5 Ways to Make A Relationship Work When You’re Too Different

When someone we love and want to be with says, “We’re too different” or “We’re incompatible” most of us react with hurt. We become defensive and try to argue down the other person’s observations and feelings. In our hurt, we tell them they are not seeing things clearly, their feelings are wrong (or not important) and they should see things the way we do, and the way we do is that “we’re not too different, we just don’t communicate well”.

As most people broken up with their ex over being too different or incompatible can attest, defensiveness doesn’t stop the other person from thinking and feeling that too different or incompatible.

Here’s the thing, forget about what you think about opposites-attract or likes-attract or whatever you think you are. In reality, most relationships are likes-attract in some areas (enough similarities to sustain a relationship long term), and opposites-attract in other areas (just enough differences to make things interesting and exciting).

Too much difference can be draining and can cause a great deal of conflict in a relationship especially when the differences rub the other person the wrong way. Even two people who love each other very much may find themselves unable to tolerate each other.

But just because you’re attracted to, or are in a relationship with someone who feels like the polar opposite of you doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed. With the right attitude, mindset and commitment you can build a foundation for lasting love.

1. Develop a friends-first relationship

Many relationships with great potential often end too quickly because of a poor sense of timing, and eagerness to “seal the deal quickly.” If your times together are limited to weekly or bi-weekly “date nights” for example, the differences may not be visible until much later. In many cases you may actually appear more similar than you really are. A friends-first approach helps you move slowly, and allows you space to show consistency and achieve a higher probability of synchronicity with the other person.

2. Understand your differences

Having opposite personalities, communication and relating styles can work if both of you are clear about the foundation on which your relationship is built on. The only way to do that is by having an honest talk about your differences — what is it about your differences that you find exciting, and stimulating and what is it that you see as having the potential to create a conflict that might lead to a break up. You MUST have this talk because it’ll happen one way or another — and in most cases when you’re not expecting it and not ready for it. Things could go awfully wrong!

3. Accept your differences

It’s one thing to be smitten by how different someone is from you, it’s a different thing to accept and even admire each other’s differences. The fastest way to ruin a relationship — even one with great potential — is to try to change your partner into a carbon copy of yourself, or try to change him/her to meet your expectations and specific requirements.

4. Negotiate and make compromises

Strong relationships are all about compromise and some reasonable sacrifices along the way. So find specific ways to meet each other halfway. This should not be a one-time-only thing, but a discipline that must be developed, practiced and fine-tuned to create a true “win/win” relationship.

5. Create something new together

Do something different, something neither of you has done before and one that wouldn’t necessarily come naturally to either one of you. You can also learn a new skill together or create something tangible together like start a business, or build a house etc. Working together as a team where each brings his/her talents and strengths to the table, and concentrating on achieving a common goal will remind you why you’re such an excellent match.

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  1. says: Patricia

    My soon to be ex are polar opposites. You validated everything I suspected, but being polar opposites, he doesn’t realize this yet, and I am unsure he will ever realize it. He also has Combat PTSD so its harder. We are both opposites in the EXTREME. But our love is still abundant and we were both sad to split up. I felt like I was forced to constantly change. Makes sense now. Thank you.

  2. says: Edsmutts

    You got me thinking! What you’re saying does make a lot of sense. Thank you for providing this valuable service.

  3. says: Edsmutts

    I wish you’d written this post two months ago when my ex broke up with me. We loved each other very much and were together a good a 3 years. We had similarities in that we both love people, baseball and gaming but that’s about it. Our values, priorities in life and love styles were polar opposites. Our biggest opposite is that she’s conservative, I’m a liberal. She likes to stay at home I like to go out at least twice a week. She attends church every Sunday, I am agnostic. She wants constant interaction (many email, texts, etc. a day) and I on the other hand I’m perfectly fine with just one contact during the day to see how the other is doing. It has been very hard for both of us but after reading this I feel that may be if I had tried hard enough it could have worked.

    1. I can’t say it would have worked or not worked. What I do know is that you’d both have had to be very committed and willing to work very hard and to make it work. It’s especially harder if your differences involve values and priorities in life. These are what I call deal breakers because for most people these are not “negotiable”. In many cases if someone changes his/her values or priorities in life just to be with the other, at some point down the road, that person may start feeling like he/she sacrificed “too much”’ for the sake of the relationship and may become disgruntled, dissatisfied or unhappy.

  4. says: Rama Rani

    Great article and good advice. I’m in an interracial relationship. We’ve been together for over a year. I love him very much and he loves me but sometimes we run out of things in common to talk about. These tips will certainly help. Thanks 🙂