We’ve probably all seen in our personal relationships or by watching our friends and families that opposites really do attract. Many times, that means that one partner displays their affection easily while the other is more reserved. Sometimes this works well – the more emotionally giving partner may help draw the more reserved person out of their shell, while the signs of affection that the reserved person shares may feel more rewarding because they are harder won.

Unfortunately, opposite attachment styles can also lead to relationship problems. The more emotionally giving partner may grow tired of always being the one to initiate displays of affection, while the more reserved partner may be uncomfortable with their partner’s efforts to be “touchy feely.” The two people might even begin wondering if they really are compatible after all. As a Houston relationship counselor, I often work with couples who are in this situation.

The truth is that these partners often can absolutely be compatible – they just have to work to better understand each other’s attachment styles.

Advice for Better Understanding Your “Opposite” Mate

Set aside time to talk about what’s bothering you. If there’s something about your partner’s attachment style that’s bothering you, such as their need for public displays of affection or the way they tense up when you hug them, set aside a time when you’re alone and in a comfortable place so you can talk about the issue. Don’t phrase the problem as something that is your partner’s fault – say something like, “When you won’t let me kiss you in public, I feel like I’m being rejected.”

Listen to what your partner has to say. Don’t fall into the trap of doing all the talking yourself – make sure to be a good listener when your partner explains how they feel. This may give you a completely different understanding of something you thought was a problem. For example, maybe the reason your partner is uncomfortable with public displays of affection is because they grew up in a more reserved household.

Learn to compromise. Work with your partner to come up with compromises that will make you both happy. Maybe the more reserved partner doesn’t want the pressure of public displays of affection, but could become more accepting of affection in the privacy of their own home.

Understand that people have different ways of showing their love. The great thing about love is that we all have different ways of expressing it. Some people may feel most comfortable expressing their love through physical contact, while others might show their love through gifts, words, or other gestures. Learn to recognize the ways your partner expresses their love and let them know that you appreciate it.

If you want to learn more about attachment styles and how people who are seemingly polar opposites can be happy together, leave a comment or schedule an appointment with the Houston relationship therapist.