Have you ever been attracted to someone that’s completely different than you? What about someone that’s nearly the exact same as you?
When it comes to attraction, we do like a little mystery. This is where opposites come in. It’s true that extroverts and introverts intrigue each other and compulsive planners and spontaneous risk-takers benefit from each other’s tendencies. Quiet people and sociable people can’t wait to unravel the mystery behind each other. In this sense, opposites attract. We find that our weaknesses are complemented by the strengths of others. Things that don’t come naturally to us are balanced when someone who is the opposite comes in to show us new ways of life.
That’s all true, but there’s more to the story.
While we do like mystery, there’s just something uniquely special about feeling understood without having to explain. When it comes to attraction, mystery can only go so far. We like it, but if we can’t find enough common ground to understand each other, there’s really no basis for a substantial relationship, because what we most long for is to be seen, accepted, and valued as we are. Opposites only really attract when they are complemented by having similarities.
There are a number of factors that attract us to someone. Today we’ll only discuss two. One of them is how close we are to them (literally), and another is how similar we are.
Mere Exposure Effect
How close you literally, geographically, are to someone has a large effect on how often you see them, and how often you see someone has an effect on how familiar you are with their presence. Familiarity breeds liking. This is called the mere exposure effect, where merely being exposed to someone more frequently makes them more attractive to you. It also likely means you have some things in common. If the way that you spend your time leads you to constantly see a specific person, that person, though they may seem to be the opposite of you, must be similar to you in some ways by the sheer fact that you are in the same places at the same times.
Similarity Can Be Practical
Having things in common with someone you are attracted to is, first and foremost, comforting. It makes conversation easier and having reassurance and validation makes us feel accepted and more secure. Secondly, it’s practical. If you have similar values, demographics, and personalities, it will be a lot easier to compromise on plans as small as choosing a show to binge watch, all the way to large career goals that will affect your current or future family.
I did mention that extroverts and introverts pair well together in that they keep each other balanced, but a couple of extroverts can pair just as well together in that both can go out without having to leave an introverted partner behind. Introverts can stay in without feeling guilty for not going to an extroverted partner’s friend’s party. Whether we prefer opposite or similar personality types really depends on a lot of factors. There’s no right or wrong answer, except that there must be some similarity in order to understand each other’s choices and backgrounds.
One challenge to be aware of is that dating an “opposite” can make decision-making a lot harder. Sure, the mysteriousness of someone that seems totally different than you may attract you at first, but it’s your similarities that even allow you to be in the same place and time as they are, and it’s the similarities that will help you to understand each other and keep the relationship going. So yes, opposites attract, but the attraction is just one element of a larger picture. It doesn’t always mean opposites make good partners long-term.
There’s an important balance to strike though. While it may seem intriguing to date someone who you have a lot in common with, to make things easier, there have to be enough differences to maintain novelty in the relationship. There is such a thing as being too similar. Finding a balance that works for you is the goal.