You, Me, and the Attraction Between Us

By: Nikole M.

The old adage “opposites attract” may sound catchy, but is it really true? While fridge magnets might function this way, recent studies on human relationships tell a different story.

The journal, Evolutionary Psychology[1], published one such study that examined whether men and women look for romantic partners with similar, as opposed to complementary, personality traits. Researchers found that, when it comes to choosing a potential mate, there are strong correlations between an individual’s own personality, and their ideal partner’s personality.

If you’re shaking your head right now and claiming to be an exception to the rule, you’re not alone—so did the participants. When asked, flat out, whether they preferred a similar or complementary partner in general, almost all participants selected a complementary one. This was despite the fact that, when filling out questionnaires about individual personality traits, the results indicated a strong desire for traits in a romantic partner that matched their own.

A possible explanation for this contradiction, suggests the journal, is that people often view complementary partners as exciting, mysterious, or interesting. Whereas, looking for someone who is similar appears “boring.” Mysterious or not, couples with similar personality traits, goals, and views fare better in the long run. Though individuals might occasionally feel attracted to their opposites, these attractions “do not often develop into serious intimate relationships and, when they do, these relationships often end prematurely.”

The lesson learned? Get to know yourself–your interests, goals, values, and personal traits—chances are, you’re going to attract someone similar. On the same note, if there are traits you particularly admire, cultivate those in yourself before trying to reel in someone else.


[1] Dijkstra, P. (2008). Do people know what they want: A similar or complementary partner?. Evolutionary Psychology, 6(4): 595-602.