Do opposites attract, really?


Dating Advice for Catholics

Think back to your teenage years: remember how cliques formed and alliances were made? It was usually some commonality: clothing style, musical taste, sports, etc.—things I’d call “surface” interests. 

Certainly these interests are still a factor when we start dating; as our CatholicMatch—and most online dating sites’ profiles—indicate. As a newbie to online dating, I mistakenly relied on those “surface” interests as the only—or at least main—criteria for clicking on a profile. The problem? I was hardly a teenager! The result? Dating disasters!

In the past, I’ve written about how it isn’t a requirement to have these types of interests in common when searching for a mate. Janice Lieberman and other dating advisors would agree with me. However, I’m starting to come back around to my original way of thinking; albeit with many caveats.

The term “opposites attract” can point to a myriad of ways in which two people are opposed: temperaments, politics, climate and other preferences … you get the idea. All these “surface interests” can be worked around, of course; as can what I’d call “deeper commonalities.” These are areas like political affiliation or education level. Lieberman’s idea of listing non-negotiables (living arrangements, children and income) are subjective, and I encourage active members to come up with their own list of non-negotiables.

Patti Stanger believes that list should be fairly short and simple; and I tend to think that Lieberman’s three are excellent ones. But what they both say—and I agree—is that anything beyond the non-negotiables is fair game and can work with effort and compromise. That includes the “deeper commonalities” and instances of “opposites attract.”

But in finding someone with many common interests, both surface and deeper,  as well as compatible non-negotiables, I find my current relationship so much more effortless, satisfying and profound. Being introverts, we have similar temperaments. Because we both “forgive and forget,” we have the same approach to resolving conflicts. We both live, as a friend so beautifully put it, “in the world of ideas,” and love living there!

Teaching is our chosen profession, and we have similar education levels. Our incomes are not hugely disparate, both being in the teaching industry; and although we are both under-employed at the moment, we have similar ideas about how to manage money. We agree on spiritual parenthood over biological children.

There is a mutual desire to stay in touch with our true selves. We practice mindfulness together. We both hate cold, damp weather. We love our city

Interesting, too, that our initial bond was over a surface interest: similar taste in music, art and authors. I’d so often used that as the initial barometer by which I chose who to date, and long story short, it often didn’t work out. We’ve had hours and hours of lively conversations revolving around music; in fact, we’d had specific conversations that I’d desperately yearned to have since I was a teenager. 

So what’s my point? Certainly, opposites do attract. Absolutely, relationships where there are vast differences can work. For me personally, though, after years of experience, I don’t think it works. I was relieved, quite frankly, and quickly felt comfortable within my own skin around him. And the very best part of all? I hear very little noise from the Relationship X-Ray Machine. If that’s not saying something, I don’t know what would!

What is your experience? Do you prefer to date someone who has an opposite personality?




  1. Naomi-825244 March 8, 2013 Reply

    I think Rosanna is right. If two people get married with the same ethical/moral base and believing that they can be best friends, they are already better equipped than most of the world to have a heavenly marraige, despite their personalities/differences. If you love someone, you don’t let your personality get in the way, but will seek to find a compromise that makes each other happy.

  2. Rosanna-564071 March 7, 2013 Reply

    I think that opposites can work it out with grace. With Christ, anything is possible! What you need is a shared meaning and purpose, however, such as living out your lives together as saints in the making so you can help to lead one another to Heaven. Opposites attract and work out; and similars attract and work out. The latter may have it easier, but maybe they’re missing out on the complementary strength of the former. Just my two cents!

  3. Virginia-892878 November 1, 2012 Reply

    If the differences are fundamental the relationship does not seem to work,
    it is not about the work involved but about getting into a tug o war to see who is right and who is not just because the people involved do not agree in basic things.
    I would think that if it is a person God meant for us there would be harmony and love and respect and understanding for the long run, otherwise it is just too up hill to make it.(at least for me)

  4. Alejandro-159799 October 20, 2012 Reply

    At first opposites attract like that old Paula Abdul song, but in the long run, its a disaster because too much work is involved, if they are too different then its chaos. On the other side when they are alike, they share same interests, beliefs, its sooo smooth, its just lovely. But of course it depends, if you want a total challenge for you, then choose the opposite.

