“Opposites Subtract”

“Opposites Subtract”

opposite_164119They say “numbers don’t lie”. Let’s see if we can look at numbers in comparison to human relationships and allow them to teach us some relative truths to live by.¬†Mathematically speaking, one would never say “opposites attract”.

It’s understood almost instinctively that “opposites subtract”. Take the number 5 and it’s opposite -5. Those numbers together are reduced to zero. If you take like numbers, even if they’re negative, when added together, they will increase. Take -5 and another -5. Together, these numbers become an even greater number, -10.

However, a negative and positive will always subtract, reducing the greater number by the relative value of the lesser number. Given these examples, would any still maintain that opposites attract when the numbers show differently? Why would love and relationships be an exception to the rule?

Let’s take a step back for a second and consider what is meant when saying “opposites attract”. What information is intended to be communicated? There are a couple of different ideas at play in this enigmatic pairing of words. One is an attempt to explain the union of two people who are different when no explanation is really needed.

Relationships will always uncover and highlight areas and points where we differ. What’s sometimes missed here is that the word ‘different’ does not mean ‘opposite’. There is no inherent conflict when differences are found between people who themselves are different. In fact, many of our differences act to compliment our relationships.

Two items can exist within the same category, have differences, but not be in opposition to one another. For example: a tiger is different from a lion though they are both in the same family of animals called cats. Many confuse “differences” with “opposites”. The qualifying distinction is that being opposite means by definition, opposing. The word “oppose” is at the root of the word “opposite”.

We are not drawn together by the things that we have in opposition. We are drawn together by those things that we share in common. Not one of us has ever gone on a date got excited about all of things that we did not share in common with our dates. Opposition is what repels us not that which attracts us.

The more detrimental use for this term, “opposites attract”, is its use to legitimize relationships between two people whose lives are in diametrical opposition to one another. Where opposition should be the reason to end a dating relationship, it becomes the reason and rationale for its existence though they find no harmony within it to build a lasting foundation.

On common ground is always where we begin to build relationships. Uncommon ground is the place where struggles and wars thrive. The choice to remain there identifies a much more serious concern than just a misunderstanding of word definitions which can easily be cleared up in a simple study of words and their meanings or with a little help from mathematics. After all, “numbers don’t lie”.

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