We’ve talked about “perfect boyfriend/girlfriend checklists” before, because they’re something that we pretty much all have, whether we physically write them down or not. Even an open-minded person is probably holding onto some idea that they whipped together in childhood about the kind of person they imagined being with forever. I always thought I would meet a lanky blonde Italian vegetarian dude with long hippie hair who loves Todd Rundgren as much as I do and is very simple and is extremely outgoing and loud. And that person … might exist? There might be one person in the universe who exists like that. But maybe he lives in Dublin or something, and never our paths would meet. Did you hear? The chances of meeting your one soul mate is like 1 in 10,000!
My real boyfriend is the polar opposite of my fake/dream boyfriend. He is short and has dark skin, hair and eyes and he is kind of shy and a designer and he loves buying clothes and sneakers and eating duck and I am much, much louder than him. Yes, we are really similar in important ways — we think the same things are funny and like to live our lives in much the same way. But my relationship is awesome because he has brought so many unexpected things to my life — things that my fake/dream boyfriend wouldn’t have been able to provide me with.
Do you remember that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry dates Janeane Garofalo for like 5 minutes? They broke up because they were too similar. Too similar is not good. And now, I can’t believe I ever wanted anyone anything like me. In fact, I hate me! I mean, I don’t want to date me! I don’t know how my boyfriend puts up with me! I know I couldn’t do it.
I’m going to advise everyone to go out in search of their opposite. Not their opposite in super critical ways — if God is really your thing, it would be dumb to try to get along with someone who was really opposed to religion. But just try it. Just once. Find someone who makes you go WHAT? OH! It’s an interesting exercise, in the least. And you’ll learn about yourself and get some new tunes, and all of this stuff, too!
1. It’s really freeing. You know that feeling when you’re traveling across time zones or you’re studying abroad or you’ve been on vacation for 8 days and you can’t remember what day it is anymore? That’s the realization that we have created rules for time and space, and they don’t actually exist. You feel in the moment. I think you feel that way with someone different, too, because you realize that there are other ways to do things, and that you don’t have to be chained to all of your beliefs and habits. You could feel open to a new religion, a new style, or promise yourself to sleep more and stress less, or stop smoking crack or start eating more kale.
2. You become more aware of what you’re like. Dating your opposite is like having a big old mirror staring right back at you, dating your opposite is. Your SO might even say things about you that you’ve never thought about before, like, “you are always late,” “you only eat cheese” or “you look nice in short skirts.” Sometimes these things can be shocking to hear — “you drink every night!” — but if they’re true, it’s helpful. And your SO is still dating you, so they obviously don’t think it’s a huge deal.
3. You will get the Best advice. Because it’s advice you’d never think of. And we all know that our friends are sometimes our cheerleaders to a fault — their viewpoints are either extremely similar to ours, or they might just be going along with what we’re saying to keep things harmonious. But if you have a big problem or a huge-ish issue to hammer out, there’s nothing like an honest, opinionated, very different boyfriend or girlfriend to say, “I love you, but you’re wrong.” Or “think about it this way.”
4. You’ll learn about people more. With dating someone comes sort of being their therapist — you’re there to hear them bemoan about work or friendships or family issues. And that is soooo interesting. (Funny how typed, that looks sarcastic. I am not being sarcastic.) Your opposite will have very opposite problems than you do, and you will see the other side. Learning about how your very different boyfriend or girlfriend grew up is insightful, too. Your way isn’t the only way.
5. You can shake up your routine. Thinking your routine doesn’t need to be shaken up is the first sign that it does. You need to meet someone who gets up early or travels all the time or does yoga every evening. Everyone needs a change sometimes, and the best way to get that change is to experience it with someone you love who will show you the way.
6. New music! It’s annoying when people start listening to music just because their new boyfriend or girlfriend does, but it must be recognized how awesome it is to get insight into new tunes you never would have found on your own. For those of you who constantly get bored with their music and get depressed when they don’t have anything on their iPod to be excited about, it’s nice to be able to say, “hey babe, what should I listen to right now?” and get a total surprise.
7. You’ll feel less judged and be less judgmental. Your opposite won’t judge you in the same way that you do. Tiny things that might bother you about yourself won’t bother them at all. There is also less competition when you’re with someone so different than you. You don’t have to worry about who is funnier or smarter or a better Cross Fitter — you can just dive into the relationship and relax and enjoy yourself. And for the record: I am the better Cross Fitter. Just kidding.
8. Your love will expand. You will most likely be into all the same things you were into before, but you will also get a whole new set of obsessions — tennis, The Raiders, Rockabilly, France, Grappa. You wouldn’t have loved that stuff on your own, would you have?
9. You’ll better define yourself. You might not really know who you are if you’ve never had to think about it. But being with someone with totally different values, habits, backgrounds, and lifestyles makes you figure out the difference between what is really important to you, and what you were just doing on autopilot.
10. Hey look at you, you’re the whole puzzle! You were awesome before, but now you’re a real team, with your SO picking up your slack (and you picking up theirs.) You will push each other, fill in each other’s gaps, and make life easier for each other. Two heads really are better than one. But if the heads are the exact same, what’s the point?