Opposites Attract. Or Not.

Do opposites attract?

Do opposites attract?

Opposites attract, they say. And most of us believe it.

In fact, most people say they want a partner who complements them — not one who reflects them.

But do they?

An analysis of dating sites found that people prefer those who are more like themselves.

That’s also what social psychologists found when they looked at who we actually marry.

Not surprisingly, the more opinions people share, the more they like each other. And people are much more likely to make friends with people of similar background, attitude, and personality.

When you think about it, it’s not surprising.

Sometimes opposites attract.

Sometimes opposites attract.

Plus, people are more likely to like us if we act interested in them. And it’s a lot easier to act interested in someone if they like the things that we do. And when we aren’t constantly arguing about each other’s “idiotic” viewpoints.

Not attractive!

But don’t opposites sometimes attract?

They may if they balance each other in some important way or if the opposition lies on some narrowish point.

She loves to shop and he hates it. He loves sports and she thinks they’re dull. But she shops while he plays soccer. And he does like her style and she does like his fitness. (Yes, it’s a stereotypical illustration, sorry! But I actually know a couple who fit this description.)

Adventure seekers may want adventurous playmates. But they may want a stable rock to balance and ground them. Or, a “Just the facts” rational type might welcome the energy and direction that an idealist inspires.

But mostly, it seems we really want to date ourselves.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 15, 2015, in psychology, relationships and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 39 Comments.

  1. In my opinion, yeah I do think that opposites attract but at an extent. My “friend” and I (it’s complicated) we are the COMPLETE opposite, like super complete. I am very outgoing and talkative, but he RARELY talks at all (well to new people he doesn’t know) we both just have different personalities but somehow we “complete” each other. Sometimes if two people are the same person, there wouldn’t be a balance, for instance if someone is really demanding and your partner is demanding, how are you going to solve the issue? Also with people with the same personalities, you run out of things to talk about. (well from personal experience) However, someone who is different from you you have lots to talk about because they’re coming from 2 types of sides.

  2. I’ll remain neutral with regard to this theory, because I can see around me that there are lovers with similar interests and hobbies, and those with vast different ones. Nevertheless, they all get along well with each other. In my opinion, when two people get together, it is not to stress that the two have the same interests and hobbies, or if they are compatible. When getting together, people need to learn to tolerate, but not unconditional toleration. Rational compromises can make the relationship last longer. Like my friend’s parents, her mother is a vegan, while her father loves meat very much. Thus, her mother would buy two sets of cookware. One set for the mother herself, while the other is for cooking meals for her dad. Sometimes, her dad would worry about malnutrition of her mother. In my book, no matter how different lifestyles, hobbies and personalities are, it shall depend on the mutual tolerance to compromise.

  3. I’m very careful when I date a guy or when a guy dates me. I don’t just fall in love with the guy because he’s cute or handsome. I look for things that I can benefit by being with him. Like for example I’ll like a guy who’s responsible, who knows how to make decisions, a guy who can advice, care and understand me. Because with all that I won’t have to worry. I find it very hard to be in a relationship with a guy who has opposite thoughts and feelings than me.
    Because there will always have arguments and eventually the relationship will fall apart. I also think that faking one’s behavior to attract the other person is dangerous because you’ll one day get tired of it and explode.

  4. Although I am still very young, I have been on dates with different types of boys and have been in relationships. Not many, but a few that have taught me a lot about myself and life. I do agree that opposites attract, but they are not always good for us in the long run. I say this from first hand experience. I had dated a boy that was totally opposite from me. We made a great pair, but there was always this feeling in me that I knew it was going to be difficult to try and keep it going. I am now dating a man that is so much alike me that it sometimes its scary. I feel so connected with him on a different level. I can talk from both perspectives because I know what each relationship has to offer. Yes opposites attract, but are they always the best option for us?

