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Is Dating Your Polar Opposite a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

All about the 'Barbenheimer' dating trend.

Key points

  • "Barbenheimer" is a portmanteau word of Barbie and Oppenheimer, two seemingly very different Hollywood films.
  • The Barbenheimer dating trend is about dating someone who is your polar opposite.
  • Dating someone with the opposite appearance or hobbies could be quite refreshing and help you grow.
  • However, dating someone with the opposite core values, communication style, or life goals can be problematic.
Source: Stuart C. Wilson/Stringer from Getty
The simultaneous release of the movies Barbie and Oppenheimer on the same day has inspired a new dating trend term.
Source: Stuart C. Wilson/Stringer from Getty

You may have heard about the new "Barbenheimer" dating trend that's been making the rounds on social media. It's not about taking someone to watch the movies Barbie and Oppenheimer back to back on a single date and springing for a vat of popcorn. It's also not about trying to date Barbara Oppenheimer, who's already married to the third cousin of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American theoretical physicist profiled in the movie Oppenheimer. No, the Barbenheimer dating trend is about dating someone so different they are your polar opposite.

Barbenheimer is a portmanteau of Barbie and Oppenheimer, two seemingly very different Hollywood films that both premiered in theaters on the same day, July 21. One is Greta Gerwig's Barbie, which stars Margot Robbie as the blonde bombshell titular doll character who goes from the make-believe Barbie world to the harsher real world in a rather light-hearted romp. The other is Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer, which chronicles how the first atomic bomb was developed. The words "atomic bomb" and "light-hearted romp" rarely go together. Despite concerns that these two very different movies might end up eating into each other's audience, both movies did smashingly well at the box office. In fact, the term "Barbenheimer" originally emerged because so many people were talking about watching both movies together, back to back.

It didn't take long for "Barbenheimer" to become a new dating term as well. However new the term, the concept is not. As with many Hollywood movies, new dating terms often repackage old stories under new titles. The Barbenheimer dating approach is essentially an extension of "opposites attract." It encourages people to date someone who is their complete opposite.

In general, it isn't a bad idea to change things up when it comes to dating, especially if the words "desert" or "storm" can be used to describe your dating life. Recall the saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” which has been attributed to Albert Einstein. Now, Einstein was not known to be a dating coach and probably wasn't referring to dating with that statement. But since it's all relative, that quote certainly could apply to dating, too.

Jonathan Galione/Getty
People who may appear superficially different may end up being very similar at their core.
Source: Jonathan Galione/Getty

But should changing things up mean searching for the exact opposite of you? Well, it depends on what you are defining as "the opposite." If you are talking about something superficial like physical appearance, then why not? Why not go for someone with a different hair color, skin color, height, head shape, or whatever? Whoever said that dating needed to be a copy-and-paste operation?

Similarly, if you are talking about particular hobbies, interests, backgrounds, perspectives, and opinions then, yes, in many cases dating the opposite could be quite refreshing and actually help you grow. You can help each other see the world in a broader way. For example, dating someone from another part of the world or a different cultural background may offer you an eye-opening perspective on life. Dating someone who likes opera when you like techno can end up teaching both of you a lot of new things. Dating someone optimistic when you think the world is going to pot can help inspire you and at the same time bring more realism to the other person.

Plus, being a couple doesn't necessarily mean that you must fuse with each other. It can be healthier to maintain separate interests and enough time apart. Furthermore, opposite appearances, opposite interests, and opposite superficial stuff, in general, may not mean that you are diametrically opposite as people. In fact, over time, you may find that your supposed "opposite" is a lot more similar to you than you initially realized. Heck, you may find that you have more in common with someone on the opposite side of the globe than those around you. So going for the ostensibly opposite could lead you to finding a better match.

Not so when you date someone with core values that are the opposite of yours. For example, if you are kind and honest and the other person doesn't mind cheating, maybe just maybe you might run into problems. The same if you believe in committed monogamous relationships and the other enjoys swinging orgies with anonymous people. Further, vast differences in communication styles can make you feel like two ships crashing in the night. And having completely opposite life goals can prompt you to often say, "OK, that's a good idea, except let's do the exact opposite of that."

The key then is to first figure out your must-haves in a relationship and not seek the opposite of those. The list shouldn't be too long or contain entries like "Must be blonde." Once you've got your shortlist, with the emphasis on "short," why not go opposite on some or even all the items not on it?

Ultimately, the right person may not come in a neat, expected package like a Barbie doll. As long as you match in the few important areas, you never know who may end up being a blockbuster double feature with you.

More from Bruce Y. Lee M.D., M.B.A.
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