Monday, October 3, 2011

Demystification: Opposites Attract

Oh, it's been a long time since I've done one of these demystification posts! So ... the other day, I watched this movie. It's a few years old, but perhaps you've seen it: Knocked Up?


The premise of this movie is based in large part on an idea that's very popular in our culture: opposites attract.

You know:
Opposite = exciting! Thrilling! Oh, the passion!
Similar = boring, sad pandas. *snore*

So is this true?

Well, research shows that a lot of people believe this idea.

However, lots (as in, dozens) of studies have solidly demonstrated that the opposite is true. Who do Type A personalities prefer to date? Other Type As. Same pattern for Type Bs. And it's not just personality types--it's also values, attitudes and beliefs. This type of similarity is related to attraction as well as marriage happiness and stability. Oh, and friendships, too.

Interestingly, though, many people claim to want a relationship with someone who has opposing personality characteristics. But one study showed that although people personally endorse the belief that they are attracted to those with opposing traits, when asked to rate specifically the traits they find desirable ... they ended up with profiles strikingly similar to their own personalities.

So--have you been a believer in this opposites attract idea? Where have you seen it in fiction, either books or movies? Can you think of any YA books that play with this concept?

While you ponder that, let me announce that on Wednesday, the fabulous (and recently agented! Yay!) Lydia Kang will be guest posting here, discussing Mind-Body connection for writers and their characters!

23 comments:

  1. I'm not a firm believer, but if someone believes and goes for the opposite, then it may work well for them. I'm more inclined to think common interests help in a relationship.

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  2. Being a Type A personality I always thought I wanted the same thing. Not true. I ended up with the complete opposite of me, very laid back, quiet -- but I think he's just too laid back.

    Is there a 3rd option? lol.

    Actually, I write opposite attracts all the time. In some form or other my hero and heroine have at least one quality that is the complete opposite of the other. It makes for some interesting ideas.

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  3. I think it's good to have a mix. You need to have common interests, yet you need to have some differences so the relationship can be balanced. My husband is less quiet than me, but he also thinks more about the serious things while I'm off in la la land. If I didn't have him around to ground me, I'd probably be in big trouble :)

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  4. Opposites MAY attract, but you need to have the same, or at least similar, values for long term stability. Values are the important thing, not personality types or habits. You can learn to get along with any kind of personality. Though it also helps if you think in similar ways.

    But, for instance, if your significant other treats politics (to choose a random controversial subject) like a religion and you're not even registered to vote... there will be conflicts of epic proportions.

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  5. Opposites might be great, but you still want to have some common ground. A mix is idea because who wants to date the mirror image of themselves?

    Can't wait to read Lydia's post. :D

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  6. You know what ruined that movie for me? Katherine Heigl. I love the theory of opposites attracting -- it sounds like it would be exciting. But my husband and I are so in synch (baby drama notwithstanding) that I think it would be a disaster any other way.

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  7. In order for the opposites to attract thing to work--I mean REALLY work--the opposites have to give.

    I married an opposite, and while it's been hard, there have been really great times, too. It can work. I'm proof that it DOES work, but it takes a lot of effort and understanding from both sides. And that works for me.

    If I married someone like myself, I would have probably killed them by now.

    ~LD

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  8. I don't think of myself as Type A (and my husband, who often administers those tests to others, would agree), but my husband definitely is. However, we're more alike than different. We may react to others differently, but we have the same world-view. And the friend who set us up did so because she thought we were enough alike to hit it off.

    My parents are opposites, though, and while they are still together after 45 years, I grew up in a very loud household. That taught me that relationships take work. It probably also taught me to find someone "less opposite."

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  9. Aaabsolutely not. I've never bought that opposites attract; the complaint you hear most often from people in relationships of any kind is "We have nothing in common." But I do think opposites can inspire one another. People who are bold can sometimes help shy people get over stage fright, and shy people can sometimes show bold people how to be more chill. Maybe the phrase should be "opposites can complement...if you remove all sharp pointed objects from the room first."

    Great post, as always! You ask good questions that get me rambling, though. :-)

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  10. I tend to go with the same-same attraction theory. In fact, I think some people date others that look like themselves. It maybe a narcissistic thing, I'm not sure. I think when I find opposites together, there's usually a unifying thing they have in common. IMHO!

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  11. I do think opposites attract. I've seen it happen before, but there must be an element that the two people share. Commonality is the key to a solid relationship, especially common goals and dreams. Oh, and sexual attraction. If two people have those three in common, everything else can be as different as night and day.

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  12. OMG hooray for Lydia!!! I think MOST YA has that opposites attract thing going for it. I personally think what this phenomenon indicates is people's lack of recognizing their own traits, or a false sense of who they are. That would be an interesting study...

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  13. Always a fascinating question. It does seem that the nature of being human includes being, first and foremost, self-interested, and in that light we are always attracted to people who can help us define ourselves at ever-more nuanced levels. Here's a hypothesis: Opposites work great for the broader issues, but similar lends itself to more in-depth self analysis and acceptance. Do you know if that's true, Sarah? (p.s.Have you ever noticed how so many couples seem similar, even physically? Same coloring, same body type, etc.)

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  14. Someone who is totally the opposite would drive me crazy! My husband and i have the same Meyers-Briggs personality type (ENTP) although we have different aspects that are stressed more. I am right on the line of introvert/extrovert, and also for thinking/feeling (feeling is more often associate w/ women than thinking, which sounds bad but it's just a category name!). He is probably more of the extreme version of the personality while I'm more subtle. So much else goes into personality traits anyway, like if you're an only child (me) or have a sibling.

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  15. Hmmm... those opposite things may become the very thing you hate later on, ya know? Definitely there needs to be some common ground!!!

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  16. I believe that opposites "attract" when it comes to one-night-stands and other flings, but I don't think that kind of thing often leads to a long, healthy, meaningful relationship.

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  17. A long term relationship with an opposite would mean a LOT of work. I'm tired just thinking about it.

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  18. that was actually a very funny movie... as for opposites, nope. They'll ultimately kill each other. But it would make a great story! :D <3

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  19. I often see where "good girls" go after the "bad boys," thinking they can mend his "badness." Doesn't work, except in the movies, LOL!

    Nice post!

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  20. I always thought the whole "opposites attract" thing was a bit of a myth. Sure you want a FLING with an opposite, but you don't necessarily want to settle down with one. Cool post!

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  21. I think opposites attract but do the relationships last? Obviously in books they make for interesting tension and dynamics.

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  22. Liz Fichera said what I was going to say!

    I'm sure people think of opposites like Carville and Matalin attracting (I just shake my head), but I really think they are the aberration rather than the norm. (I am now going to survey my RLFs to see what transpires.) Thanks for an intriguing post--and good to have you back blogging!

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  23. I think that opposites can attract. I often joke that I don't know WHY my husband and I are together, because often we are sooo different. That said tho, I think that the opposite thing can't be so different that the core vales clash. If this is the case, I don't think a relationship will last.

    Neat post!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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