Relationships

Dating Decision: Opposites Attract vs. Birds of a Feather Flock Together

“Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Opposites attract” is the best way to describe a contrasting couple, such as an introvert with an extrovert or a tall woman with a shorter man, while “Birds of a feather” is the first thing that comes into your mind when you see a couple where both partners look and behave similarly. When it comes to choosing your partner, which principle applies best – finding someone who complements your personality or someone who seems to be your twin brother or sister?

No matter what your family and friends will say when they see you and your partner (“opposites attract” or “birds of a feather”), each scenario comes with its own benefits and disadvantages. And both ways can work and lead to a happy ending story if you are committed and work on your relationship.

When you and your partner are different like night and day, differences spice up the relationship and life is never boring. On the other hand, coming from different backgrounds and having different opinions and personalities can make arguments more agonizing and long. Examples in literature like Romeo and Juliet seem to confirm the idea there’s an intense attraction between opposite partners, but these relationships don’t last, as we often see in real life as well. Partners who are opposite need to work more on their relationship and be prepared to accept differences. It’s hard, but not impossible.

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Photo: photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On the other hand, researchers have found there is no link between similarity and length of relationship, which suggests that people do select their partners by personality resemblance from the first place rather than becoming more alike as time goes by.

In some cases, similarity can hurt – it has been found that partners in the same profession devote less time to their private lives and are not satisfied with their work-life balance. And anyone can think of a couple that seemed very well matched but didn’t last.

Moreover, sharing some traits of personality like losing temper very easily is not an advantage either – when both partners are emotionally unstable, they won’t have a balanced, harmonious relationship.

Sharing the same traits of personality has not been found to bring more relationship satisfaction. What researchers discovered during a study performed on 174 couples was that the happiest couples were similar in terms of agreeableness and moderately similar in terms of emotional stability.

What could explain these opposite findings and help us draw a conclusion?

In the end, what matters is having the same core values – this is what elder couples with long happy marriages often advise.

Have you ever noticed an unhappy couple having an argument over an apparently trivial issue? The issue is not that trivial it seems, but in fact reflects underlying values. When one partner is free spender and the other one is frugal, there will always be fights about bills and credit cards. The more different these basic values are for each person, the more agonizing the fights between them become.

Isn’t it all too complicated? The solution is simple, though: stop focusing so much on similarities and differences, and start looking at something else – how to understand your partner’s differences better and tolerate them. This is deemed to be the one secret of happy couples.

About the author
By the Couples Clinic, a company of Winnipeg therapists (www.winnipegcouplesclinic.ca).

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