Follow Us

Do opposites really attract?

Em Griffin was one of my favorite professors in college, but he said something that caused me a lot of heartache. Karen had a boyfriend for four years before meeting me. She was wrestling through what to do with that relationship when she started falling for me.   Perplexed, she heard Grif…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Em Griffin was one of my favorite professors in college, but he said something that caused me a lot of heartache. Karen had a boyfriend for four years before meeting me. She was wrestling through what to do with that relationship when she started falling for me.
Perplexed, she heard Griffin make the point in a lecture that “opposites attract.” She thought to herself, “Seth and I are alike in a lot of ways, and this other guy and I are opposites.” Armed with that thought, when the guy proposed, she said, “yes.”
Fortunately after a month of thinking it through some more, she broke off the relationship and I didn’t waste any time in showing her that whatever anyone else said, we were meant to be together (if you’d like to read the story of our relationship, here it is).
Because we now have five children of marriageable age, this issue of opposites attracting is once more a hot topic in the Barnes home. In what way do they attract? Well, first of all, couples need to match up in some important ways. Value systems and goals should be similar. That’s what the Bible means when it says, “Don’t be unequally yoked.”  If your purpose in living is to please God and bring his kingdom, you want a mate who is similarly committed. If, for example, you embrace a lifestyle of simplicity and adventure, a materialistic spouse will frustrate you.

Experts are divided. “I don’t really think opposites do attract,” says
William Ickes, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at
Arlington and author of Empathic Accuracy.  Jean Lawrence in this article on WebMD cited some significant ways people can be alike or

  • Physical attractiveness. “I think we seek a certain level of
    attractiveness similar to our own,” Ickes says. “The Beast looks for
    Beauty, not the other way around.” If unattractive people pursue attractive
    people, they are not as likely to be successful.
  • Money. If you have zero dollars, you may aspire “to hook up with
    a mate who’s loaded,” Ickes says, “but what is the chance this person
    is interested in you?”
  • Desire for children. If the desire for a family is a source of
    contention, similarity of desire might be better, Ickes says.
  • Religion. “I know some successful mixed marriages,” Ickes
    says. “If you respect and tolerate the differences and don’t use the kids
    as pawns, you can choose your own [spiritual] path.”
  • Class. “How often do you see an aristocrat marry a commoner in
    real life?” Ickes asks. “That’s so rare you only see it in the
  • Education. “Educated people do not tend to marry stupid
    people,” Ickes says. “But uneducated people can be smart. You need to
    be able to talk, interact, and share world views.”
But when you look at temperament, find for someone who completes you. Looking at the four scales of the Myers/Briggs test, extroverts often do better with introverts. Two very quiet people may come to resent the silence in their relationship. And feelers often need thinkers to sort through issues in a more practical way. Similarly, unstructured people often need someone who is more task-oriented in their lives and task-oriented people need someone who brings the party.
Whoever the love of your life is, my advice is to celebrate the differences between you. Abandon the Pygmalion Project – guys, you will never make her into My Fair Lady. And women, your man doesn’t want you to turn him into a project. After all, if both of you were to be the same, one of you would be unnecessary.

Comments (4)

  • Great points Seth. Most important is that you both love the Lord . In many ways David and I are totally opposite, he’s neat , Im messy! He plans everything , I fly by the seat of my pants ! At the end of the day though these differences have enriched our marriage of 30 years. David reminds me often that his life would have been very boring without me !!

  • I agree, great points. Andy and I are complete opposites when it comes to personality, but it’s in complementary ways…ways where our opposites help each other grow into more balanced people instead of staying stuck in our ruts. But where we are the same is our values, faith and our goals in life. We both have the same destination in life in mind, and so our differences just make the road trip that much better. If we didn’t have the central core of Jesus to guide us it would be an awful relationship.

  • Yes, having similar values and goals are essential. Having different giftedness and perspectives strengthen the shared dream.

    While most your readers know better, it’s still good to clarify what NOT to receive from Jean Lawrence: Religion: being unequally yoked spiritually. Only an unbeliever does not understand that a follower of Christ is to never be yoked with an unbeliever.

    It was great to reread your romance blog, Seth. We’re watching a couple of dream-come-true before our eyes with marriages in the not-too-far future. God is a God of romance!

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Radical Living:

Receive updates on the latest posts as Seth Barnes covers many topics like spiritual formation, what if means to be a christian, how to pray, and more. Radical Living blog is all about a call to excellence in ministry, church, and leadership -as the hands and feet of Jesus.

Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

© Adventures In Missions. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | RSS Feed | Sitemap