  5. I think attraction is all about perception. You perceive a person to be total opposite from you because you seem to like yen and they like yang, but in all actuality, you like yen in moderation at the same time they like it in excess and they like yang in moderation and you like it in excess. The point is that you both like yen and yang but moderation differences create a great balance between you and your mate. I agree with the article. You may notice and harp on some of the obvious differences between you and your lover, but overall you have to have quite a bit of common ground to really vibe with them. Like the article said, it is no fun arguing viewpoints that you feel are idiotic when you could spend that time finding commonalities with a person.

  6. I’m the type that would want to be with someone who is just like me because I’d feel more connected with him or her. I understand how opposites attract, its like they help each other try new things and get them out of their shell.

  7. I never understood why I was always told opposites attracted! I tried dating a guy who was my complete opposite (outgoing, loud, slightly lacking in the areas of common sense and surrounding awareness, etc), and found that he was impossible to deal with. I could understand him no more than he could understand me. I would be embarrassed by the way he acted in public, and he’d be confused about why I wasn’t more outgoing. I finally found someone who was more introverted and shy like me and I’ve found we get along much better because we’re able to understand each other.

  8. I had previous relationship where my partner liked similar stuff that I liked. We enjoyed (and hopefully she did to) everything that we did. It was fine for the first few months/year. Eventually both of us got tired of each other because we kept doing the same things and liking the same stuff. Now I am in total different type of relationship. My partner and I do enjoy some of the same stuff. We understand each other better because we are both from the same type of culture. We complement each other, for example I am a shy person and do not like to socialize as much. My girlfriend is the opposite and she is helping me to get out there more and start socializing more. If it was not for her, I don’t think ill be back at school finishing up something that I should have done a long time ago.

  9. I loved this article because I can relate to it from the experience in my last relationship. We fell in love but as the years went on we both could tell that we were different people who were interested in different things, and the only thing we shared for each other was love and 2 years worth of memories. It makes you wonder, is love enough? I personally think that dating and being with someone who is more like you does work out better in the long run! The boyfriend I have now, is basically me but as a guy, and the stuff that we are different about, we share with one another. I love learning new things about my boyfriend and sharing his interests and same for him! My parents are very different also and have been together for 35 years! Their parenting styles were completely different and it had conflicts but i think it was for the best in the end! This article was super relateable and i do believe that being with someone who is more like you will make you the happiest in the end.

  10. It’s a complicated question to answer. It has been said that the happiest couples never have the same character, they just have the best understanding of their differences.

    After taking a phycology class I kind of see this as an insecure attachment that breaks down into two types:

    Those who are high on attachment avoidance believe that others will not respond to their needs, and have a negative view of others. They avoid intimacy, and are uneasy when they feel their partner is too close.

    Those who are high on attachment anxiety are worried with how available others are, and have a negative view of themselves. They seek out intimacy and contact with others, and can often be “needy” in their relationships.

    Securely attached people are low on attachment avoidance and anxiety, and seem like they have higher levels of adjustment in their relationships.

    I think highly avoidant people are most satisfied with their relationships when the personalities of their partners are moderately similar. It’s about finding an optimal balance of similarities and differences which help keep intimacy on it’s toes. On the other hand, similarity offers anxious people the feeling of “oneness” they crave with their significant others, but may encourage “reliant dependence” on their partners.

    Through my own personal experience, I have grown a lot as a person when dating someone who pushes me out of my comfort zone. At the time it’s a lil stressful but looking back, it made me a well rounded person.

  11. I use to date guys, that had the same personality like me. When I was still together with them, people asked us if we were brother and sister. My brother was totally the opposite of me. While I am an extrovert, he’s a introvert and I always told him of he acts like that he would never find a girlfriend. When we grew older my vision changed. When I saw my brother with his girlfriend I wished I had that too. While everyone I dates was to similar, I tried to date someone that was the opposite. And for me it worked out as one of the best relationships I have ever been in. If I would need to chose between someone that is equal or the opposite I will know what to pick. But then everyone is different, so I believe only by experience you will see who fits best 🙂

  12. Basically, I agree with your point of views in this article. Usually, people believe that the opposites attract each other, just like the opposite sides of poles. One person is just half of circle, and she or he needs the rest half to fulfill it as a whole circle. And your example at the end of the article about a couple with shopping and sports is interesting and fits the opposites attract theory very much. And I believe there must be some couples are just like it.

