Complimentary or Complementary – How to make a good couple?


Another wordplay: Not a dessert, but from the desert

Huh? Remind Me Of the Definitions

  • Complimentary: Expressing praise or flattering.
  • Complementary: Completing or combining in a way to enhance individual qualities.

If you remember back to geometry, I’m sure your math teacher told you that two angles were called complementary when they summed to a right angle. The angles completed each other, and together they combined to an angle that enhanced their individual qualities. Too much? Sorry, I loved geometry…

Relationships Often Start Off ComplImentary…

  • “You’re so beautiful/handsome”
  • “I’m so amazed at your intelligence”
  • “You’re so funny I’ll get abs of steel from laughing this much!”

And there’s nothing wrong with being complimentary. Even when you’ve been with someone for more than ten years (that’s right Mr PoP – it’s been a decade!), it’s still nice to hear the occasional sweet nothing.

But if being complimentary is all you’ve got, what’s going to happen when you hit the skids? Here’s a lovely hypothetical interaction between a complimentary couple, I1 and I2.

I1 – Oh no! We have no money left in the checking account.

I2 – That’s okay, you’re so beautiful/smart/witty that I’m sure you can figure it out.

On the surface it seems fine, right? But the thing is, it’s not really a productive interaction for this hypothetical couple.

I1 brings up a problem that is clearly viewed to be shared (“we have no money”), and I2 pushes the problem solely onto I1 with the compliment. If the compliment leaves the other person feeling flattered yet frustrated, then it’s not really having the desired effect, is it?

What Does A ComplEmentary Relationship Look Like?

Quite simply, your weaknesses are the other partner’s strengths and vice versa. That’s not to say that you can’t both have overlapping strengths, but rather that overlapping weaknesses can be a dangerous combination. So what does a complementary relationship look like for the PoPs?

See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Smell No Evil?

Mr. PoP is colorblind, yet has an amazing sense of smell. I on the other hand can see the entirety of ROYGBIV, yet have an awful sense of smell. These complementary strengths and weaknesses mean that when we’re together, I can prevent Mr. PoP from eating moldy pasta because I can see the mold, and Mr. PoP can prevent me from drinking spoiled milk because I can’t tell it’s bad. Alone, we have both consumed bad products because we couldn’t tell they were spoiled and paid the price with a sore tummy, but together we prevent that.

It’s a silly example, but you get the picture.

ComplEments In Financial Matters

In financial matters, Mr PoP tends to be the one who can come up with big dreams and goals and investment ideas. I’m not good at that. Creativity and dreaming were just never my thing. It’s not that those dreams don’t sound amazing, it’s just not how my brain works. I’m very literal and tend to focus on what’s in front of me.

But what I am good at doing is running the numbers and seeing what investment projections we might be working with, checking the feasability of dreams, and plotting a course to get there. This part doesn’t come naturally to Mr. PoP the way it does for me, and though he is sufficiently awed when I open up an Excel spreadsheet and can work out a page full of projections within the span of a few minutes, he doesn’t have the passion for the numbers to want to learn how to do that in the same way.

So by complementing each others’ skill sets, we actually make a much better team than we do working independently. It’s one of those times that 1+1 > 2.

A complementary partner is going to make life easier, its a part of how to make a good couple, and in the end that’s probably going to make life happier than a whole boat load of compliments. Right? I know Mr. PoP and I aren’t unique in complementing each other, so let’s celebrate these complements today!


How do you and your partner complement one another? And for single readers, what type of a complement do you look for in a partner?

25 comments to Complimentary or Complementary – How to make a good couple?

  • I’m glad you guys complement each other so well.
    Greg and I complement each other well, I think. Neither of us know everything, but between the two of us we know a lot. We also complement each other’s personalities since we are polar opposites!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..The VIP Club Roundup – Sorority Meltdown EditionMy Profile

  • WEll that sounds like a pretty rock solid marriage then! That’s funny that he’s colorblind, I’ve heard of it, but never met anyone like that! Can he see stoplights?
    TB at BlueCollarWorkman recently posted..A Career Change Puts You Back at the BottomMy Profile

    • The colorblind thing is kindof funny. He’s red/green colorblind so he sees those as variations on beige usually. For stoplights, they’re supposed to be oriented a specific way to help colorblind people, but Mr. PoP says that the green of the stoplight lights looks like a white lightbulb where the red light puts out a more yellowish tinged light. So he can see a bit of a difference.

  • W and I complement each other pretty well, and I’m glad we do! He’s a spendy spenderson and I’m a crazy saver, so we work well together to achieve our financial goals.
    Michelle recently posted..Relationships and Money: Talk is Not CheapMy Profile

  • Ivy

    Thank you for highlighting the difference. This is my pet grammatical peeve, seriously. An incredible number of smart, literate people confuse the 2, and use “complimentary” everywhere.

