Opposites don’t attract

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard people say “opposites attract.” They use this to explain any number of romantic occurances: the hot young girl with the homely older man, the clean cut guy with the rocker girlfriend, or the church-going girl with the alcoholic guy. Looking over the list, does it really seem likely that the attractive young girl is drawn to the homely older man because of his looks? Or that the clean cut guy is drawn to the rocker girl because she’s so different? Of course not. They how did these people end up together? That’s part of the mystery of attraction but it has nothing to do with being opposites. Opposites don’t attract, complements do.

Complements are often mistaken for opposites, perhaps a sign that we don’t have the proper phrasing to accurately distinguish the two. Opposites are black and white, completely opposing forces; complements are two sides to the same coin, two forces that flow together more harmoniously than each could were it separate. Many people mistakenly view the Taoist yin-yang symbol as a representation of opposites when, in fact, it is a representation of complements. Yin and yang circle around one another, each representing different parts of a greater whole, each completing the other to form a perfect whole.

Attraction is the recognition of complementary aspects in another person. We’ve all had the experience of being drawn to someone that, logically, we should not be attracted to. They’re too young or too cocky, they’re not pretty enough or in good enough shape…yet we find ourselves attracted to them. This type of attraction goes on at a deep, subconscious level that some would call the soul. Our soul, some believe, is always deficient in some way and always seeking to complete itself. In a way, it is a yang seeking its yin, or a yin seeking it yang. It’s not an opposite that we yearn for, it’s our other half, the part that will make our soul complete.

Most of the people we’re attracted to are quite similar to us in some way. Most of the ways people meet seem to indicate this as a truth. A friend of mine who is a wedding photographer found some patterns: most of the couples met either at work, through a shared activity (class, sports, etc.), or through church. Each of these three indicate similarity between the two people in their chosen profession, in their hobbies, and in their spiritual beliefs, respectively. But if your partner were exactly the same as you, they would not be nearly as attractive. If you ever travel so far as to run into yourself, you will surely wish to take your exit as soon as possible. You don’t need another you because another you doesn’t bring anything new into your life. That’s why you’re attracted to someone who is similar, but not the same, someone who is a complement and not an opposite.
If attraction is the recognition of your complement, then love is the realization of that complement. Falling in love has been referred to throughout history as two people becoming one, and there’s nothing that could be more accurate. Being in love with someone means that some major parts of you have found their complement in the other person; you feel whole having this connection. There are numerous stories of people rising to greater challenges and achieving higher goals after being in love. This makes perfect sense, of course, as a complete person is incredibly powerful.

This also makes sense in the context of one of the most powerful experiences people can have: a break up. The only other life event that causes such a drastic and sudden emotional response is the death of a loved one. In a way, a break up is a sort of death. The complements that you had found in that other person are suddenly and ferociously ripped from your being. Even if the break up was logical, as in the case of abuse, the pain you feel goes far beyond emotion…it literally tears at your soul. You feel like nothing will ever be right again, your entire being shakes knowing that the other person is gone. Why the big deal? You had survived for numerous years in your life before meeting this person and did just fine, yet now, the thought of not having him or her there is unbearable. The pain you feel is the loss of your complement, the process of once again becoming incomplete after spending so much time as a whole person. It’s brutal and it can take some time to recover. But you do.

After recoving from the loss of your beloved, often times you’ll find that you are, in fact, more complete than before you met your ex. Even though that other person is gone, some of the complements you found in them actually became a part of you. You may find that you’re more confident or have a different view of life. In effect, you have absorbed the complements that were present in your ex, making yourself closer to being whole. The next attraction will continue the trend, identifying more complements that are necessary for your own growth.

So try looking back at your past relationships with gratitude. At some level, they all helped you grow and become a more complete person. And remember, it’s not because they were your opposite, it’s because they were your complement.

13 thoughts on “Opposites don’t attract”

  1. Wow, great entry! Real deep too! I was talking to a married friend randomly about opposites attracting, and she echoed the same thing your photographer friend observed – that her and her husband complement each other through a common history, interests, & values.

    I wonder if the concept of “opposites attract” came about because, when you look at certain couples, the first thing you notice are their differences. But if you were to analyze their relationship deeper, you’d find that they are really complementary, like you said.

    A friend also posed this follow-up question: does every relationship need a dominant and a passive person? Hmmm. That’s perhaps a good question for a future entry!

  2. Humans, by nature, notice differences way before the notice similarities. The fact that someone is clean cut and is dating someone with multiple tattoos and piercings jumps out at you while the fact that they met at church does not.

    I do believe that every relationship needs a dominant person and a submissive person, but with a twist: it’s not always the same person all the time. For certain activities or times, one will necessarily be the dominant one, while in other times, the other will need to take the lead.

  3. So, in order to become a more complete person, I need to be in as many relationships as possible? Does this mean we truly cannot remain committed to one relationship for life?

  4. The word “relationship” is overloaded. You learn more about yourself through your interactions with others, and romantic relationships certainly teach you a lot. But that’s not the only type of relationship that teaches you.

    Some believe that when you meet someone you can commit to, it’s a recognition that this person is someone with whom you can continue to learn about yourself. The reason you’re committing is that they will provide you with a lifetime of lessons and you with them.

    Ultimately, it’s the quality of the relationships that makes you more of a complete person, not the quantity.

  5. My question about a love relationship:
    Does there need to be physical chemistry and passion for the relationship to proceed and flourish?
    My man friend and I get along great. We have a special bond and he is somewhat attracted to me. However, he does not feel that the physical chemistry is there and he needs in order for passion and growth of the relationship. I do not know what to think of this comment except that he is telling me that he no longer wants to pursue this relationship.

  6. Fantastic distinction between complements and opposites. *Loved* your point that “some of the complements you found in them actually became a part of you”. On that note, I’ve also found that true opposites (such as, a mismatched value system) can take a part of you away. Almost all of my relationships brought complements of some sort to my foundation as a person, but a few opposites also took something away, and I had to re-build those sections. It wasn’t trivial, so I’m very wary now of true opposites entering my life.

  7. even if opposites did attract, they probably would not prove to have an impressive long term batting average. partners tend to remain together when they have things in common that can be appreciated together and shared. – Stephen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *