Do Opposites Attract?
If like doesn’t attract like when it comes to genies delivering bicycles, do opposites attract instead? No, not when it comes to people, at least according to some research I’ve seen. But then, it depends on what you mean by opposite.
Studying The Study
Back in 2005, Psychologist Eva C. Klohnen, Ph.D., along with graduate student Shanhong Luo, M.A., of the University of Iowa, did a study involving 291 newlywed couples who had participated in the Iowa Marital Assessment Project. The couples met the criteria of being married for less than a year at the time of the study, and the average time the partners in each couple had dated each other was 3 and a half years.
Before I go on, I’ve just got to say wow, three and a half years of dating before getting married. Beats my record. What might that say about the parties in the relationship? What took them so long? What were they waiting for, or needing to resolve? Clearly, that’s building a lot of common ground, through shared experiences, working through conflict, and getting comfortable with each other’s idiosyncrasies, before making the commitment.
Opposed To Personality Typing!
At any rate, the couples were assessed on what were considered ‘personality characteristics’ such as attachment, extroversion, conscientousness, positive and negative emotions. Pardon me? These are personality characteristics? These aren’t variables related to time, place, task and people? Sorry, I doubt that these are characteristics of the generalization of personality. I hold the opposite view. And yet, I am attracted to this study.
Now, if you’ve studied with me, you know that I have very little in common with researchers who believe that there are such things as personality characteristics. I think personality is a huge generalization based on limited information. I think the belief in personality is a model that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, as people tend to change their ‘type’ depending on who they are with, what’s going on, what they need and what is important to them at the time.
A guy walked up to me in a seminar and informed me that he’d just been through a personality profile. I asked him, “What have you learned from it?” He shook his head and said, “I’ve learned I’m an analytical socializer.” I replied, “I think I’d prefer the heartbreak of psoriasis.” Apparently, that was his cue to stop socializing, so he walked away, no doubt thinking about what that meant. And as I stood there alone, I decided that I am opposed to personality profiling. And maybe that’s what attracted this guy to the idea of telling me about it. They say ‘Think outside the box.’ So why work so hard to put yourself and others in one?
Opposition Has Its Attraction
The interesting thing for me about these things I’m opposed to is how attracted I am to them! And it’s not just me. My Dad told me he watches faux news presented by people he finds despicable because he loves to hate them. Our cats, Miracle and Grace, hated Rollie when he came along. Those cats seemed like they were at death’s door, until Rollie started pawing the door. Suddenly, the girls came to life! They seemed to want to live another day in order to keep him out of the house another day. In this way, I think they found him very attractive.
And that’s what makes opposites attractive…opposites serve as points of reference for choices, for desires, for motivation, and for understanding yourself. So if I’m opposed to personality as a way of typing people, then what am I for? Behavior. Thank you personality tests for helping me know myself.
Different Has Value, But Like Has More
Here’s what my experience tells me about all this. If you have two people in a relationship who are too identical, one of them isn’t necessary. Differences can be incredibly attractive – the oldest attractive difference known to humanity of men being attracted to women and women being attracted to men, for example, specifically because of gender differences; each person in an interdependent but not codependent couple having their own interests, hobbies and circles of friends; the stimulation of exploring meaningful differences as a way of getting to know someone other than yourself and expand your concept of the world you live in!
But when it comes to building relationships, common ground is essential. Join me in the next post in this series, when I answer the question, When, how and why does like attract like, and why care? I’ll follow that with my take on the use of visualization and affirmation as credible tools in the process of bringing about positive change.
I’d love to hear your comments on whether and how opposites attract in your experience!