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When Opposites Attract

When it comes to relationships the adage goes that ‘opposites attract’, but another that ‘birds of a feather flock together’. What is for sure is that whichever adage applies to your relationship, there will be aspects of each other’s personality that present a real challenge to you.

Myself and my partner Tracey are definitely in the ‘opposites attract’ camp – I am a classic introvert and she an out and out extrovert. Whilst there is unquestionably something that we find appealing about this aspect of ‘otherness’, it also creates an ongoing tension in our relationship that we have to negotiate. I like quiet weekends, she likes busy ones; I like to plan, she likes to be spontaneous; I like holidays alone as a family, she likes to holiday with friends; I like people to make appointments, she likes them to pop in: she is continuously energised by social interaction, whilst after a point I am drained by it.

In truth she occasionally thinks that I am a total bore who never wants to see anyone, whilst I sometimes think that she is the Duracell bunny that never stops moving! How then to navigate such difference? The short answer is through compromise – being true to your own nature while finding a way to push the boundaries of your comfort zones to meet your partner.


There are a few practical things that we have found really helpful along the journey:

The rule of three

 I can quite happily while away a weekend without seeing a single soul. Tracey on the other hand would find such a prospect positively dull. We have found a place of agreement where the first two social engagements of a weekend get an automatic green light but the third has to be more carefully negotiated.

 The signal to exit

 We have had some spectacular domestics at parties. When both partners love people but one is drained by social interaction and the other energised by it is perhaps not surprising! We now negotiate a leaving time before any party with the knowledge that I might be hanging by that point but that Tracey will have to cut short the most fascinating conversation and that she hasn’t even managed to catch up with most of the people there.

The weekly diary

Perhaps the most helpful thing that we have found is planning. Whilst this might not be high up on the priority of a spontaneous extravert it has proved to be invaluable. We have a common diary and start each week by viewing the week ahead. Tracey feels energised when she knows that she has sufficient social engagements planned for the week, and I feel reassured to see where I can get time and space alone to re-charge.

In essence we are both looking for the same thing – that is to find what we need in order to feel most fully alive and most able to effectively function it is just that we sometimes find this in different places.

Richard Elliott

Husband, father, teacher, coach & philanthropist. Richard is a director of Pickwell Manor Ltd and a founder of the Pickwell Foundation – a grant making charitable trust focusing on displaced people and climate change. He has a Diploma in Business, Executive & Life Coaching and a background in Post 16 Education in which he taught and managed Social Science subjects. He has a particular interest in how values shape individuals, relationships, families and organisations. 

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