Do opposites really attract?

blue and red magnets

Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat’s Opposites Attract is a catchy song, but that old adage doesn’t hold weight amongst new scientific evidence. Relationship experts have written for decades about how individuals seek partners who have complimentary traits, not opposite ones. However, new research on the subject by leading psychologists shows that science agrees. Here’s what you need to know.

The Myth

The phrase “opposites attract” remains a myth for one simple reason. Similarities are less noticeable because they mesh in a relationship. Differences, on the other hand, are so strikingly obvious that they end up holding more weight. Those differences can include:

  • Introverts and extroverts
  • The emotionally and intellectually driven
  • Planners and spontaneity 
  • Optimists and worriers 
  • Early birds and night owls
  • Adventure seekers and those who favor security

These are grouped into complementary dissimilarities and secondary differences. The latter causes conflict, while the former allows couples to enjoy or appreciate one another’s differences. The secondary can range from mild opposition to directly opposite behaviors and individuals. Direct opposites often cause extreme conflict in personality clashes. 

Left unchecked, these opposing forces usually cause a relationship to end in separation. Each party hires a complex divorce attorney who mitigates through difficult aspects like finances and mortgages. All while these opposite individuals suffer through emotional trauma. 

Proof in Arranged Marriages

Cultures with arranged marriages may seem barbaric, but there’s evidence behind why they work when women are not forced to stay with their husbands. Each partner is vetted for similarities ranging from social class to religion and caste. Educational attainment, interests, and even sense of humor can also come into play. 

When cultures do not force these marriages, those that end in successful unions do so because each individual shares so many similarities. One study concluded that the love between these similar couples was stronger than “for-love” marriages. 

Managing Differences

Of course, everyone has some differences in relation to their partner. It’s unfortunate that these differences lead couples to hiring a compassionate family law attorney to mitigate everything from divorce to child custody. This is especially true when there are ways to work around and manage opposing personalities or views. 

When these differences are not deal breakers, couples can manage them in a positive way. They might agree to disagree on something like politics, while finding common ground on something like having children.

Couples must put their relationships first when learning to manage these difficulties. Counseling might be a necessary step, but learning to discuss these differences without arguing is just as effective. It takes active listening, compassion, and respect while removing the desire to change your partner. 

Unmanageable Differences

There are, however, dealbreakers. These often include differences in religion, core values, and ideas about fidelity. Spending styles and mental or physical conditions are also common. While some couples can learn to live with these differences, most find themselves at an impasse when trying to manage them. So, opposites do not attract. In fact, more similar couples are more likely to have a long-lasting relationship.