It is a common belief that opposites are especially attracted to each other as they can complement the other both as a friend and lover. Is being compatible the necessary basis of a relationship, or does it lead to boredom in a relationship? Do similar people gather together or do opposites attract?
Short term, opposites can be attracted to one another…
As Alberoni put it, difficulty is one of the ingredients of attraction. The more we have the impression that we must overcome some difficult challenge to find love, the greater love seems. This is why obstacle in love do not always appear to be unsurmountable. Some interesting differences between partners can definitely spice up a relationship. On the other hand, being with somebody that sees the world exactly the way we do and agrees with us on every subject can be reassuring, but can easily become boring.
That opposites attract makes a great fantasy: we all have dreamt of a beautiful relationship with someone that is completely different to us. This seems more exciting than two rather similar people ending up together. We all hope to find that special someone that would make us feel complete, who would compensate our weaknesses.
…Long term may be a different story
The reality is, however, that we prefer to choose someone that is like us. Being alike is a sign of compatibility in relationships. Whether consciously or not, having concrete things in common is one of the first things we look for in a couple. Indeed, a well-matched couple will inspire love more than a non-matched couple.
Homophily is the tendency of similar individuals to associate and bond with each other. Long term, it takes precedence over the pull towards those who complement us, as Jean-Claude Kauffmann outlined in his book Sociology Of The Couple. As in a friendship, we are much more susceptible to be with those who are similar to us than to people with completely different, uncomplimentary personality traits. Try and picture a neat freak being with someone who never cleans up after themselves.
Having similar personality traits is not only a good indicator of initial attraction. It is also a sign of good marital stability and happiness. The same is true of our attitudes and values: the more someone’s attitudes are identical to ours, our political views for example, the more we tend to appreciate or love this person.
Introverted vs extroverted
A bit like Sherlock Holmes and Watson, the introvert and the extrovert are attracted to each other because they complete one another: the extrovert motivates, takes initiative, acts, expresses his feelings, and likes to show off, whereas the introvert brings peace and self control. As long as the extrovert is headed in the same direction as the introvert then they will have a harmonious relationship. It is important not to fall into a “dominant-submissive” relationship, where one gets bored and starts to get annoyed with the partner’s lack of initiative and the other feels oppressed.
To keep the balance, the extravert needs to learn how to decipher the introvert’s non-verbal language, to understand what they want, while the introvert must grab the ammunition they are given by their partner when it comes to expressing their feelings. Both partners have to accept the fact that they can’t change one another and that the difference in their behavior is the reason why they fell for each other in the first place.
The penny-pincher vs the big spender
They get along because in his methodical, reasonable, organized way, the penny-pinche keeps control of the relationship and reassures the big spender, who tends to act impulsively. For his part, the big spender, who is usually more social, helps the penny pincher, who is often scared of letting his guard down, to let a little loose. But their relationship can be complicated if efforts are only made on one side. Long term, one could blame the other for their pettiness or for lack of rigor. Keeping the balance means accepting and understanding one another’s personality. The penny-pincher has to fight against anxiety. He must learn that he is not putting himself in a dangerous position giving to the other (taking them out for dinner, presents, time spent together…) but that in fact, he benefits from all this! By the same token, the big spender should try not to worry their partner by spending foolishly.
The optimistic vs the pessimistic
It is our education and the way our parents raised us that determines our vision of the world: we either follow it or adopt our own.
Pessimists believe that they are threatened by the outside world whereas optimistics see the good in everything. They have a common ground which can allow them some equilibrium: The pessimist can help construct some necessary crash barriers on the optimistic person’s cheery path, whereas the latter can teach the pessimist how to have the necessary audacity to grab life by the horns.
The lack of nuances in each person can lead to total misunderstandings. One can be seen as kill-joy, the other one as an irresponsible person. To keep things balanced, there has to be moderation on both sides. One needs to get comfortable taking measured risks, and the other needs to learn to listen to their partner’s advice.
Meticulous vs Chaotic
Meticulous people like things structured and organized, and tend to live in anticipation, while chaotic people live day to day. One takes the law very seriously, the other breaks it. One hates tidying up, the other one loves it. Respecting each other and making concessions is the key to keeping a good balance.
Dominant vs Submissive
One has doubts, the other makes decisions. One moves forward, the other hesitates. There can only be a balance here if emotional dependence is not too strong on either side. The dominant person actually uses the submissive person’s doubts to reassure themselves by imposing their opinion. The submissive person must therefore keep some independence in order to not suffocate.
The scientist vs the artist
We all have our own area of predilection. With a bit of effort, the scientist will more likely show interest in art, than the artist will show for science. Love is not all about interests: both people in the couple can be interested in the other’s character. To exaggerate some traits, let’s say that the man is attracted to the woman’s artistic sensibility and the woman is more attracted to the man’s organization capacities and common sense.
It is important to ensure that the couple maintains good communication and that one partner does not grow distant from the other. The lack of point of interests in a couple can be filled in by friends or colleagues. What matters is to keep showing a bit of interest to your partner so that you can have a harmonious everyday life.
Here opposites can definitely attract, they can even merge. But if we take into account external factors such as family issues, stressful work environment, complicated financial situation or new dates… things can get muddled up. It is essential that the couple stays united and that their bond is strong.
Beautiful/handsome and poor vs ugly and rich
Fairness, not symmetry, is what is important in a couple. If a man has a very comfortable working situation but is not really physically attractive, he still has a good chance of attracting beautiful women who would not have his social status and vice-versa. Asymmetry therefore does not necessarily mean that a couple has no chance of success, if it is kept equal by other aspects.
If we want our relationship with an opposite to work and to last there has to be tolerance, respect and love between both partners.
It is clearly preferable to naturally appreciate the other as far as their allure, attitude, personality traits, humor and physical appearance are concerned. Ideally, a couple needs to share points of interests but with enough differences to prevent anyone getting bored. You cannot only love someone for what they do, or for how much you have in common with them – there needs to be a deeper bond.
All relationships are possible as long as there is real love involved