It's called "Shadow Side Attachment."
I think we’ve all seen at least one couple that just didn’t make sense — especially when you’d learn more about the two of them.
For me, the first time I saw it was with a casual acquaintance. He was a high-earning, super-conservative banker who had just divorced his kind, sweet, emotionally stable wife of 20 years.
He was now dating a woman who had no degree, a serious drug issue, and a history of getting on the wrong side of the law. Everyone, including his own wife, was left in disbelief.
What I later found out was that this story was far from unique. This is, in fact, a pretty common occurrence — or at the least, more common than I thought it’d be. And, after doing some research, I realized there’s actually a lot of psychology at play in these kinds of relationships.
According to relationship guru Dr. Cookerly, much of this has to do with something called "Shadow Side Attachment." As the name suggests, many of us have an interest in things that we don’t normally show other people. This is what one might call our "Shadow Side."
For some of us, that shadow side could be an interest in dating someone who is unusually conservative for our tastes. For others, it could be the desire to do wild and crazy things with people we really shouldn’t be interested in. This is the basis behind the old adage, "Opposites attract."
The funny thing about Shadow Side Attachment is that it often manifests when we’re trying to repress the way we feel.
The good girl wants to escape her "good girl" image for a while, and ends up with a "bad boy" who does all sorts of crazy things involving sex, drugs, and maybe a motorcycle.
The bad girl wants to date a good boy who can give her the stability her lifestyle can’t afford her. She wants to have moments where she can bake cookies and just be a normal person.
You get the picture.
People who get Shadow Side Attachment don’t necessarily fall in love with the person as much as they fall in love with the fact that the person represents their ability to explore a side to them that they don’t normally get to explore.
This is why Dr. Cookerly calls it a form of "false love."
For the most part, it’s not really sustainable. After all, the thing about people who are polar opposites is that they generally have clashing lifestyles and goals — and that’s usually a dealbreaker in the long run.
While the forbidden nature of a shadow side love may be sexy at the start, it often dissolves into bickering and quarreling about every little thing. As a result, these relationships are typically short-lived, but highly passionate flings.
In the case of the acquaintance and his mistress, it lasted a good two months before he tried to return to his wife, tail between his legs.
However, once in a blue moon, you’ll see a couple that is based on Shadow Side Attachment that actually does turn into a serious, stable, and loving relationship.
So, do opposites attract? Absolutely. There’s just no saying that they’ll stay together.