You’re Just Like Me, Only Exactly Opposite

Have you ever noticed how early on in a romantic relationship, your partner can do no wrong, and seems to be “just like you.” He may be a Harley-riding, hog-raising, gun activist while you reside in a vegetarian hippie commune raising soybeans and making hemp underwear, but somehow you rationalize that you’ve never met anyone who seems so much like “your perfect reflection.” Together, you ride off into the sunset to get to the next biker bar where you will eat the tofu burger you tucked away in your rainbow sock–all the while grateful to the goddesses for providing you with such fortune (as he chows on his three-pound alligator burger).

I don’t mean to de-romanticize the romanticism, but inevitably, the day comes when you realize your partner is not only not like you, but he or she is in fact in many ways completely opposite. This is in fact, according to many relationship psychologists, a phase in the relationship–albeit not always one as fun and lighthearted as when you first locked steely glances. (Disclaimer note: I’m not talking about my partner and husband, who is, in fact, just about completely perfect.)

What will you do on that day, and what will you do if the partner I mention is actually your business partner, client, or even friend? Before you throw in the towel in search of someone more identical, consider that this person’s differences might actually be the keys to your success. Here are some tips for analyzing whether the differences in your relationship make it fit for heaven, or destined for Hells Angels. Ask yourself:

1)Do this person’s strengths compliment yours? Meaning, if your partner is different, is he or she different in at least two or three helpful ways? Does he like doing laundry, while you’d rather fix the car? Is he gifted at cold calls, whereas you build a mean financial spreadsheet? Is he just plain the most talented piano player you have ever heard, while you are the tone-deaf owner a piano school?

2)Do this person’s weaknesses coincide with his or her strengths? David Rendall, author of The Freak Factor, says that sometimes our greatest weaknesses are the best clues to our greatest strengths. In fact, he advises focusing on weaknesses long enough to help them become guiding lights to our strengths. For example, if your partner is extraordinarily creative, but horrible at taking out the waste bin, don’t worry about it… He’s not organized, but he’s gifted at being disorderly in a creative way. Make your millions off his creative idea, and you can hire a maid to do your dirty work.

Mac Anderson, founder of Successories and Simple Truths, told me in an interview that the turning point in his success came when he stopped trying to do everything himself, and instead hired people to do the things he wasn’t good at. I’ve seen some of the most successful marriages between two people who seem so different, but who act as perfect complements. Is it time for you to embrace someone’s differences?

Here’s how to know if it’s not:

If someone’s weaknesses etch at your strengths (or strength), move on. Strengths-based management is effective, but only if one’s weaknesses are not strong enough to trip him or her beyond repair. Your highly talented rockstar boyfriend destined for a mega-million dollar deal is only a benefit to you when he isn’t also beating you silly. Your business partner with the tremendous technical talent is only useful to your company  when he’s not bilking from the bottom line to feed his gambling habit. If you are so exhausted trying to get someone to be strong more often than weak, divert the energy to yourself, and get to more solid ground where you can find the next person to fill the role. You are worth more than that.

On the other hand, if your partner is good at something you aren’t, stop complaining, and listen and learn from him…


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