Do opposites really attract?

We know that opposites attract in the field of magnetism, but what about interpersonal relationships? Are we happier with partners who are similar or dissimilar to us? Research shows that, like all matters of the heart, the answer is fairly complicated.

It appears that people are most likely to pursue relationships with people whose broad characteristics are similar to their own, including religion, level of education, age, and intelligence. However, these surface characteristics do not tell the whole story. We tend to partner with people like ourselves largely because we tend to socialize with people like ourselves—familiarity and ease of access could easily account for these results.

Instead, research looks to personality dimensions to determine whether like attracts like or opposites attract. If you both score highly on “agreeableness” and emotional stability you are likely to be compatible.  Also, if you are both Explorers, as we describe on, then it is likely you will be attracted to each other and compatible. You are not opposite at all, but attracted to each other.  But if you are both Directors, it is unlikely you will be compatible.  A Director needs a Negotiator.  So, for the Director and Negotiator, opposites “attract” and will be compatible.

Looking for verifiable information on the science of attraction and relationships? We’re a neuroscientist and a biological anthropologist eager to help you put the Anatomy of Love to work in your own life.