Do Opposites Attract in Romantic Relationships?

You’ve definitely heard the phrase “opposites attract,” right? But is it really true? Or are you better off dating someone that’s more like you? According to relationship experts, both statements have some truth to them.

While some people fall squarely on one side of the “opposites attract” argument, the fact of the matter is that relationships between opposites and people that are similar can both work as long as couples are able to communicate and compromise to make the relationship last.

What is the origin of the phrase?

The phrase “opposites attract” is actually used to describe how magnets behave according to the laws of physics. Every magnet has a north and a south pole that are on opposite sides of the magnet. When put in contact with another magnet, the north and south poles of the different magnets will attract each other, which is what led to the phrase “opposites attract.” In contrast, when the same poles of two magnets are put in contact (for example, two north poles put together), the magnets will repel one another.

It’s not clear when this physics terminology was applied to relationships, but the concept that opposites attract in romantic relationships has been widely embraced by pop culture for decades. Of course, it’s hard to categorize human beings so bluntly. Humans are nuanced creatures and as tempting as it can be to group people and relationships, we aren’t as simple as magnets. It’s important to look at how people navigate their relationships despite their similarities and differences.

What is the difference between relationship wants and needs and compatibility?

Rather than looking at how you and your partner are alike or different, consider how you use your similarities and differences to make the relationship work. Whether you’re total opposites or basically the same person, you should make sure you’re on the same page about the future of your relationship, along with your wants and needs. The bigger testament to the compatibility of a partnership or the strength of the relationship is how couples navigate the ups and downs in a relationship, not how opposite or similar the partners are to one another.

What do you do when opposites begin to clash?

Whether you are opposites or more alike, you’re bound to have different views on certain things, which can (and will) lead you to clash eventually. When this happens, it’s important to face the conflict head-on and address the disagreement collaboratively. Whether your argument is about a specific incident or about how you approach things philosophically, it’s important to remember that compromise is possible regardless of how dissimilarly (or similarly) you see things.

If your disagreements feel like make-or-break moments in your relationship, remember that if you have similar goals and a shared vision for the future, you can work through clashes as they arise—and it doesn’t matter if you’re opposites or a lot alike.

Whether you and your partner are the same people or you completely embody the phrase “opposites attract,” it’s your shared commitment to one another and to the relationship that keeps you together.