Do opposites really attract?

Just as night and day blend seamlessly, just as yin and yang are interconnected, so too are we lucky in love when we find that person that perfectly balances us. Every uptight businesswoman needs her goofy golden retriever boyfriend, and every princess needs a pauper. Opposites attract – it’s a sure-fire recipe for romantic bliss … right?



a person or thing that is totally different from or the reverse of someone or something else.


Ying and Yang

A Chinese philosophical concept that describes opposite but interconnected forces.


A Lesson in Chemistry

Well, ‘attraction’ is a vague term. It’s entirely valid to say that opposites attract each other even if they’re bad for each other, or if they wouldn’t thrive within the context of commitment. Take MGK and Megan Fox for example, one of Hollywood’s oddest pairings. True, their relationship seems like a nightmare, but there’s certainly chemistry!

When it comes to romance, we do tend to search for excitement, which may manifest as someone completely different to what is familiar; you’re not attracted to French accents because you’re a linguist that likes croissants, but because they’re an indicator of something new…and they’re sexy.

What they don't tell you

But long-term relationships require stability and peace and that can sometimes look boring, which might be a news flash to some. In the case of strong relationships, sacrificing excitement is often necessary for the creation of a deeper, long-lasting bond. Evenly dividing chores with your partner probably doesn’t turn you on, but it’s healthy. Opposites certainly ignite something in one another, but perhaps just not a marriage proposal.

In fact, when it comes to successful, healthy relationships, fundamental likenesses are what keeps the fire alight. Numerous studies have found that similarities in age, culture, religion, and education level all contribute to a stable foundation for a relationship.

Finding the missing piece

But there’s an important distinction to be made between ‘opposite traits’ and ‘complementary traits’. We think of our partners as extensions of ourselves; ‘other halves’ that ‘complete’ us. And it’s normal to search for someone with qualities that we feel we don’t possess, because we’d like to develop those qualities in ourselves. You might not be searching for your polar opposite, but it’s certainly handy to go out with someone who offers you something you can’t offer yourself. Top tip: if your New Year’s resolution is to get back into the gym, just start dating a powerlifter – they’ll soon whip you into shape.

Chalk and cheese

When all is said and done, we've got to bear in mind that this is all relative. Various aspects of our own selves respond differently to things and people that complement us. Personality wise, a quiet, submissive person might thrive when paired with a dominant partner who is comfortable assuming a leadership role. Think Amy and Jake from Brooklyn 99: opposite in nearly every way, but complementary to each other.

Whereas, ethically speaking, a PETA activist and a factory farmer are going to struggle with the difference in opinion. Even if there are stark differences on the surface level, preference for partners who are fundamentally similar vastly outdoes your attraction to your polar opposite.

In any case, generalisations when it comes to love and relationships are not that useful, and not that accurate. Seemingly perfect matches fall apart all the time, while the most unexpected couples can thrive. Ross and Rachel, famous polar opposites from FRIENDS, fell in and out of love before finally settling down together in the end. As long as you’re not similar to the point of sharing DNA, date whoever you please and pay little heed to idioms, tropes, and movie quotes. Love is love, without method to the madness…the jury’s still out.

Written by Ayaat Yassin-Kassab

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