This is more likely to occur if there is a tendency to view the other’s behavior as wrong or defective, rather than to appreciate the relationship’s need for more balance.

 

There are three sets of needs in any relationship.

The needs of each individual, and the needs of the relationship. If any of these needs are neglected or unmet, an imbalance or disequilibrium will occur, causing both partners distress. Successful relationships require a willingness on the part of both partners to at times forego their personal preferences in favor of the well-being of the other or of the relationship itself.

Linda and Charlie Bloom
Linda Bloom, LCSW and Charlie Bloom, MSW have been trained as psychotherapists and relationship counselors and have worked with individuals, couples, groups, and organizations since 1975. They have lectured and taught at universities and learning institutes throughout the USA, including the Esalen Institute, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, 1440 Multiversity, and many others.  They have taught seminars in many countries throughout the world. They have co-authored four books, 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last, Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth From Real Couples About Lasting Love, Happily Ever After And 39 Other Myths About Love, and That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They have been married since 1972 and are the parents of two adult children and three grandsons. Linda and Charlie live in Santa Cruz, California. Their website is www.bloomwork.com
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