Opposites Attract...And Fight!
You hear it all the time: Opposites attract. But what people fail to warn you about is that opposites also butt heads. Big time. But just because you and your boyfriend have some fundamental differences doesn't mean your relationship is doomed. "Even major disparities—such as how you handle money—can be overcome," says Bethany Marshall, Ph. D., author of Deal Breakers. We asked experts for advice on bridging the gaps and managing conflict.
You're neat, he's a slob
Difficulty Factor: 2/5
"A person's living space reflects how they view themselves, even their consideration for others," says Diana Kirschner, Ph. D., author of Love in 90 Days. And ultimately, his mess becomes your problem too. To coexist harmoniously, list the top three areas that irk you most, then ask him to try his best to keep them neat. "Or spring for a cleaning service once a week," Kirschner says. If he rolls his eyes at your "nagging," sweetly remind him that his taking the initiative will put an end to your complaining. In fact, studies conducted by the University of Rochester show that when a guy does a chore for his partner because he genuinely wants to, not because he has to, it means a lot more to her.
You read tabloids, he's an intellect
Difficulty Factor: 1/5
"The danger here is that the brainy one will feel unstimulated while the other feels judged for their less erudite interests," Marshall says. But odds are you aren't as far apart on the knowledge spectrum as you might think. According to the business research firm McKinsey & Company, the average person gets their news from up to 16 different sources per day. So even if all you read are gossip rags and blogs, you're probably perusing a lot of the same topics. When you want to dish the dirt with him, frame your questions in a way that will pique his interest. For example, ask how he thinks Michael Jackson changed the musical landscape.
You're a Democrat, He's a Republican
Difficulty Factor: 3/5
Politics can be a hot-button relationship issue. "People get passionate about politics. And for many, the topic shapes their entire worldview, which is why couples who support different parties may argue more than others," Marshall says. Try to understand each other's POV by asking nonjudgmental questions. For example, "What would you like to see changed about our healthcare system?" or "What do you think about the United States' nuclear arms negotiations with Russia?" Healthy debate is good for a relationship—according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, the more comfortable you are disagreeing, the more secure you feel with each other. But if your discourse always turns into a huge week long disagreement, it's best to declare politics off-limits.
You want three kids, he wants one
Difficulty Factor: 4.5/5
Women who want several children may feel unfulfilled without the experience, which can lead to long-term resentment. To prevent this, discuss your disparate family plans. (Is he worried he won't be able to support a large family? Does he think more than one kid is too much work?). "Then try to allay his fears—for example, offer to start a 'future family' bank account, or suggest moving closer to in-laws who can pitch in," says Ruth Nemzoff, Ed. D., a resident scholar at Brandeis University's Women's Studies Research Center and the author of Don't Bite Your Tongue. If he won't budge, volunteering with kids or becoming a teacher can help quench your desire to have an impact on the lives of many children.
You're a homebody, he likes to party
Difficulty Factor: 3/5
It's frustrating when you want to hit the hay just when he wants to hit the bars, but the two of you can still have a blast on Friday night. You just need to combine your craving for a low-key night with his outgoing streak.
Suggests Marshall: "Invite a few couples over for cocktails. That enables you to be social while surrounded by the comforts of home." Also try alternating nights out and nights in so you're both satisfied. Lastly, there may be evenings when you stay home and watch a DVD while he has boys' night. There's no need to do everything together.
You like to spend, he likes to save
Difficulty Factor: 4/5
Money is a huge source of tension in many relationships, according to Janice Bennett, Ph. D., a New York City-based psychologist. "The saver feels he's pulling all the weight while the spender feels dependent." To compromise, be cost conscious when you want to buy, say, a car. Suggest purchasing a used vehicle instead of a new one—that way, you get to spend, while he feels like he's saving. Or keep separate bank accounts—you pay for clothes, trips, and dinners, while bills and investments fall under his domain.