    I am ISTJ and my husband is ENFP, polar opposites. He is good at reading people and relating to them, I am more towards the “Asperger’s” end of the range, so have to take his advice on such topics. He comes up with ideas, I am excellent at making an idea happen (this serves me very well at work as well). And I have the patience for details and love for numbers, so I take care of all financials, while he keeps my impulse shopping ideas in check:-)

    • I think this is #2 on my list of grammatical pet peeves. Misspelling definitely as definately is probably #1.
      Sounds like you and your husband are wonderful complements, and truly polar opposites according to Myers Briggs!

  • My fiance and I compliment each other by bringing different skill sets to the table, so the whole is stronger than the parts. You know, like a good cocktail. She is the Hannibal to my Clarance. The French to my snob.
    Snarkfinance recently posted..The Sickest People You KnowMy Profile

    • Glad you and your fiance complement each other. Though for her sake I hope it’s not truly like the relationship between Hannibal and Clarice.

  • Back when I was online dating, I was always amused by the profiles that said “I want a woman that will compliment me.” :) That’s great that you are a complementary duo. B and I are different with a lot of aspects in life, but it all fits together in a very complementary fashion. It’s great since he exposes me to perspectives different than mine, and vice versa.
    anna recently posted..Confession: Planned May (and August/September) SplurgesMy Profile

    • Haha, I might have immediately crossed the guys that wanted me to “compliment” them off the list if I had tried online dating.
      And totally agree. There’s a lot to be said for what you can learn from someone who has a very different perspective. Sounds like he’s a great complement.

  • My boss has a background in marketing and I have a background in kickass analytics. Separately were pretty ineffective at pushing our goals within our company but together we rock. I prove everything based on the numbers, and he tells the story about why and how we should do it. I love it.
    CashRebel recently posted..Flash Crashes And Learning To Trust StocksMy Profile

  • I’m of the opinion that so long as both partners are moving in the same direction financially, things will work out. If you happen to be moving in opposite directions, things won’t end well. In fact, things will probably end in divorce.
    My Financial Independence Journey recently posted..Selling Put Options with a Margin AccountMy Profile

    • I think the same direction is definitely the minimum starting place. But there’s so much more to build on working in concert beyond that!

  • My boyfriend and I do have a complementary relationship most of the time. He’s more outgoing and will do more of the talking whereas I’m the one who’s kind of shy. I’m better with money, so I manage the finances. And many other examples like that!
    Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian recently posted..Getting Caught UpMy Profile

  • We complement each other pretty well and don’t compliment enough :). I take care of most day to day business and he is the visionary. We only have the house/land/car together, all other investments are separate but most big decisions are initiated by him.

  • Your financial strengths sound just like ours! I love making a nice spreadsheet, but the boyfriend is much better at thinking big!

    It’s good to be complimentary too though. It’s a good way to encourage your partner and make them feel good! :)
    Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate recently posted..30 ways to save £1!My Profile

  • This post makes me think back to some of the horrific girlfriends I had. One in college once told me, “I really like the Jerry Springer Show! My ideal life would be not working so I could watch shows like this all day”. Uggggghhhh!

    I am so thankful that I’m married to someone who shares my values. If I had married ‘Jerry Spring girlfriend,’ my life would have been miserable and divorce would have been quick and painful. Perhaps we would have even appeared on the Jerry Springer show. Again, Uggggghhhh!
    Mr. 1500 recently posted..10 Questions with Jen from JenSpendsMy Profile

  • My partner and I definitely complement each other. I am a big picture, big thinker type person – I get ambitious and can be unrealistic, even with finances. J on the other hand, is practical and sensible. It works
    Daisy @ Everything Finance recently posted..Everything Finance Monthly Round Up: Boston Begins to HealMy Profile

  • Luckily for Mrs. Bonner I know everything! Ha, hopefully she doesn’t stumble over here.

    She’s definitely the one to level me out. I always have impractical big ideas and she does a good job of grounding me and coming up with a reasonable compromise. Ok, that makes her sound like a buzz kill, but she’s not. You get what I mean…

    You could say she’s the play-by-play announcer while I’m the color commentator :)
    Mr. Bonner recently posted..When to NOT pay off higher interest debt firstMy Profile

  • I’d say Mrs. CBB and I complement each other well especially when it comes to motivating each other. We both like to talk and are not shy but we work well as a team to get things done.
    Canadian Budget Binder recently posted..Bust Our Budget- April 2013 CBB Budget Update #4My Profile

  • This is one interesting topic to discuss. Being complementary with a partner is one secret to having a successful and fruitful relationship. We can’t just compliment each other at all times to solve problems, but being complementary with the decisions make a big difference.
    Alexis Marlons recently posted..Business to Business Marketing StrategiesMy Profile

    • A huge difference, we think! Compliments are like icing, they taste great, but they aren’t enough to sustain you for more than a burst of energy.