Is it true that a relationship can only work if two people have opposite personalities?

A student asked:

Is it true that a relationship can only work if two people have opposite personalities, e.g. introvert and extrovert?

This is not true at all. But I want to highlight a problem with this belief. No matter how similar a couple may be, it’s always the differences (no matter how minute) that will catch the couple’s attention. Similarities don’t draw attention because they look quite ordinary to us. They don’t have the potential to cause conflict. And so we can go by for weeks, months, and even years not realising just how crazy similar we may be.

But differences catch our attention like a thorn in our side. So it’ll always look like a pairing of opposite personalities, regardless of how similar a couple may be.

What makes a relationship work is open and honest communication. Don’t keep secrets, don’t hide your feelings about things, try to make it easier for your partner to want to discuss difficult topics. You need to be able to do this if you want the relationship to work.

Why am I saying this? Because our differences will tend to be the point of contention in many aspects of the relationship. If we don’t learn to manage our differences amicably, then there will be problems with the relationship.

Avoiding these problems due to differences won’t help any of you at all. The relationship will stagnate on the appearance of it seeming to work when there are deeper problems waiting to be addressed. It’s a ticking time bomb if difficulty or conflictive issues are left undiscussed for a long time. Eventually, some event will trigger a huge argument, and often times, one side will say something that s/he can never take back. And that would fatally wound the relationship, perhaps in ways that you both won’t be able to recover.

Author: Jonathan Y. H. Sim

Jonathan Sim is an Instructor with the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is passionate about teaching and he continues to research fun and innovative ways of engaging students to learn effectively. He has been teaching general education modules to a diverse range of undergraduate students and adult learners at the University.

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