Opposites really DO attract, study confirms

Opposites really DO attract: Couples with clashing personalities are no less likely to last, study finds

  • Michigan State University looked at whether opposites really do attract
  • Similar personality traits were seen to have a minimal effect on relationships
  • Scientists questioned almost 1,300 couples to paint a picture of this 

Whether it’s Beauty and the Beast or Harry and Sally, the idea that ‘opposites attract’ has been around for centuries.

And now scientists believe it to be true, with new research revealing that matching personalities are not the key to finding ‘The One’.

In a study of almost 1,300 couples, experts at Michigan State University took a closer look at how five big personality traits affected levels of relationship satisfaction.

Emotional volatility, open mindedness and compassion were among these, in addition to how extroverted someone is and their conscientiousness.

While it was clear that many are drawn to partners who are similar, this was not seen to be crucial for long-lasting love.

Michigan State University looked at whether opposites really do attract in new research (file image)


Negative emotionality: anxiety, depression, emotional volatility

Open mindedness: intellectual curiosity, aesthetic sensitivity, creative imagination

Agreeableness: compassion, respectfulness, trust 

Extraversion: sociability, assertiveness, energy level

Conscientiousness: organisation, productiveness, responsibility

The study’s lead authors, Rebekka Weidmann and Mariah F. Purol, Michigan State University, said: ‘People may be likely to choose partners who are more similar to them, but our research shows that this similarity is not associated with higher life or relationship satisfaction in established couples. 

‘Personality facet-level associations are under-researched and our findings revealed some unique insights into which facets are most strongly linked to satisfaction in a relationship and with life in general.’

The US-based researchers looked at couples ranging in age from 19 to 89, who had been together for an average of 30 years.

These couples were faced with numerous questions to paint a picture of how satisfied they were in the relationship and life more generally.

Although differences were not detrimental to relationships, scientists acknowledged that negative emotionality often had the strongest impact on relationship satisfaction.

Meanwhile, open-mindedness made the least difference in both male and female satisfaction – encompassing intellect, imagination and sensitivity to appearances.

Similar personality traits were seen to have a minimal effect on relationship longevity (file image)

Partners who were more extraverted, agreeable, conscientious, open-minded and less negatively emotional were reported to be most satisfied overall.

The results comes despite numerous other studies suggesting the complete opposite is true.

A 2013 analysis of eHarmony’s Compatibility Matching System found that similarity was actually key to making a relationship last, even though opposites may be attracted to each other at first.

For instance, the study claimed that a submissive person may be initially attracted to a dominant person,  but two dominant figures are more suited overall.

Gin Lalli, a psychotherapist from Edinburgh, also said the phrase ‘opposites attract’ is complicated.

She told MailOnline: ‘The point of view that we don’t need someone exactly like us tends to come with maturity, once we get more comfortable in our own skin and more self-confident then we can don’t feel as threatened by differences and can keep our own sense of identity well protected while still being with a partner who is different.’

‘Opposites attract’ could be especially beneficial for introverts, with extroverts helping them come out of their shells more, Ms Lalli shared.

She also added that someone who is quite spontaneous or impulsive may feel more grounded if they were in a relationship with a ‘practical and pragmatic’ person.

Ms Lalli continued: ‘There can be downsides to opposites too though. Communication and conflict resolution can be difficult when people have different communication styles.

‘I think it’s not so important to consider whether you are different or the same as your partner, you should be guided more by the fact you have shared values, mutual respect, want similar things in your future and are committed to work through challenges together.’

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