Ask A Woman: Opposites attract? Or birds of a feather flock together?
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There is a girl that I was acquainted with in college that I have randomly bumped into a few times over the past month. We hung out at a wedding and then at a bar afterwards and had a great time. I would like to ask her to get together sometime, but I am afraid that our lifestyles are too different to overcome. She is a beautiful/smart/funny girl who happens to have been heavily involved in YoungLife in college, which is a Christian college youth group organization. She drinks casually, but never more than a couple. I’m 99% sure she is a virgin. She rarely swears. She goes to church every Sunday. As for me, on the other hand: I consider myself a genuine, moral person and a good friend to have, but my lifestyle and values are different than hers. I am not very religious, I like to go out and drink more than just a couple with my buddies, I have had multiple sexual partners, I probably cuss more than I should… you get the idea. Is it worth asking her out, or do you think these differences are too much to overcome?
I love that you asked this question because it gives us the opportunity to tackle a topic we really haven’t thus far on Ask A Woman: how much do you need to have in common with someone to make a relationship work? The two areas that spring to mind for me are core values and interests.
Core Values. Everyone has basic values that are important to them. Maybe these values align with your religious beliefs, maybe they follow your political leanings, maybe they have little to do with either. But whatever you feel is most important in guiding the way you live your life? Those are areas where your partner needs to meet you. For instance, if you believe that volunteerism and service is a moral obligation for you, and you have your fingers in several organizations–serving a meal each month at a shelter, being a Big Brother and meeting with your Little Brother every week to play basketball, donating financially to non-profits that fight poverty–it is likely important to you to see the same devotion to service reflected in your partner. And if this really is the most important moral tenet in your life–give back to the community–and your partner is right there with you, then it’s much more likely that you can successfully differ on other issues some might think would be polarizing (one of you is Jewish, the other is agnostic; one of you is liberal; the other is conservative), without it sinking your partnership. Plus, couples who participate together in activities and commitments that reinforce the values they share, are much more likely to have a solid relationship.
Interests. In the beginning of a relationship, it’s enough to be wildly attracted to the other person. You can get some serious mileage out of having dinner together and making out (or more) on someone’s couch while “watching a movie”. But eventually, companionship becomes as important as passion, and you need to share hobbies and interests with your partner. This is not to say that you have everything in common and the same personality. Perhaps one of you is extroverted, while the other is introverted, but you both love going to see live music. Maybe one of you grew up on a farm and the other in an apartment in the city, but you’re both total foodies and also obsessed with college football. You have to enjoy doing some of the same things, or else you won’t like spending time together. I know a lot of couples, too, who don’t necessarily share all of the same interests, but are really supportive of their partners’ differing hobbies. One friend competes in triathlons. Her husband has zero interest in this, but when she does her open-water swims during training, he paddles along in a kayak next to her to make sure she’s safe in the water (he’s also never missed a single race of hers). Another friend loves all things French and tries to get to Paris as often as possible. Her husband often accompanies her on these trips, even though he’s not exactly a Francophile, and he also bought her several subscriptions to French magazines so that she can keep her language skills sharp.
Doesn’t it seem like there’s an appropriate Paula Abdul song for all occasions?
For those at home shaking their heads and saying, “but my girlfriend and I are so different and don’t really have any similar interests or values but we get along great and have a good time,” my response, albeit harsh, is that I’d be very surprised if it lasted. When we’re talking about long-term commitment, and the intertwining of two lives, happy relationships require that the two partners meet on these basic levels.
So Jake, these are things to think about if you date her. Maybe others swearing doesn’t bother her. Maybe she doesn’t need her boyfriend to go to church with her. Maybe she doesn’t mind that you like to go out drinking with your buddies sometimes. Maybe she is realistic about the fact that most men her age are not virgins (though, certainly, you’ll need to be prepared to forgo sex if you want to be with her). And maybe there are many other, more important areas where you have a ton in common. The only way to find out? Date her. And I say, why not? Dating is not serious. As Tom Hanks says (WARNING: chick flick reference ahead) in Sleepless in Seattle, “This is what single people do. They try people on to see how they fit.” You’re not committing to a relationship by asking her out. It’s dinner, it’s a movie, it’s a concert, it’s coffee. No big deal. The only way to find out if you have overlapping values and interests is to date. And because she’s not a permanent fixture in your life–like your best friend’s sister or a colleague, there is relatively little risk involved.
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