Do Opposites Attract?

A recent study tells a different story about relationships and emotional distance. The Columbia University study of over 700 men and women reveals that the level of closeness isn’t as important as the individuals’ needs.

In religious terms, sharing the desired level of closeness would be similar to being “equally yoked.”

“Our study found that people who yearn for a more intimate partnership and people who crave more distance are equally at risk for having a problematic relationship,” says the study’s lead author, David M. Frost, PhD, of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“If you want to experience your relationship as healthy and rewarding, it’s important that you find a way to attain your idealized level of closeness with your partner.”

Over the two-year study period, some respondents’ experiences of closeness became aligned with their ideals. In such cases, their relationship quality and mental health improved. The inverse was also true. Those who increasingly felt “too close” or “not close enough” over time were more likely to grow unhappy in their relationships and ultimately break up with their partners.

In the book, The 5 Languages of Love, Dr. Gary Chapman provides exercises to help couples identify their individual love language.

• What do you complain about most often? When you say to your spouse, “I don’t think you would ever touch me if I did not initiate it,” you are revealing that Physical Touch is your love language. When your spouse goes on a business trip and you say, “You didn’t bring me anything?” you are indicating that Receiving Gifts is your language. The statement, “We don’t ever spend time together,” indicates the love language of Quality Time. Your complaints reveal your inner desires.

Tips for Relationship Success

Whether you’re in a long-term relationship that needs a boost or you are in the beginning stages of a new romance, having a clear understanding of your emotional needs is a big step toward a relationship that is mutually satisfying and long lasting.

Weigh in: Do opposites make better mates?

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