Love Is In Our Genes: Why Do Opposites Attract?


Opposites attract but do they last?

We are all very familiar with the term "opposites attract". It's a major storyline in popular romance books and movies. Opposites pair up in motion pictures and become power couples who end up with a happily ever after, but just how true is that for us? 

Many of us have mental checklists for a potential partner. A lot of these checklist qualities are based on the commonalities between you and the other person: You love rock music, therefore he/she must love rock music. You're a cat lover, therefore he/she must be a cat lover. But sometimes we meet someone who doesn’t exactly follow our criteria and that is what makes them even more alluring.


A 2009 study attained by the European Society of Human Genetics found that differences in genetic makeup actually influence our partner choice. More specifically, the study suggested that people who have "diverse major histocompatibility complexes (MHCs) were more likely to choose each other as mates than those whose MHCs were similar, and that this was likely to be an evolutionary strategy to ensure healthy reproduction". Professor Maria da Graça Bicalho, who was an active researcher in the study, commented further on the subject by stating that "Although it may be tempting to think that humans choose their partners because of their similarities, our research has shown clearly that it is differences that make for successful reproduction, and that the subconscious drive to have healthy children is important when choosing a mate." Scientists are uncertain as to what signals attract the body to people who are genetically dissimilar to themselves, going as far to suggest that body odor or even facial structure may play a role in it.

If successful relationships can stem from genetics, can a relationship succeed through other means? Although it's ideal to share common ground, research shows that having some different interests and disagreements really isn't a dealbreaker for a relationship either. According to a 2013 study conducted by Columbia University, couples "who seem to agree with each other all the time may find they are actually too close for comfort". This closeness was measured by looking at how many similarities a couple shared through their beliefs, personality traits, and opinions among other aspects of their life together. It was found that the couples with the strongest relationships were those that fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum (of being close to being distant). This means is that allowing variety in a relationship isn't a bad thing — It actually creates the right amount of space to balance out the relationship.

Tracey Cox (a sex and relationships expert) states that "Incompatible couples can have more interesting relationships and much better sex”. Her statement coincides with relationship expert Dr. Bonnie Weil who mentions "We need the opposite attraction, and we need the tension to give us the sizzle".

Other research indicates that dating a partner who isn't a lot like yourself doesn't necessarily mean that your relationship won't be as strong. Sean Horan, an assistant professor in relational communication at DePaul University, reinforces the idea that differences in a relationship aren’t a problem as long as they are minor: "Successful couples can be different in some minor areas. But most people who have great relationships share similar backgrounds, core values and attitudes about what they like and dislike."

Whether you do or don't share similarities with your significant other, finding ways to keep the chemistry alive will always be key to a long-lasting love.

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