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Blog - Opposites Attract or Shall We Say, “Complement” Each Other

Opposites Attract or Shall We Say, “Complement” Each Other

By Merrick Rosenberg

Two magnets with opposite poles will pull or attract towards each other. If the poles are the same, they repel. But is this true with people as well? Do opposites truly attract?

According to a University of Iowa study, 86 percent of people claim to want someone who has their opposite traits. But why is that?
To begin with, we must define what we mean by “opposites.” In this sense, we are talking about personality traits, not religion, race, intelligence or even physical attractiveness. In those cases, people tend to be drawn to those who are similar to themselves.

I want to be clear right from the start - just because we are attracted to our opposites, that doesn’t mean that opposites will be happier than couples who share the same style. We are just attracted to our opposite.

In The Chameleon, I link the four personality styles to Eagles, Parrots, Doves and Owls. Using this framework, each is drawn to their opposite. Direct and assertive Eagles are drawn to soft-spoken and harmonious Doves. Detail-oriented and logical Owls are attracted to free-spirited, enthusiastic Parrots.

Consider some of the great couples in classic television history.

Parrot and Owl partners include:

    • Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (I Love Lucy)
    • Sam and Diane (Cheers)
    • Carrie and Mr. Big (Sex and the City)
    • Rachel and Ross (Friends)
    • Cam and Mitch (Modern Family)
    • Marshall and Lily (How I Met Your Mother)
    • Paul and Jamie (Mad About You)

Eagle and Dove couples include:

    • Ralph and Alice (The Honeymooners)
    • Fred and Wilma (The Flintstones)
    • Archie and Edith (All in the Family)
    • Homer and Marge (The Simpsons)
    • Tony and Carmela Soprano (The Sopranos)
    • George and Louise (The Jeffersons)
    • Carrie and Doug (King of Queens)

Perhaps the reason that people describe their partners as, “Their other half,” is that they truly complement each other. In a Parrot/Owl couple, the Owl provides structure and organization as the Parrot adds spontaneity and excitement. In the Eagle/Dove relationship, the Eagle acts decisively, as the Dove considers the impact of decisions on the people around them.

During times of ease, these complementary skills add intrigue to our lives. We come to admire those who can readily display behaviors that are difficult to us. We value what they bring to the relationship because it is different from what we bring.

However, the same behaviors that draw us closer during easy times, can repel us when times that are more challenging. The same behavior that we previously valued can push our buttons. In fact, during stressful times, opposites don’t attract, they attack.

Successful relationships are built on a foundation of respect. If we embrace differences and value the benefits of being in a relationship without someone who brings a different way of seeing the world, we can enjoy rich new experiences that we never dreamed possible.