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Do Opposites Really Attract?

I don’t know who came up with the saying, but it’s one that just about everyone knows: “opposites attract.” Someone was obviously looking at a magnet one day and thought to himself (it had to have been a guy — a woman wouldn’t make such a dumb conclusion): ‘If the opposite magnet ends attract…maybe…maybe all opposites attract!’ Well, no; they don’t.

When it comes to the workings of the human psyche, things are never quite as black and white as that. It would be great if it were that simple; all you would need to do is write down a list of your traits, list the exact opposite of each of those traits, and then find someone who matches the criteria in the second list. Voila!

There have been numerous studies showing that most people look for someone that has similar traits and a similar personality to theirs. People have a tendency to find a mate that complements them, not contrasts them and their beliefs.

Growing up we have all heard epic love stories of a boy from one village falling in love with a girl from the rivaling village, the two either beating all odds and living together happily ever after, or dying in each other’s arms, spending eternity together.

Stories like this symbolize the beauty of people from different backgrounds and with different ethnic beliefs falling deeply in love with each other. I most definitely believe that people with different backgrounds and different ethnicities can be perfect matches. In fact, I would encourage it; everyone knows that these sorts of mixes end up producing the best looking offspring.

However, most people take stories like these to showcase how complete opposites have a tendency to attract. The only time period in our lives when we are likely to look for someone of opposite disposition is during our adolescence.

This is often the period of our lives where we begin to experiment and try different things. This is usually the only time that we are willing to give those with completely opposite views and beliefs a chance — mainly because most of us are still developing our own sense of self at this time and are looking for different takes on the world around us.

We are open to different views and ideas and only after we get into our 20s do we truly begin to form a more solid self-image. In other words, human beings — at least those in our culture — are only willing to try the opposite when they are still in a state of confusion or chaos. We are only willing to try something if we are unsure of our own stance. Once we have a clearer understanding of who we are as individuals, our tendency to attract to our opposite diminishes.

There is a rather simple reason for our tendency to attract to those sharing similar traits to our own. We all have an ego, some of us having larger egos than others, but nevertheless we all have egos that greatly determine what we choose to do and what we choose not to do — or rather who we do and who we must be very drunk in order to do.

More than that, our egos make us believe that what we think, what we believe and what we deem to be correct, to be indisputable. We spend the majority of our lives figuring out what it is that we like and what we don’t like, as well as what we believe to be correct and what we believe to be incorrect. Once we have a set standard for what we find right and what we find to be wrong, our egos will not allow us to settle down with someone who has views that we believe to be incorrect.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we judge — we all do. If we believe that one of our views on whatever is correct, a belief that is of great importance to us or is rooted deeply in connection to our self-understanding, then those who have opposite views will not appeal to us. Of course, this is not to say that any two people whose views differ on a single topic will be compatible.

Many views we do not hold to be crucial to our belief system, but if the view we hold to be true we also hold to be an important part of who we are as individuals, then those holding opposite views will be incompatible. The same goes for when we find someone who holds several, less important views in opposition to ours — if that person sees the world entirely different from the way we see it, then we are incompatible.

Finding the ideal partner requires one thing: finding someone to share and expand our view of the world with. Some of us may look for someone identical to ourselves, holding the same views and thinking the same way. I do believe that each person ought to find someone that does not confirm all of their own beliefs, but rather has the ability to help our views change and grow, allowing us to get a clearer, more beautiful depiction of our world.

Nevertheless, people are much more likely to find people who share their views and beliefs because for one: it confirms the convictions of our ego and makes us feel good to find someone that is as right as we believe ourselves to be. Finding someone who believes the exact opposite of what we believe is a direct attack on our egos and on our ability to understand the workings of the world. And two: Finding someone similar to ourselves allows for less of a headache down the road.

Opposite views are cause for arguments. The stronger the personality — the larger and more aggressive the ego — the more likely we are to attack the beliefs of someone standing on the opposite side of the argument. Maybe it’s just me, but if I believe myself to be right, then you better either convince me otherwise or give into my line of reasoning.

Of course, not all of us are so keen on rationalizing everything in our lives. But nevertheless, having opposite thoughts on important subjects does cause tension and problems within a relationship. It may feel great to date that badass that is your complete opposite — that is, until you realize that you can’t stand him. We are likely to experiment with many different types of people, and we should.

It takes quite a while for us to get to know ourselves, or rather develop ourselves to the point that we feel completely comfortable with who we are. Experimenting with different types of people, especially those with opposite views, will force us to question or own views and beliefs and alter them, strengthening them.

But, at the end of the day, once we have developed into fuller people, having stronger convictions backed by more experience, we will find ourselves much happier in the arms of someone sharing the same version of the world — not the opposite view.

Paul Hudson | Elite.

For more from Paul, follow him on Twitter @MrPaulHudson