    However, I more like the idea that people are much easier to be together with someone who has something in common. If the two people have the similar interests, then it means that they have a lot of things to talk. And they could understand each other better, which might decrease the chances of disagreement. Similarity could be the base of development of relationship. Most of my friends start with our common interests, and then we have built up a very strong friendship.

    As a result, the opposites attract theory is true sometimes; the similarity could be attractive to each other as well.

  13. After reading this article, I just found that if I date with someone who is opposite with me, I need the balance. It means that when I was 18 years old, my boyfriend was totally opposite with me. I focuses on more education than sports. However, he got in an university which has a good baseball team. I liked thinking more calm, but he was more passionate. Even though we loved each other, we couldn’t make our relationship work well because we couldn’t have a good balance in the relationship. Probably, we were too oposite to think something. Actually, I felt more interested in the relationship because the way he thought was never what I thought. He gave me a lot of different views. Right now, I am dating with someone who is basically same and I think that it is easier to have a relationship because we can understand more, so we can have a balance in the relationship; for example, I shouldn’t say this because it might make him mad. I just think any relationship needs that balance to keep it.

  14. I think “the opposite attraction” is appealing for the early stage of relationship. Exploring uncertainty and fresh activities can be interesting. Yet, if a couple don’t have a common background then ideas and thoughts are unlikely to be share or even communicated on daily bases. Without a mean to interact, then the relationship is essentially none existed. Therefore, I would say in order to let two individuals to develop a serious connection, they must some sort of common grounds which range from personal characteristics, age, religion, political stand, interest, etc. However, they are always exceptions, but as the statistical study suggest majority of people would choose similarity.

  15. As people mentioned it is possible for opposites to attract, I do not agree with this fully. I would say that it is possible in certain areas you could be opposite.

    An example from my life, is how me and my girlfriend think about future. I am an strategic optimism, while she is a defensive pessimist. Which means I just assume it may go well, while she would plan for the worst and prepare. This is quite an opposite view, which can support opposites attract a bit. But if you look at our other traits we are extremely similar and was difficult for me to think of a solid example where we are opposite or even slightly different. We do want to date ourselves.

  16. The idea of being attracted by an opposed pole reminded me of Heraclitus’ alleged doctrine of the Identity of Opposites, as he believed in some kind of unity of opposites. And said> “What opposes unites, and the finest attunement stems from things bearing in opposite directions, and all things come about by strife”. (Fragment DK22b8).
    It is curious but I can have opposites as friends, not if it goes further…
    By the way… I am now wondering how I can have certain friends ! (truly!) … o_O
    Best wishes dear Georgia… Great post, as always! Aquileana ⭐

  17. When I was first getting to know my (now husband) boyfriend 6 years ago, we did have a few things in common, but we were overall complete opposites. He was extremely outgoing, adventurous, liked sports and rock music while I was an introvert with no motivation to go outside unless I was going to walk the dog. He eventually got me out of my shell and talking more. We never run out of things to talk about because we both have such different views on so many different things. I enjoy being opposites because after a conversation I say, “hmm, I never thought of it like that.” It’s refreshing! Even when he’s not with me, I always think twice about my initial judgment of things and try to see things from a different perspective.

  18. I can see the appeal and safety in wanting someone like minded. I also see the benefits of contrasting personalities that compliment- with a lot of good partnerships, it’s good to have someone else who is stronger where we are not. Compatibility is key-but I think more than anything common values and liking each other. If a person doesn’t like him/self much yet is drawn to more of the same- lol- that can spell trouble.

