Do Opposites REALLY Attract?

by | Jan 21, 2024

There’s an old adage that opposites attract. No doubt you know couples who exemplify this adage. Take Laura and Jack, for instance. He’s tall, she’s short. He comes from a Christian background; she grew up in a Jewish household. He’s a sports fanatic, she’s a bookworm. They’ve been married for decades.


How can that be? They don’t seem to have much in common and an abundance of research shows successful couples have a lot in common.

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Another couple, Mary and Don, came from similar backgrounds. Both were outgoing, loved parties and having fun while still operating with a strong work ethic. Neither was particularly fond of sports, and both loved a good novel. After a few years of a rocky marriage, they divorced.


People are attracted to opposites because they like novelty. Differences can be new and exciting. But once the novelty wears off, and superficial traits are no longer charming, just different, then reality sets in. What really matters are core beliefs. Laura and Jack, though both from different religious backgrounds, had both shed the trappings of their religions, while believing in similar moral conduct. Tell the truth, work hard, do the right thing, be a good citizen.


Meanwhile, Mary and Don, who both grew up in the Presbyterian church, really did not share core beliefs. He appeared to have a good work ethic, but, in fact, he worked hard at getting other people to do his work for him. He believed in making a fast buck, while Mary put in the hours to make her career solid and long-lasting. He was very loose with the truth, which was hard to detect at first, but when Mary realized how mendacious he was, she was appalled. So, in fact, while they appeared to be compatible, their core beliefs were out of sync. When they were together long enough, and began to really know one another, the superficial commonalities were not enough to keep them together.


Studies Show We’re Attracted to Those Like Us


Research indicates we are drawn to other people like us, with whom we share interests. If you are looking for a mate and you like to be active and do sports, join a pickle ball group. If you are an avid reader, join a book club. Of course, it’s not that simple, but it’s a start. Studies show that most successful partners share 90 percent of traits, including political ideology, religious beliefs, and so much more. They are similar in their ethnic background, their income level, their education. Often, they are even similar in their lifestyle choices—they exercise about the same amount, for example. And especially important, they are similar in their core values. In fact, this is an indicator of a successful long-term relationship.


People who are similar will more likely agree on politics and religion and other important issues. These are the couples most likely to stay together. It’s true that opposites can attract, but unless they share core beliefs, their attraction will be short-lived. Certain opposite traits can be complementary. When a naturally messy partner pairs with a neat freak, the neat one can inspire a little more order in the household. Or the partner careful with money can influence the spendthrift to tone it down. These partnerships may seem like yin and yang, and they are to some degree. But if they are to last, partners need to share similar values.



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