The idea that opposites attract is old, but it’s still something that people wrestle with every day. We’re attracted to someone’s opposite, positive qualities, but then quickly get annoyed with them over time. Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, Dr Diane Felmlee calls this phenomenon “fatal attraction”.
Picture: Geraint Otis Warlow/Flickr
In most cases, fatal attraction gets its name from the fact that it’s usually the sign of the end of a relationship. In her research, Dr Felmlee identifies five different ways this tends to play out:
In Time Will Tell, a person is drawn to positive characteristics in a possible mate, but both are putting the best foot forward and don’t reveal their entire personalities right away. So a trait’s dark side isn’t clear until later.
In Sour Grapes, one partner who is coping with problems in the relationship, or its demise, is trying to distance himself from the other partner and recasting positive traits as negative. A trait that was never a problem before is suddenly interpreted as bad.
In Rose-Coloured Glasses, we are attracted to a positive quality yet secretly suspect it has a darker side. We choose to ignore the dark side until we can’t anymore.
And in People Pleasing, we turn our own positive trait into a liability by trying too hard to please: If your wife likes how confident you are, you may choose to play this up until your self-assurance becomes insufferable.
Lastly, there is Familiarity Breeds Contempt. No one changed. A person just gets annoying if you are around him or her all the time.
It’s not all a buzzkill though; you can do things to counteract these quirks, but it’s mostly about acceptance:
So what do we do? First, Dr. Felmlee says, we need to recognise that we can’t “have it all” in a partner and that positive traits have negative sides. “If you love their sense of humour, they are going to joke at the wrong time,” she says. “If they are the strong and silent type, they aren’t going to be able to show their emotions as much as you would like.”
As you’d expect, you also need to be aware of those quirks in yourself as well. Head over to The Wall Street Journal for a few more tips.
How to Cope When You and Your Partner Are Falling Out of Love [The Wall Street Journal]