I consider myself to be at least a reasonably outgoing fellow these days. I enjoy spending time doing stuff I’ve never done before and really getting in and experiencing everything life has to offer. This is somewhat hampered by the fact that I am abjectly terrible at starting my own adventures. When left to my own devices I basically revert to my most introverted state and curl up and watch Netflix or similar. As soon as someone suggests a thing – I am at it like a bull at a gate. This phenomenon can cause those in my life no small amount of cognitive or emotional dissonance as the change can be quite jarring.
It took me sometime to realise I had this limitation. Prior to really understanding it I actually conceived myself to be far more of a shut in that I actually am. This lead me to shying away from some of the more adventurous or dynamic people in my life, because I thought i would ‘bring them down’ or some other self-deprecating stand in. I considered myself to be ‘just a nerd’.
The moment I started to realise I was ‘secretly’ quite in love with adventures came when a girlfriend of mine invited me geocaching. Now at the time I was working my way to 100% completion on, the then brand new, Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor so I had a viable alternative but I jumped at the opportunity to get out in the fresh air with good company. Whilst we were traipsing all about the hills enjoying ourselves and getting properly sunburned and dehydrated I began to ponder the importance of the moment I found myself in. I, a self confessed nerd boy, was actively engaging in adventurous outdoor activity and really loving it. I cast my mind back over my life and began to wonder if this woman was changing me….GASP!
When I really stopped to consider it it became rather obvious that she wasn’t – both of the significant partners I had been previously involved with had been outgoing and vivacious human-women-folk but somehow I had either forgotten, repressed or otherwise my absolute enjoyment of active and adventurous conduct. It boggled me then, as it does now from time to time, how poor I could/can be at self inspection and understanding. How inaccurate and negative my self talk can be when I let it run thoroughly unchallenged or unexamined.
This chain of inquiry also begot another – I began to consider this complimentary experience in terms of the time honored mantra : “Opposites Attract”. Now this seemed perfectly reasonable as an explanation on the day. But some years have passed since that moment and this and my feelings have become somewhat more nuanced. I have come to believe that giving oneself entirely over to the idea that opposites attract can lead you down very dangerous and ill suited pairings – I had a few. Thinking I was seeking adventure I began several involvements with humans that were clearly incredibly poorly suited partners. Similarly when reacting poorly to some of the more outlandish pairings I have attempted I have run into the arms or partners who, through their absolute similarity to me amplified all my worst qualities and became unchallenging or boring. I think perhaps a far healthier and more helpful way to seek out potential romantic partners is to remember”We are attracted to complimentary personalities”.
What I mean to say is – I am not a fantastic self-starter for adventures but one of the things I look for in a prospective partner is being good at just that. Not because it is the opposite of myself but rather because it a strength that compliments and ‘makes up for’ my weakness. Rather than fairly reductively searching for people that just don’t ‘look’ like ourselves I think it is far more helpful, and far emotionally healthier, to look for those individuals whose happiness is derived from similar pursuits but that go about it in different way and have slightly different strengths. To find someone who can teach us more about ourselves merely by experiencing their life as they otherwise would.
I think that if we adopt this slightly more nuanced outlook of complimentary pairing rather than similarity or opposite pairing we run far fewer risks of boredom, flatness or lack of compatibility and begin to enter a world where even if things don’t work out long term we can honestly say that we learned new things about ourselves by experiencing our weakness through the strengths of those that love us.