Wright Team | October 27, 2015

“But We’re So Different …”

What happens when you’re way into sports and you start dating a sports hater? Or when you find yourself dating an actor, but you don’t even own a television?

Are you a cat person going out with a dog person?

While it’s true sometimes opposites attract, how different is too different? Even Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog broke up. Is it possible to make it work with someone who is your opposite, politically, religiously, or personality-wise?

First of all, in dating we have to figure out what it is we’re really looking for and hoping to get out of it. Are you looking for long-term commitment and a possible future—or are you just looking to be social, engage with others and have a little fun? There’s no right answer and at different times in our lives most of us will probably be in one boat or the other. Being honest with yourself ensures you aren’t seeking out dates on different pages.

Then again, sometimes it’s still okay if you find someone who might not be looking for a “serious” relationship, when you are. You can still go out, engage with them, get to know them a little better and see where life takes you. As long as you’re being true to yourself and honest about your intentions and yearnings, it’s perfectly fine to date someone who’s not sure where things will lead.

What About Personality Differences?

The optimist versus the pessimist or the extrovert versus the introvert—these juxtapositions in the dating world give you an opportunity to really put those traits to the test and under the microscope. You may see them as red flags, but they’re really a chance to examine: are you truly an optimist because that’s the path you’ve chosen and it fits the way you interact with and see the world? Or, are you an optimist because you have anxiety about dealing with problems and you refuse to see them?

If you’re holding to your true personality and approaching differences from learning and engaging perspectives, it’s actually fun to date someone who challenges you and makes you go, “Wow—I never thought of that before.”

Highly energetic and extroverted people may have a hard time down-regulating in arguments or during conflict. For someone more analytical, less emotional or more introverted, this can be a little terrifying. It can also be a chance to grow a little in your emotional responses and to learn how to up-regulate yourself to meet their enthusiasm. You may want to explore what about the personality differences induces anxiety or causes you to be adverse. You’ll learn more about yourself and it just may end up being more exciting and exhilarating than dating someone “just like” you.

One fun thing we do in couples work is a game called “Sunshine/Clouds.” It’s about turning your perception of yourself on its head and viewing things from the other person’s perspective. If you’re struggling to find common ground or little “differences” are driving you crazy, try agreeing to reverse roles for a day. If she’s constantly late and you’re punctual to the second, mix it up. If you have a sunny outlook and she can be a Debbie Downer, try spending an entire date being a bit more of a raincloud. (Believe me—this one’s HARD.) It can actually lead to a little bit of laughter and an interesting perspective on the other person’s point of view.

Finding Common Ground

Don’t get bogged down by superficial “interests.” Yes, it can be nice fodder for conversation if you find you both love the Bears or Spain’s your favorite vacation destination. Things like sports teams, music, hobbies…those are all pastimes and they aren’t vital to connecting with another person. If you find someone you truly engage with and enjoy, then you might find your time is spent doing quality activities together and you don’t need so much “filler.”

Not to suggest, of course, you give up your hobbies or sell your season tickets once you start dating someone. Be true to who you are. Maybe it means you’re going to have to dial up your girlfriends to join you for a concert, or get your buddy to be your running partner. Dating doesn’t mean losing your identity or trying to conform to another person’s interests or preferences.

If you’ve done the work beforehand, you know yourself well enough to understand your deal breakers and non-negotiables. You also know what limiting beliefs might be holding you back from truly connecting with another person. Approach dating as a great social experiment—one where you should never compromise on your deal breakers, but you should allow yourself to grow and learn.

As we all know, there’s no such thing as “the one” and differences make dating explorative and fun. Get out there and learn a little bit about someone else and gain a little deeper understanding about yourself at the same time!

You’ll be able to read all about these ideas and more in Dr. Bob and Judith’s Wright’s new book, out now: The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer. (Available on Amazon now!)

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About the Author

Monica is the Admissions Coordinator and Marketing Specialist at the Wright Graduate University. As the admissions coordinator and head of marketing for WGU, Monica oversees recruiting, student admissions, customer services and marketing efforts.

Blog post image courtesy Flickr user familymwr.

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.