Opposites and Relationships

By Brenna Chase, author of North and South: The Wild and Wanton Edition

North and South: The Wild and Wanton Edition, Volume 1In science, everyone knows that like forces repel each other. In art, colors on opposite sides of the color wheel are deemed to be complementary. When it comes to romantic relationships, the generally accepted wisdom is that “opposites attract.” But do such relationships last?

Experts tend to agree that although the attraction sparked by someone completely different can be intense, the closer a couple is in personality and values, the more likely the pair is to succeed. I can see that. My husband and I are opposites in a lot of ways. He’s a morning person; I’m a night owl. He’s outgoing and will talk to anyone about anything. I’m more reserved. He likes to do things without much planning; it can take me a month to decide on a yarn for a knitting project. But we both think that family is important, and we share the same basic moral code, one which we’ve worked to instill in our daughters. We both want to leave the world a better place.

Of course in romance novels, opposites are great. You want sparks flying between the main characters to make the “happily ever after” or “happy for now” pay-off that much more fulfilling. In North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell, for example, John Thornton and Margaret Hale are very much opposites. He’s from the north of England, while she’s from the south. He’s a mill owner; she doesn’t like tradesmen. He doesn’t seem to be very religious, while Margaret repeatedly turns to her faith for strength. Mr. Thornton “tests everything by the standard of wealth,” or so it seems to Margaret, a trait which she despises. But they also have similarities: they love their families and are loyal to them and to their friends, and they’re both determined to do the right thing. Of course it helps that they both learn to compromise and see things from the other’s point of view, as well as finding something about the other that they can admire. Ultimately, like the colors on opposite sides of the wheel, they complement each other. And the pay-off is beautiful! It’s the reason I love their story so much.

What do you think? Do opposites attract, or do you think it’s better if a couple is more alike, or some mix of the two?

4 thoughts on “Opposites and Relationships

  1. Joanna Lloyd

    What a great article, Brenna! I think I agree that the opposites attract thing makes for great adventure and conflict in a book but in real life it probably feeds the side of the ego that needs conflict just for the sake of conflict and doesn’t achieve anything positive for the relationship. I loved how you described your relationship with your husband, just enough differences to make it interesting but the important elements were shared.

  2. M.J. Schiller

    My husband and I are also opposites. I’m a dreamer. He’s a realist. I’m creative. He’s logical. I’m good at English. He’s good at math. You get the picture. But we’ve been married for over twenty-five years. I think we offset each other nicely, although there are times when we frustrate each other. Thanks for sharing, Brenna!