Do Opposites Really Attract?

“Men and women are different because they’re supposed to be! The last thing you’d want is to roll over in the morning and wake up looking at yourself.” – Dr. Phil

If human beings were subatomic particles, it would be completely natural for opposites to come together and form long-lasting, durable bonds. However, when human opposites attract, their relationships are usually more like ticking time bombs, releasing small bursts of explosion before the big bang.

The question of why and how opposites attract has been plaguing evolutionary biologists for decades. Sure, we all appreciate a little exotic allure in our relationships. An intimate glimpse into someone’s personal life is all the more interesting if they do things just a little differently than you do.

And while a little bit of difference is essential to keep things interesting, there are many ways where being opposites can be beneficial, helping you to learn and grow in the relationship, such as opening your partner up to a new cuisine they’ve never tried or helping them clean out their cluttered closet and develop a better organizational system. At first it seems exciting to be dating someone so different from you, in time it can become exhausting.

This is because everyone has unwavering stubborn necessities they just won’t budge on. Sometimes they are as major as sex drive or ability to handle finances, ranging right down to if your man has to sneak you inside his house to avoid his mother, thinks of Monday as his “shower day” or wears a football jersey to your sister’s wedding. Yes, those are deal breaker ladies, at least according to Liz Lemon… unless you’re into that kind of thing.

Once a relationship strikes that harmonious balance of similar core fundamentals with intriguing differences that you can teach each other about, you’ve got long-term potential. But eventually, if he just wants to stay home and watch CSI reruns but you want to go out and catch a show with your friends, it frequently leads to one person resenting the other’s choices. In an ironic twist of fate, the factor that first attracted the opposites to one another ends up becoming what drives them apart.

It seems genetics may be stacked against opposites ending up together. A 2003 study found that heterosexual mate choice reflected the subject’s self-perception of key character traits and core attributes. For example, if a woman perceived herself as very attractive, she would place a high importance on having an attractive partner, just as a kind and generous man would seek a woman with the same disposition.

Furthermore, since genetic diversity and a stable, long-lasting pair bond are both important to the perpetuation of the species via child rearing, women prefer the scent of the sweat (and by extension, the pheromones) of men who exhibit both genetic similarities and differences to their own genetic make-up. The crucial difference was that women opted for men with a different immune system than their own, suggesting that we have an innate blocker set up against mating with a sibling or person who’s likely to become struck with the same deadly strain of tuberculosis.

But in case you’re not secreting the right pheromones to attract your dream mate, you can always pick up some new ones off the internet and see who comes trailing after you.

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