    • Maria-846262 October 28, 2012 Reply

      Alejandro, I disagree with you. Too many differences are difficult, but it doesn’t mean it’s too much work to deal with them. And, may I remind you, all relationships can be difficult and you still have to work at them, no matter how close you think you may be. It’s all compromise and common sense and you have to work at it for the “common good”.

      Muchas cosas funcionan bien aunque haya muchas diferencias, si verdaderamente se tiene el deseo de que funcionen.

  5. Victoria-152181 October 19, 2012 Reply

    I do believe there should be a degree of difference between partners, so to allow complementarity. In my case, this is especially true for temperament. I have a fiery temper, sometimes explosive, I tend to overreact and I also worry too much about any little thing. Therefore, you can imagine that two people with these characteristics are hardly getting anywhere. Any person who dates me should have certain degree of tolerance to my tantrums (Thery are not that often, I´m not a terrible person, and I know what I should improve in myself but I know there´s a tendency in my personality that can´t be overlooked) and also enough character as to make me realize when it’s enough and just to say me “Shhh, everything will be alright”.
    Having said that, I do believe that those “superficial” things are very important. My very recent ex boyfriend was opposite to me like in every aspect imaginable. While I´m overly chatty, he´s very quite; while I’m a doer, he takes things slow; while I like Indian food and fish, he only eats chicken (I hate chicken); and so on… Believe me, the personality traits differences you could overlook, we complemented each other quite well, I learnt a lot from him and I think I’m a better, less stressed person after these two years but the rest of the things…It just gets very tyring to negotiate every little thing, to be constantly aware of not doing something that is out of the other person’s confort zone, and while we managed to mantain peace between each other (We barely had a fight in two years), at the end I think we bore each other to death!!!

  6. Tom-908980 October 19, 2012 Reply

    just like magnets; opposite poles do attract and i dont know how it clicks, but just happens! rory mcilroy & caroline wozniacki ; golf & tennis ; & the biggest difference and extreme incomaptibility; rory a manchester fan while caroline a huge liverpool fan and there is nothing possible considering the latter; but happens
    and I am quite sure redsox yankees couples are so many in northeast!

  7. Noah-906178 October 18, 2012 Reply

    The language of “opposites” sounds too much like a dualism, which are usually simplistic and false. Must opposites repel? nuts and bolts are compatible – “But they’re completely different things; how could they possibly relate?…” Colors that match…aren’t the same color! Compatible doesn’t simply mean “not the opposite”.

  8. Maria-846262 October 18, 2012 Reply

    I agree with the USCCB that “Compatibility is a Real Good Idea,” However, I do believe also that opposites certainly make life a whole lot interesting. My husband (of 35 years) and I couldn’t have been more opposite and different. He was raised mostly in rural settings, I am a city girl; he was a “left” brain engineer, I am a “right” brain scholar of the arts and letters. We came from very different cultures; he was American (German and English ancestry), I am a Latina of Spanish ancestry. We spoke different languages, had different cultures, spoke different languages, eat different foods and were culturally and temperamentally very different, but the ride was great and we made it work all those years and raised 2 great children with solid, Christian values, who are responsible and good, well-educated people, with masters degrees, and a solid foundation of great citizenship, caring, honest values and Christianity. If I am to be the example, a marriage of two very different people can work out great, you just have to work a little harder at it every single day.

    • Patricia-707403 October 18, 2012 Reply

      It sounds like you had the same belief system. Being opposite on the issues you point out seem like it would be more interesting!

  9. Stephen-725391 October 17, 2012 Reply

    According to the USCCB On Marriage site – COMPATIBILITY is REAL GOOD IDEA! But then what would Catholic Bishops know? RIGHT!

    • Patricia-707403 October 18, 2012 Reply

      Hahaha…even though it comes from the bishops…I will agree!

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