Romantic relationships: complementarity principle vs. the law of attraction

Many people want to be a relationship. But not many know what for. The general feeling is that it is better somehow. There is a popular belief that two people can “complete” each other in certain ways, which proves on many occasions to be confusing. We may hear people using the words “polarity” or “opposites attract” or “law of attraction” with regards to relationships.

However, the interpretation of such terms differs from one person to another. It is true that in a couple, if one partner is shy and accommodating, another might be assertive and uncompromising. One could be a safety-seeking type, another a risk-taker. Arguably, such unions can function more effectively in the world since they influence each other’s qualities by softening their extreme manifestations and, as a whole, may appear more “balanced”.

Another variation of polarity in a couple is the one that relates to the opposite protective mechanisms that each individual adapts while growing up. For example, one person maintains their illusionary security by withdrawing, another by engulfing; one is a caretaker whereas another is the one who needs rescuing; similarly, victim and perpetrator; narcissist and one with low self-esteem; rescuer and “damsel in distress”; Mr Perfect and his crazy wife; Good Boy and his angel-like passive-aggressive partner. The list goes on…

Such psychologically complementary pairing may be stable for shorter or longer periods of time. But, if we presume that two people in a couple constantly evolve by seeking growth and healing, it is not difficult to imagine a point in their life when psychological complementarity will stop working because one individual happens to resolve their childhood wounds or becomes more aware of his or her rigid schemas and stops following a particular behavioural pattern. There is nothing intrinsically wrong or bad in this, but it does mean that there is a high probability that the relationship disintegrates.

Therefore, I would like to make a point here that if we want to pursue a long-lasting romantic partnership, we should not base our relationship choices on ‘complementarity of deficiencies’. Neither should we seek healing or therapy through our relationship, or at least, we should not see such processes as central in it. We should seek these independently and irrespectively of anything that is going on in our relationships. This is not to say that a relationship based on true love is not going to have its healing or redemptive power for us – it will. But this should be seen as its amazing “side effect” rather than as its central part or its purpose.

While our polarised personal qualities may result in the overall feeling of psychological comfort and compatibility, what makes a relationship really work is having fundamental things in common. These common things come from our conscious desires and preferences in life, from a similarity in our personal, spiritual and moral values. From neurobiological perspective, these are products of our pre-frontal cortex, rather than of the amygdala’s protective responses to ‘safety-danger’ situations around which our character is formed. Without such similarity in fundamental values in both individuals, their relationship is not going to be sustainable in the long term. The law of attraction can be stated as: “like attracts like”. You want respect – be respectful. You want to be cared for – start caring for others. If you want love – be love. If you want to be with an attractive, strong, mature, caring individual – match your demand with an equally high offer. If you don’t – accept the possibility that your relationships may never go beyond being a string of never-ending spiritual homeworks, character building projects, wound healing sprees, attempts at fixing and changing another, heroic rescuing acts, etc.

The only area of our relationship where we should seek polarity (or, in other words, the power of magnetism, or ‘opposites attract’) is the gender essence polarity. Why? Because we want the passion and energy that comes with it. When we feel passionate we feel inspired and ‘securely attached’ with our partner. If passion is not in our relationship we won’t be ‘securely attached’ because, sooner or later, passion will spark elsewhere with someone else. What makes a relationship passionate is things being different (polarity). Naturally, if a woman wants to be with a masculine man, she has to activate the feminine essence in her. Similarly, if a man wants to be with a feminine woman he has to be more aligned with the masculine principle. This magnetism will work irrespectively of physical gender because each of us carries both principles. Masculine and feminine essence in us will play out differently in different situations and we can consciously choose which energy we want to ride. However, it is necessary to develop self-awareness and a good understanding of gender spirituality to play this exciting game in a creative and ‘life-forward’ way.

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