Turns out, opposites don’t attract

You know the old saying that “opposites attract?” A new study has found that there is probably little if any truth to it. Researchers at Wellesley College and the University of Kansas found that people are drawn to others who are like-minded, not those who are different.

This study not only challenges some basic beliefs about attraction and relationship formation, it also points to something very important that all couples should be aware of before making a commitment. People can’t change each other over time—something that many couples find out the hard way.

The study findings, titled; Similarity in Relationships as Niche Construction: Choice, Stability, and Influence Within Dyads in a Free Choice Environment,” can be found in the current issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Apparently if like or love at first sight happens, it’s because we find something familiar in the other person, something we can relate to. If you think about it, most of us have always believed we choose friends this way—so how did the belief that opposites attract come into being? After all, seeing the world in a similar way and sharing experiences, goals, and world views is always a plus, right?

None of this says that we don’t influence one another, because we do. It also doesn’t mean that we don’t grow and change over time, especially in a committed relationship. What it does say is that we are fundamentally who we are and that if it is very different from a love interest, we are less likely to make a meaningful connection.

The study shows that people who are attracted to one another don’t seek similarity in a few areas—they are similar in many more ways than not, especially on things that matter the most to them. Just think about the current political climate—can you imagine a Trump supporter finding love with a Sanders person? You get the picture.

Of course, many people have close friends who are very different from them—however there must be something (or a few things) that they share and that connect them in meaningful ways. However they don’t and can’t change one another, they simply accept and respect their differences. Note to anyone out there who may be considering marriage and having thoughts of how great their partner could be/will be when they grow up, change their view on something, have a positive influence in their life, etc. You are kidding yourself—and this research highlights it. It’s easier to find someone who really gets you—and who shares your basic values, beliefs, and goals.

Is love at first sight just biology?

Researchers have found that people decide if someone is a potential mate within the first three minutes of a first date. Interestingly enough this is also true of folks who feel an instant rapport on a friendship level- these relationships tend to become close and lasting.

What’s key to these attractions appears to be biological, not logical as studies using animals have found. Apparently animals are drawn to those they are genetically compatible with. While there may be differences between humans and other animals, it’s certainly interesting to contemplate. Apparently these genetic similarities lead to an ability to know that this is the one. Certainly nature has a careful balance, and this programmed attraction may be designed to help the species thrive.

Therefore, there may be something to love at first sight, even though many happy and healthy unions needed more time to grow into something more and not everyone believes in this phenomenon. Interestingly, guys experience instant attraction more often, probably because they are so visual. Women need to know more about what is under that attractive exterior, so their attraction grows slower.

Does this mean that you should not have that second date if you didn’t feel this person is the one? Absolutely not. As a dating and relationship coach, I have encouraged folks to try second and third dates when they felt neutral about the person- not turned off, but not wowed either. What I have seen is that many of those first so-so dates lead to long-term and happy relationships.