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Owen Watson
Owen Watson

Opposites Attract


Montoya RM, Horton RS. A meta-analytic investigation of the processes underlying the similarity-attraction effect. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 2013;30(1):64-94. doi:10.1177/0265407512452989




Opposites Attract



Opposites attract, and that's especially true in the world of fonts. This sentiment set consists of four different sentiments done in a pretty, bold font. The companion sentiments are done in a soft, flowing script, creating a lovely paradox.


Because similarity is associated with attraction, it makes sense that individuals in committed relationships tend to be alike in many ways. Sometimes this is called assortative mating, although this term is more often used to describe the ways in which people with similar levels of educational attainment, financial means and physical appearance tend to pair up.


For example, in one study researchers found that college students preferred descriptions of mates whose written bios were similar to themselves or their ideal self over those described as complementing themselves. Other studies have supported this finding. For example, introverts are no more attracted to extraverts than they are to anyone else.


These differences help opposites attract yet you can find yourselves in relationship trouble if you try to change these differences later. Think of the examples above. What would happen if you start a committed relationship with the music lover, only to complain every time they buy a new jazz record? Conflict can ensue. Even worse, giving the pretense that you love hiking with the outdoors enthusiast only to never set foot on the trail again six months later can lead to a rocky road.


In a counter-intuitive discovery published in the current edition of the journal Nature, researchers from Harvard, the University of California at Davis, Princeton, and Penn State University report that oppositely charged drops of water will not attract permanently, but instead will bounce off each other indefinitely when subjected to a force of attraction created by what physicists call an electric field that is too strong.


High-speed video revealed that above a certain value the force of attraction produced a double cone bridge (like two cones with their tips touching) between two oppositely charged drops of water.


The law of attraction has been fueling new relationships for centuries, particularly the law of opposites. The things we are lacking in often look exotic and appealing in others. This leads to the common phenomenon of "opposites attract", in which we find ourselves in relationships with others with personalities or behaviors seemingly opposite our own.


I have spent many years introspecting and teaching others to do the same for the sake of emotional intelligence growth. Through this, I have learned and taught that the things we consider "opposite" of our personality are actually the areas of our own personalities that are weakest. We are attracted to the traits in others that we lack ourselves. This starts out as a growth opportunity, but can devolve into a "why can't you be more like me?" scenario in which you resent the other person.


This is where the breakdown in relationships really happens. It is at the point where we have shifted our focus from our partner to our self. When we have decided not to appreciate the things in others we don't see strongly in ourselves. When our law of opposite attraction has become the law of diminishing returns.


Picture a line drawn on the floor. We want to improve our relationship but the action we take when focused on ourselves is trying to pull the other person over the line to be more like us. The better approach is jumping over the line to be more like them. Learning to appreciate the traits that we don't possess naturally helps us make better connections with our opposites.


Relationships require work. Relationships require appreciation of perspectives we don't share. Working closely with those opposite ourselves can quickly shift from interest to annoyance. However taking time to empathize with the motivations behind our opposites is the key to improving our emotional intelligence. By developing the insight and empathy to see opposite personality traits as growth opportunities for ourselves, we develop a stronger emotional intelligence and in turn, better relationships.


Do opposites attract? Do birds of a feather flock together?The age -old questions remains up for discussion today. A seemingly apparentand simple matter is actually much more complex than it is on the surface. Theanswer appears to be no. Opposites do not attract. Academic studies, film,online dating, and more illustrate the psychology of this behavior.


Morry,M. M. (2005). Relationship satisfaction as a predictor of similarity ratings: Atest of the attraction-similarity hypothesis. Journal of Social and PersonalRelationships, 22(4), 561-584. 350c69d7ab


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