Do Opposites Attract?

The old adage has some truth to it

Differences and Opposites
Photo: Shalom Ormsby / Getty Images

Bob liked the meat and potatoes type of dinner.
Sheri likes the pasta or vegetarian type of meal.

Bob liked Ray Charles music.
Sheri has been a Henry Mancini fan forever.

Bob liked a vacation out in the woods, in a tent.
Sheri prefers a nice condo on the beach.

Bob usually got up early in the mornings.
Sheri believes the day should start around 10 am.

Bob liked flannel sheets.
Sheri likes silk ones.

And the list can go on and on ...

different tastes in movies, clothes, softness of mattress, books, TV shows, drinks, hobbies, food, sports, temperature of the room, size of dog, height of mirror, furniture styles, and how to spend free time.

So how does a couple like us, who are so very different, stay married for nearly 50 years?? Well, we believed it is because we weren't attracted to one another by what we liked or ate or which movie we liked best. Sheri was attracted to Bob's spontaneity, kindness, creativity and ambition and his being over 6 feet tall was an additional bonus! Bob liked Sheri's wiggle in her walk and her intelligence, compassion, and humor.

What is interesting now, years later, is that what initially attracted us, can really bug us later on. Bob's height meant Sheri's hanging plants were a no-no. Sheri's love of reading made Bob feel like he was playing second fiddle to her books. Bob's spontaneity was no longer fun when it meant Sheri had to get their kids ready in a half hour for an unplanned trip to a neighboring state.

Some couples find that their spouse's playfulness is really annoying, or the predictability they so highly praised is now boring them to death.

This is normal. The old adage of opposites attract has some truth to it. All of us often look for someone to sort of complete us. But then, we can begin to resent it.

The key to dealing with this is a willingness to talk about it with one another.

Why do opposites attract?

"Why do opposites attract? Evolutionary psychologists believe that one reason we find partners who are different from ourselves is to spice up our gene pool. Our chances of survival as a species increase if we sniff out a partner with genetic strengths we don't possess. Another reason that opposites attract is the opportunity to learn skills from a partner with a different background or abilities. The last and most important reason is that partnering outside our "clan" allows us to appreciate and adapt to people who are not related to us. This is beneficial because we must continue to grow and stretch our abilities to adapt to an ever-changing world." Marti and Michael Laney in The Introvert & Extrovert in Love.


So, it is likely that you will be with a partner who is alt least somewhat opposite to you in some ways. How do you best cope so that you do make it for the long haul?

  • Express your expectations and feelings. It is not fair to expect your spouses to change, and in reality, most of you really don't want that change to occur. (Besides, would you want to change?) For example, Sheri really did value Bob's spontaneity and would be upset if he had lost that trait.
  • It can be fun to list what attracted you to one another when you first met, and what you continue to appreciate in one another.  Do it on a day when you can relax together, share some memories, and talk about your love for one another.
  • Practice empathy, patience and acceptance. 
  • Make sure you are doing a lot of fun and novel activities together.  You can take turns planning them so as not to clash if this is one of your opposing traits. 
  • Become master negotiators.Compromising is a skill that you can develop to take you through a long and healthy marriage!


*Article updated by Marni Feuerman