We have all heard the old adage that "opposites attract." Some of you may swear to it being fact, others may consider it a myth. It's possible that you may have experienced it personally. It's equally as possible that you had a completely awful experience while dating your opposite. If we base our opinion of the "opposites attract" paradigm entirely on our personal experience or on what we have heard from others close to us, chances are that we will be missing something. How then can we determine if it is fact or myth?While falling back on statistics and the science of relationship studies can seem like a cold way to get to the answer, the reality is that it can provide a clearer picture of what "opposites attract" truly entails.
To understand the topic further, it is important to establish some context. Studies of romance and relationships conducted during this decade indicate that a large majority, upward of 87 percent of single individuals state that they are interested in meeting people different than themselves. At the very least, that establishes the premise that people are open to contrasting personalities.
However, those same studies indicate that only one-third of successful relationships involve couples which could realistically be categorized as "opposites."
On the surface, this might seem like "opposites attract" is just a bunch a baloney, a platitude and nothing more. If you let the statistics sink in a little bit, however, you are left with the question, "then what about the one-third who are opposites and who are in a successful relationship?"
Maybe there is something to this whole opposite thing. Maybe it's just a case of knowing the rules that make it work.
Differences create curiosity. These differences could be based on personality traits, physical attributes, ethnicity, age, basically any attribute that can fairly be used to gauge the compatibility and attractiveness of a partner. Humans, especially when we are younger, are endowed with a greater degree of curiosity. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the vast majority of people under the age of 25, when asked about their openness in seeking relationships with people opposite to themselves, will respond in the affirmative. This is evident in dating and hookup apps. It is common for younger users to disregard the "matches" presented to them. They tend to search on their own instead.
Problems arise when individuals look for differences simply for the sake of finding someone who is different as opposed to finding a partner whose differences are complementary to their own sense of being. This can result in people — who were originally very open to a partner opposite to themselves, becoming disgruntled or disaffected with the idea in general. After all, if they entered into one or two such relationships and they all ended in disaster, it is logical that they will have little appetite for continuing to enter into such relationships in the future. This results in people losing that original level of curiosity that they had when they were younger.
While the saying, "love conquers all," is very poetic and romantic, it cannot be applied as a blanket statement of reality. If two individuals enter into a relationship and their differences are fundamental and unbridgeable, that is bound to create a sea of discord as they move forward. Regardless of their emotions and sentiments toward one another, the necessary cohesion to be a successful couple will simply not be present.Under those circumstances, opposite personalities will become drivers for disharmony, not union.
While it is true that entering blindly into a relationship with someone who can be categorized as your "opposite" can lead directly to a failed relationship, it would be a mistake to identify the differences as the sole cause. It would be more accurate to assign the blame to the fact that the differences were not properly vetted.
As couples who are in successful opposite-style relationships will attest, how these differences manifest themselves are of great importance. If they are complementary, they can actually reinforce a relationship. If, however, they are sporadic, conflictive, or otherwise toxic, they are only going to doom a relationship. The net result is that, no, opposites should not be avoided. Rather, differences merely need to be scrutinized on a deeper level before entering into a relationship.
What does this mean? Quite simply, it means that when individuals are eager or extremely open to meeting people different than themselves, they should apply some degree of analysis regarding which differences would be beneficial and which would be determinantal. Beneficial differences will usually take the form of one partner's strength helping to shore up a weakness of the other. Positive differences also result in increased levels of mutual support as a couple. It can also allow for a wider perspective for understanding and comprehension from both individuals.
Negative differences are those which are irreconcilable from the onset. These can be fundamental ideological or lifestyle differences which neither partner are willing to reconcile. Vastly different outlooks regarding goals can also fall into this category.
It is fair and correct to state that the "opposites attract" paradigm is not a myth. However, it is also fair to state that it is often misapplied. Many times over-exuberance and impulsiveness result in people seeking a partner who is opposite to themselves without first scrutinizing the differences that are involved. This mistake is what results in doomed relationships involving opposites.
If couples were a tad bit more discerning about their differences from the beginning, there is little doubt that the vast majority of opposite-style relationships would be successful.
So, if you are currently in the early stages of such a relationship or if you are simply considering such a relationship — take comfort in knowing that they can be successful. But also be aware of the additional effort that such relationships require at the front-end. In other words, do not be uncomfortable vetting each other's differences. If you deem them to be incompatible or irreconcilable, move on. If they are complementary, then it merits a shot.