They say opposites attract. That you should be with someone who expands your borders and motivates you to experience new things. Those ideals are great and I’m not here to argue that point, and we certainly don’t want to date our clone, but just how much contrast do you really want with your partner? When does the variety turn into conflict?
Let’s start with some significant differences.
Politics & Religion. “They” say never discuss politics and religion on a first date. Well, if not the first one, then definitely by the second. Now, I did not say debate them, just discuss them. Everyone has a right to believe how they choose. The idea isn’t to criticize or convince, just to get an understanding of what their views are and how they line up with yours. Now, if you are just casually dating someone, this may not present an issue, but if you are looking for long-term, it could definitely have an impact. The political climate right now is at an all-time high in intensity. If you have strong opinions, then make sure you know and can accept what your date has to say. If you choose a partner with a vastly different political view than yourself, you two need to agree right up front not to argue about it. Religion, in my opinion, might be even more of a sticking point; especially if you want a family with children. Those with deep religious convictions will want to raise their children with these same convictions. If that is you, then you want to think carefully before aligning yourself with someone who does not share them. Even if they claim not to care and are fine with whatever you want, that doesn’t mean they will actively participate and that is ultimately what you will want them to do. Never tell yourself that your love will convince them to change their beliefs; it won’t. It is confusing to children to have Mom and Dad voice and claim opposing ideals. It is much better to partner with someone who shares your belief system before entering into a long-term relationship.
Family - Speaking of family; not everyone wants one. That’s not an indictment or a bad thing. There are those who simply want to be free to live their life without those connections. I think it is sad, but not the sign of a bad person; however that person might be bad for YOU if having a family is your goal. You need to find out pretty early on what their views on family are. I don’t suggest asking on the first date if they want to get married, that will send them packing for sure. But it is fair to have a conversation early what they want when it comes to that. This is also another area where you should never expect or hope your love will change their mind. So many relationships have started where one person wants a child, and another doesn’t, and both are convinced they will change the other’s mind just by loving them enough. That’s not how it works. You love someone enough to let them live the life they want. If that life doesn’t align with what you want, then you make a decision not to pursue a relationship with them. Otherwise, someone will win out by begging or bribing and the other will eventually become resentful. They may stay in the relationship, but it will not be the same. (And ladies, never, under any circumstances ‘allow’ yourself to get pregnant if the guy you are dating has said he doesn’t want kids and believe once you are pregnant he will change his mind. He may do the ‘right’ thing by you, but he will feel trapped and that is not how you want to get someone to stay.)
Let’s Talk Money - Right after family values, comes the money talk. You never really know someone until you start talking money. Most people are either spenders or savers. Depending on how strongly entrenched they are, conflicts will come fast and often if they date someone who believes differently. A spender lives life in the moment and doesn’t give too much thought for tomorrow. They buy what they want when they want it. The saver is always thinking two steps ahead and wants a way to pay for those steps. In a dating environment, this really isn’t too much of a problem because each one carries out their own lifestyle. The only issue might be if the spender keeps running out of money and the saver has to fund the relationship. The big problems come if they get married and join finances. There will always be a power struggle with how to spend the money. Pay attention to the financial attitude of anyone you date and be aware if you are not on the same page.
Introvert/Extrovert - Most of us fall in the middle of the ‘verts’ and can easily adapt to being alone or being in a crowd. However, there are those who actively reside on one side or the other. Again, neither is a bad thing. Often, introverts complain that an extro only wants attention or can’t be alone with their thoughts. Or the extrovert can’t understand why someone actually wants to be away from the chaos and enjoys their own company and space. Ridicule is not helpful nor nice, but it is important to find out where your new date falls on the scale here and how that might affect the relationship. If you need to be on the go all the time and love life on the move surrounded by a multitude of people, you will have a hard time being in a relationship with an introvert. You will constantly be begging them to go with you and will get frustrated when they don’t want to. If you consistently go anyway, without them, that will create tension and possibly even doubt and trust issues. As an introvert, you will dream of being tucked away with your love and not understand their desire to always be out and about. You may begin to have self-doubt and wonder why your love isn’t ‘enough’ to make them stay home. That would be a very incorrect viewpoint and unfair to your partner. The feelings of introverts and extroverts are legitimate and important regardless of which side you fall. Please be mindful of how the differences will play out in real time if you choose to pursue someone on the opposite end of the spectrum.
To Skydive Or Not! - I talk a lot about compromise. We are not going to find someone who only likes what we like and only wants to do what we do. And that’s beautiful! We need others to open our eyes and our minds to new adventures. It is perfectly fine to date someone who has a variety of interests and activities that may differ from ours; and vice versa, just as long as we do not become selfish and demanding. If you are an adrenaline junkie and love to skydive or bungee jump, and your partner is afraid of heights, you will NEVER convince them to try. No amount of tricks or bribes will work. That is not about compromise, it is about fears or strong personal preferences. It is ok to ask someone to try a different restaurant, or learn a new hobby (that doesn’t involve knife throwing, etc), but to try and coerce someone to do something they expressly resist or fear is not fair or loving. These types of differences do not necessarily doom a relationship from the start, but it is very important that everyone understands your partner is not obligated to try something they are afraid of or opposed to just because they love you. Got it?
The bottom line of all of these examples is that you will never be able to change anyone into the person you want them to be, nor should you try. They either are right for you, right now, or they aren’t. If they aren’t, then just accept this reality and move on. You don’t have to be critical or demeaning. You don’t have to act hurt or resentful. They are not bad people just because they are not a good match for you. And it is a wise and mature individual who can recognize these differences and realize the long-term effects and decide to continue to seek a more like-minded partner. Please do not settle out of fear of being alone or because the attraction is so strong. Fear is a terrible motivator and attraction fades quickly when the conflict starts. Pick someone who aligns with your views, convictions and lifestyle. Wait for them if you must. It will be worth it and the journey will go much smoother.
And always, whether alone or with a partner…
Hope With Abandon