Alissa smiling with her husband, Matt.

Complementary Relationships: What Makes You & Your Partner Different, Makes You Stronger

relationships Mar 14, 2019

Complement: add to (something) in a way that enhances or improves it; make perfect.

When I was 23, I had a new, solo life in California. It was amazing; there were so many adventures to be had and I decided I didn’t want to welcome any new guy into it unless he somehow made it even better. I made a proclamation. I won’t date anyone unless they complement my life. I wasn’t looking for someone to complete my life. Not someone who is exactly like me. Someone who complements me. Two separate individuals coming together to make life brighter and more beautiful.

Two weeks into dating. A trip to Santa Barbara!

Only a few months after making this proclamation, I signed up for a dating app called Hinge. I always said I’d never download a dating app, but my only friend was away for Christmas break and I was bored. And lonely. I liked the idea of not having to meet a guy in a dark bar. I told myself if anyone raised a signal on my douche-o-meter, I didn’t need to see him again. After about a week on the app, I went on my very first (and last) Hinge date. On that first date, I got lucky enough to meet Matt. I could gush on and on about him, but I’ll spare you guys. What I will say is that from the moment we met, I knew he was perfect for me. It was instantaneous. “When you know, you know.”

In some ways, Matt and I are super similar. We have so many moments where he’ll say something and I’m like, that’s exactly what I was thinking! In other ways, Matt and I are total opposites.

I’m big into personality tests. On the Enneagram scale, I’m a Two (Helper) and Matt is an Eight (Challenger). According to the Enneagram Institute,, the Helper is “A caring, interpersonal type. Empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted”. The Challenger is “The powerful, dominating type. Self-Confident, strong, and assertive.” This is so accurate for us. The traditional yin and yang of feminine and masculine.

If you’ve never taken the Enneagram test, you can take it for free here! It’s eye opening to know both you and your significant other’s type. You can even see how the two of you work together. Once you’ve learned your type, check out the Enneagram Institute for the best, most in-depth descriptions.

Working Through Our Differences

Over our three years together, we’ve gotten pretty dang good at learning how to work together. But, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a struggle at first sometimes. Especially when we started living together. Matt is particular and methodical in his way of doing things. I tend to be more free flowing and aloof. That combination, plus Matt’s directness and my sensitivity, caused me to get some hurt feelings. Even small things like, “hey, next time you’re done doing dishes, please take the sponge out of the sink so it doesn’t get moldy”. My immediate reaction would be to take it offensively and say, “ugh, I can’t do anything right!”. It wasn’t that either of us were wrong, we just spoke two different languages. Over time, we learned how to work with our differences and balance one another out. I felt like we were learning how to dance (I’m a bad dancer!) and get into a rhythm so we could flow together better as a team.

Honoring and appreciating our differences has made us stronger as a couple. But, again, it’s been a process. In my free time, I like to practice yoga. Matt loves to golf. I’m pretty conscious about what I eat because of my past stomach issues, whereas Matt doesn’t need to put so much thought into it. I’m super into self-development. I binge podcasts and books like nobody’s business. While Matt is open to it, he’d rather spend his time otherwise.

Before I knew better, I would sometimes try to get Matt to be more like me. It was like trying to bathe a cat. It just ain’t gonna happen! I would ask him to come to yoga classes with me, send podcast episodes, tell him he should meditate. Nope. It frustrated me. My way is the right way! Why doesn’t he want to do these things that make me feel so good?

Because he is his own person. He deserves the right to his own unique journey in life.

I had to bring myself back to what I had been looking for in the first place: a partner who would complement me. That didn’t mean someone who likes all the same things as me or lives exactly as I do. Someone who brings out the best in me; pushes me to grow; challenges me. That’s what Matt does.

Supporting Each Other

I drank beers on the golf cart while Matt golfed!

Actively supporting each other’s different interests has been huge. Not just accepting that we like different things, but appreciating it. Cheering the other on. This has been so important for making us both feel seen and heard.

Self-development is my thing. When I told Matt I was buying tickets for my first women’s retreat, The Bliss Project, he grinned ear to ear. He was so excited for me to go. He checked in while I was there to make sure I was having a good time. He intently listened to me babble on about the whole weekend and even read my girly blog post about it (without me asking, I might add). Because he knew how much it meant to me, it was important to him too.

As for Matt, he’s recently gotten super into gardening. He scours through his gardening book, takes notes and determines which plants will work best in our yard. He spends hours planting and even tests the pH levels of the soil. To me, all that precision seems overwhelming. But to Matt, it’s therapeutic. There’s nothing better than seeing the person you love discover something they’re passionate about. Though I’m not into gardening, I’ll happily listen to him talk about it because I see how much it lights him up.

By allowing each other the breathe-ability to discover our own paths and passions, we get the opportunity to see the other bloom and grow (no pun intended!). When we spend time apart doing things we love, we reunite feeling more revitalized and inspired than ever. We’re able to bring our happiest selves to the relationship.

Seeing Each Other’s Potential

Lastly, we push each other to be our best. We see the potential in each other and are honest when we see an area the other could improve. Like I said, we’re like yin and yang. I’ve helped Matt with patience and slowing down. He’s helped me with self-confidence and caring less about what people think. One day last summer, I was being particularly insecure. I kept worrying and stressing over something small. Matt stopped me in my tracks. He was like, “Alissa, I want to see you walk into a room and own it. I want to see you order something in a restaurant and TELL them if you don’t like what you ordered.” He’s like, “If you would just recognize how great you are and be confident, you’d be so powerful!”.

I knew he was right. I’d been told this so many times. Here I was on this whole “self-improvement” journey, yet I was still acting insecure and small. The next day, I started listening to confidence building, affirmation meditations. I did the same meditation daily for a few months. I read about building confidence. I practiced it. I genuinely noticed an improvement in myself. I honestly felt happier and more me. Sure, I credit myself for doing the work. It’s not something you can change overnight. But, I credit Matt for seeing the potential in me and loving me enough to be honest.

What Brings Us Together

Boyer Invitational 2017

Despite our differences, our core values are the same. We care about humans. We appreciate nature. We love to hike. We’re grateful for life’s small moments. We have the same ideas for our future. We both love adventure and travel. And man, do we love to eat.

Eating well is our jam. We’ll scour a restaurant’s menu like nobody’s business before we go to dinner; getting each other pumped up for what we’re about to experience. Matt also loves to cook. The same care and precision that he puts into his gardening, he puts into his cooking. Even if we’re having ground beef tacos for dinner, it’s never boring. There’s always something special if he’s got anything to do with it.

Our nights spent chatting, enjoying good food, and probably a little wine, are the most special time for us to connect. Because of our differences, we’re able to bring new perspectives to one another. I’m pretty well-versed in California’s history and Tiger Woods’ life after meeting Matt!

I’ve always felt that together, we make the other a more whole version of themselves. And that’s what I hoped for in the beginning. Two complete people, coming together, to bring more light to the world.

Do you experience this in your own relationship?

With love,