The old adage claims that “opposites attract.” But is this actually true when it comes to romantic relationships? Research suggests a more nuanced perspective.
Do opposites really attract in relationships? The quick answers are:
- Opposites don’t necessarily attract when it comes to values and major life goals. Partners who share core values and want the same things out of life tend to have more successful relationships.
- However, opposites may attract when it comes to some personality traits and interests. Partners who complement each other by having different strengths and preferences can balance each other out.
- Both similarities and differences play a role. The healthiest relationships tend to involve a combination of alignment on core values and compatibility in personalities.
The Role of Values and Life Goals
When it comes to major life values and goals, research suggests that opposites do not attract. Partners who have the same values and want the same things out of life tend to have more positive relationships characterized by satisfaction, stability, and lasting love. This includes values and goals related to:
- Views on marriage and commitment
- Desires to have children
- Spiritual beliefs and practices
- Social and political views
- Financial priorities and spending habits
- Education and career goals
- Where to live
- Balancing family and work
Partners who differ dramatically on these core values and life goals often struggle with more conflict, communication problems, and eventually separation. So in this sense, when it comes to major life values and plans, birds of a feather tend to flock together in lasting relationships.
Examples of Alignment in Core Values
Here are some examples of how alignment in core values and life goals impacts relationships:
- Partners who both highly value family and want kids are more likely to have a stable marriage compared to couples where one person wants kids and the other does not.
- Relationships tend to fare better when both partners have a similar approach to handling finances, such as both being savers or both being spenders, as opposed to one partner who is a spender and the other who is a saver.
- Couples who share religious beliefs and values have higher levels of relationship satisfaction compared to partners with different spiritual worldviews.
The Role of Personality and Interests
While opposites may not attract when it comes to major life values, differences in personality traits and interests can complement each other in a relationship. Some examples include:
- One partner might be outgoing and adventurous while the other is quiet and likes routine. Balancing these traits can promote growth.
- Partners may have different social styles, with one more extraverted and the other more introverted. This allows them to balance each other out.
- Couples may have different hobbies and interests that they pursue separately but can talk about together.
- Partners can take on different roles in the relationship, with one being more nurturing and the other providing stability.
Examples of Complementary Traits
Here are some examples of how differences in personality and interests can complement each other in a positive way:
- An anxious partner may benefit from a calm, stable partner who can balance them out.
- A partner who is very emotional and passionate might connect well with a rational, thinking-oriented partner.
- An idealist partner who focuses on big ideas can be complemented by a practical partner who focuses on details and logistics.
- A partner who is introverted may appreciate having an extraverted partner who can help introduce them to new people and experiences.
Striking the Optimal Balance
The healthiest, most satisfying relationships tend to involve a combination of both similarities and differences between partners. An optimal balance includes:
- Shared values, life goals, and compatibility on major issues like religion, finances, and children
- Complementary differences in personality traits like introversion/extraversion, emotional/rational thinking, and stability/spontaneity
- A mix of shared interests and separate hobbies or social circles that partners can talk about and learn from
Partners whose core values, priorities and life goals align don’t experience major conflicts around the big questions in life. At the same time, having differences in personalities and interests prevents boredom, helps each partner grow, and adds excitement through introducing complementary strengths and new experiences.
So while opposites may attract initially in some ways, the healthiest long-term relationships strike a balance between similarities where it counts most and enough differences to complement each other in positive ways.
Potential Downsides of Opposite Partners
While complementary differences can enrich a relationship, being too opposite in key areas can also pose challenges including:
- Partners may grow in divergent directions over time if they don’t share core values and life priorities.
- Frequent conflicts can arise when partners differ dramatically in personalities and have incompatible interaction styles.
- Relationship instability if one partner craves routine while the other prefers spontaneity and constant excitement.
- Increased risk of infidelity or outside interests interfering when partners don’t share activities.
- Communication struggles when partners have very different emotional and thinking styles.
Overall, balance is key – some contrasting traits can complement each other, but partners need alignment on the major issues to foster lasting love and connection.
Tips for Opposite Partners
Here are some tips for opposite partners to build a healthy, fulfilling relationship together:
- Focus on shared values and life vision. Discuss major life goals to ensure you’re on the same page.
- Communicate respectfully about differences. Be open and willing to compromise.
- Find shared activities you both enjoy. Make time for connection.
- Celebrate each other’s different interests and strengths.
- Give each other space to pursue separate hobbies and friend groups.
- Listen without judgement and learn from each other’s perspectives.
- Compromise by taking turns doing activities each partner enjoys.
- Seek counselling if major conflicts persist around differences.
Research Insights on Opposite Partners
Research provides useful insights on relationships between opposite partners:
- A study of over 11,000 couples found partners with more similar personalities were more satisfied overall. However, some opposite traits like introvert-extrovert could complement each other when balanced.
- Partners who share the same religious beliefs and regular spiritual practices have higher marital satisfaction and lower divorce rates according to studies.
- One study found common values around family and ethical conduct predicted relationship success more than personality traits.
- Research shows disagreements over finances, leisure time, sex and friends increase relationship conflict and instability.
- Couples who share activities and interests are less likely to experience boredom and infidelity in their marriage.
Overall, studies emphasize the importance of alignment on major life values, with differences in personalities and interests playing a secondary role.
Key Findings from Research:
|Luchetti, M., & Sutin, A. R. (2016)||Partners higher in neuroticism or extraversion and lower in agreeableness or openness tend to be less satisfied when paired with dissimilar partners.|
|Olson, J.R., Marshall, J.P., Goddard, H.W., & Schramm, D.G. (2016)||Shared religious beliefs and spiritual practices predict more satisfaction and less divorce.|
|Gaunt, R. (2006)||Alignment on family values and ethical conduct predicted happiness more than personality differences.|
|Gottman, J.M. (2015)||Disagreement over leisure time, finances, sex and friends raise conflict and instability.|
|Rauer, A., Pettit, G., Lansford, J., Bates, J., & Dodge, K. (2013)||Shared activities and interests predict greater marital quality and less boredom.|
Do Opposites Attract in Friendships?
The research has focused mainly on romantic relationships, but do these findings apply to friendships as well? There are a few key considerations:
- Shared values may be less crucial in friendships compared to relationships, allowing more room for differences.
- Personality and interests may play a bigger role in initial friendship attraction.
- Friends can balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses but need some common ground.
- Childhood friends often differ more as their personalities develop.
- Proximity is key – we’re often friends with those we see regularly.
Overall, some research suggests opposites attract more in friendships compared to romantic partners. But shared interests and complementary qualities still play a role in maintaining close friendships long-term.
Benefits of Opposite Friends
Some potential benefits of being friends with someone quite different from yourself include:
- Exposure to new perspectives that challenge your assumptions
- Trying new activities you may not have experienced otherwise
- Personal growth by developing different aspects of yourself
- Laughing at each other’s quirks and weaknesses
- Appreciating talents and abilities you don’t possess
So while too much opposition leads to romantic relationship trouble, some degree of difference can enrich friendships in unique ways.
Do opposites attract? Research suggests this maxim may hold some truth in friendships and in terms of balancing different personality traits. But when it comes to major life values and goals, lasting romantic relationships thrive on shared priorities and vision. Differences call complement each other, but core compatibility counts most. The healthiest partnerships involve a dynamic balance of similarities and contrasts, leading partners on a lifelong journey of growth together by combining the best of both worlds.