  19. Charissa Teller

    I think opposites can attract because they bring out new things and concepts and can teach their significant other useful things about each other. I think it also depends on how mature each person is because say, if they aren’t- they can possibly be pushed to resent each other or to do something they don’t want to do. If they are mature, however, many things that are new can be introduced gradually and thus positively received. On the other hand, I personally want a balance of both things in common and not. I think that having a combination of both can provide a healthy amount of contrast v. Agreement to disagreement in a healthy manner.

  20. In my opinion, Opposites only attract in fairy tales or other movies. In real life it is another story, it is an everyday struggle for opposites people in a relationship together because they constantly don’t agree on things. They don’t share the same values and opinions and this makes it hard on them for the communication in the relationship. For instance, my father and his current wife are the perfect example to illustrate my point of view here. They dispute a lot on things that don’t matter, I think just because they don’t have the same view of the world and come from different culture. She is from Switzerland and my father is from Africa. The culture clash speaks for itself in their relationship. Of course there is always exception to the rules but in my opinion this don’t work in a long term relationship.

  21. It depends on what it is. I think it;’s best when people are alike and different or both alike and opposite but in the complimentary way. Alike as in values, goals, friends, family, and different things to where they can compromise with. BUT atleast for me and others, where I think it’s important to be different and opposite with is personality type or how people tick. For example for me, I know I can’t be with a strong minded, stubborn, head strong, sassy, bitchy, woman. Some men love that, though men I know like that are more easy going, so they take that instride.

    I get irritated easily or can and can get frustrated and anxiety, and overthink and anaylize and be moody sometimes so a woman that’s like that will only piss me off and it would just be a ton of arguments. thats why like personalities in that sense coudl cause problems like men who are domineering or women domineering or bossy and short tempered, etc, if the two are together. They probably will have great passionate sex ha. but I could see a “clash of horns” so to speak. As you have two people who are alphas and used to getting their way and in charge and one having to get the upper hand or be in charge or both moody and neither taking each others shit ha. Usually it seems to work better with one who is easier going and takes things in stride better or compliments the head strong person and the head strong person being calmer from the easy going persons presence. Two head strong people could just rev each other up more.

    • I do know people who got divorced because they were too much alike, like you say.

      • Yeah I think same goals and values works best, but personalities being the same or similar? Well only if for the good parts match. The flaws being the same or similar could end up being a clash for couples. I mean how often do you see people who are both “know it alls” or really stubborn, or bossy, tempermental, etc get along? There’s bound to be a clash. Most couples I know where a woman is pretty sassy, the husband is usually pretty mellow and easy going or the husband a bit short tempered, the wife more positive and patient.

        So I think that’s what people mean when they say opposites attract. Not opposites as in likes and dislikes or politics and things they enjoy and have in common or can share. But rather opposite as in personalities, meaning the opposite allowing them to compliment each other. Like I said how an easy going person and head strong person seem to work better together than two head strong people who are more bound to clash for dominance and one up each other.

      • It can definitely be helpful to find someone who balances you, As you say.

  22. My husband is quite opposite of me 😀 opposites attract theory works well with us… 🙂

    • Yeah. Sometimes opposites don’t attract, and sometimes they do.

      My original plan was to marry someone who was like myself (unlike your average survey subject), but I ended up marrying someone who balances me.

  23. I totally agree! I always heard opposites attract and I never agreed with that. I always wanted a partner who I could talk about things with and share interest with. I would hate to always try and explain my perspective to them or convince them of how I feel. As a theater major, I knew I had to date a guy who at least appreciated theater. Theres is no way they would even be able to understand me if they didn’t understand theater. Don’t get me wrong I would hate to date a mirror image, we would end up just butting heads and arguing because we were too similar. but it is so important to have similar interest and moral and values .

  24. If you share core values, then the rest is a matter of style. One can be gregarious–the other quiet, one can be inventive–the other satisfied with the status quo. If you agree on values, then there’s lots of room for variations on a theme. If you don’t have the same values, it becomes difficult to pull those opposites together if it begins to feel like a moral compromise.

  25. in my case, it’s completely opposites attract 🙂

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