Do Opposites Really Attract? We Investigate

We’ve all heard the saying “opposites attract” when it comes to romantic relationships. In some ways, it makes sense that someone who is the opposite of you would balance you out and help towards a healthy, long relationship.

For example, if you’re not a very patient person, but your boo is. Or if you don’t like broccoli, but they do.

This saying often gets me thinking — what happens if you’re super similar? My relationship with my boyfriend feels like a close friendship a lot of the time. We’re friends, we’re lovers, we argue. We like to drink nice wines and watch artsy movies. We do have some differences, of course, but I think if you were to ever meet us, you’d see us as pretty similar.

So what is better? Opposites, or alike? Or somewhere in the middle?

“In short, there is no scientific evidence that proves this theory,” Nancy Sokarno, psychologist at Lysn, tells POPSUGAR Australia.

“However, there have been studies in the past that delve a little deeper, such as one by sociologist Robert Francis Winch in the 1950s. Winch interviewed married couples and examined their relationships as well as each partner’s personalities and needs.

“Based on his findings, he argued that to make a marriage work, aspects of one’s personality (especially socially related traits like aggressiveness and assertiveness) should complement each other. While his research didn’t prove that opposites attract, it suggested that relationships work well when personality traits complement each other.

“For example, a wife who is very outgoing would likely be content with a husband who is more introverted. Or, on the other hand, someone who displays alpha personality traits might be better suited with someone less assertive to avoid constantly butting heads.”

There are studies and theories that challenge this, such as by clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD and author of Family Fit: Find your Balance in Life; who believes that a person might be attracted to their opposite because they have some qualities that the other person lacks. “The actual attraction is over a quality you would like to develop or build up in yourself,” he says.

According to Sokarno, an opposite can certainly balance out a relationship, as differing traits in personalities can complement each other.

“For example, someone who isn’t fiscally responsible would be wise to find their opposite in that regard, otherwise two fiscally irresponsible people could find themselves in a bit of trouble!

“Or someone who is particularly shy might find that a partner who is more outgoing can help them to come out of their shell a bit. Whereas if two shy people partner together, it could lead to the pair avoiding social gatherings or leaning more towards a hermit lifestyle, which, of course, suits some people, so it really depends on personal choice.

“Ideally you want your partner to fill in the gaps where you might lack and vice versa. Being able to challenge yourself, improve on skills or think in another way can be beneficial if you want to grow as a person.”

Given the lack of scientific evidence that opposites really do attract (or that they don’t), it seems to me that it depends on each individual couple. As Sokarno says, if you can find someone who “fills in the gaps”, they might be opposite to you in some ways and similar in others.

“Overall, relationships can sometimes be a case of trial and error,” Sokarno says.

“We really just have to lean into the concept of dating without setting specific expectations about the kinds of traits we want them to have.

“The truth is, who you think may be the perfect match for you might not turn out to be ‘The One’ for you, for whatever reason. And conversely, someone who you think isn’t your ‘type’ could turn out to be your soulmate. It is important to flesh out your values first.

“I do think many people gravitate towards their opposite because it’s appealing when someone has personality traits or skills that we don’t have or aspire to.”

Ultimately, Sokarno says, you can find happiness in a person that is different to you, or similar to you — it doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re happy.

We agree! Although you might be happily dating or married to someone different to you, the fact you’re different may not be the reason you have a successful relationship.

My advice? Try not to think too much about your similarities and differences. Instead, just focus on how you feel when you’re with them, and if they bring out the best of you… because whether you’re opposites or wildly similar, that’s what it’s all about.