Opposites attract! Or do they?

Lotte Ditzel | Friday 18 February 2022

Opposites attract! Time to delve a little deeper into this subject. Do we find someone more attractive who does not look like us? Or do we fall for someone we recognize ourselves in? In short, what attracts us to the other person?

It will probably have happened to you. A good friend is at your door, sad and tired. Her long-standing relationship has just run out of steam: there were only arguments or the love has simply disappeared. “You were just too much alike,” you try to say soothingly. Your friend nods in agreement and wipes away her tears. “Yeah, you’re right,” she replies. “It was going to go wrong sooner or later anyway.” Opposites attract, after all, the saying goes. And so we reject that potential partner because we identify too much with that person or use this as an explanation for why a relationship is doomed to fail.

But what about that other common saying: “like attracts like”? This seems to contradict the above and creates additional ambiguity in the already complicated dating world. So it’s time to delve a little deeper into this subject. Do we find someone more attractive who does not look like us? Or do we fall for someone in whom we recognize ourselves? In short, what attracts us to the other person?

“A beautiful woman”, you can hear many men say. And preferably someone who can cook a little well and is caring is added to the wish list. The average woman likes an intelligent man, who is high on the social status ladder and has a flourishing career ahead of him. From both sides, this sounds a tad superficial, but looking at evolutionary theory, it becomes a bit more plausible. Men are more likely to pass on their genes to a woman who looks attractive to them (with an attractive, healthy body being considered more suitable for bearing children), women are more likely to have their children survive when they have a strong, intelligent man by their side who offers protection and knows how to provide the necessary amenities.

So we have nothing to be ashamed of if we have the above – at first glance superficial – traits high on the list of requirements for the ideal partner. But what about the opposites attract part? Generally speaking, like-minded people attract each other. This seems to be a result of classical conditioning: if you meet someone with the same characteristics and values, he or she will evoke a familiar and positive feeling in you. This also applies to the opposite: if you meet a totally different person, you will be less inclined to like them. It is also true that like-minded people have the same ‘love style’, which creates a stable relationship.

Of course, in terms of character you do not have to resemble your partner as two peas in a pod in order for the relationship to succeed. In fact, you align your strong and weak traits, compensating for each other and learning from each other, is a solid bonding tool in the relationship.

Yet the opposites attract saying does not come out of the blue. Maybe you recognize yourself in it, you always fall for persons who are different from you in every way. Probably because it is unknown and new, and therefore of course very exciting. You don’t know what to expect, so it won’t get boring easily. But you will also notice that it will usually be limited to fiery contacts that will pass after a short time. Or worse: it does become a relationship, but there is continuous fighting between them. That’s not what you want, right?

Conclusion from the above? Be open to someone who looks like you. Maybe a touch less exciting, but it will greatly increase your chances of a stable relationship.