When Opposites Attract

Low angle portrait of happy couple holding hands together in the forest while enjoying good warm weather

By Jarrod Thalheimer

“We have nothing in common… how can we be attracted to each other?”

It seems counterintuitive. How could people with opposing views—on everything—find themselves drawn together? Notwithstanding most Hallmark movies, every single “Moonlighting” episode ever aired, and Paula Abdul’s bouncy 1989 take on the subject, there are more than a few legitimately solid reasons as to why opposites do indeed attract.

Sound crazy? You bet, which is why you absolutely need to learn more.

It’s Science…Kind of

Noradrenaline is both a neurotransmitter and a hormone. As a neurotransmitter, it’s a chemical messenger that helps transmit nerve signals all over your body. As a hormone, it’s released by your adrenal glands. Working in tandem, they make up your body’s response to impending danger–your “fight or flight” response. Your heart pounds and your palms sweat, you feel confused, even disoriented. Your mouth is dry, and your face begins to turn red. You are ready to fight (or run away…fast!). Incredibly, as much as these all make sense when it comes to ducking danger, they are also the exact same physical tells informing you that a deep attraction is taking place.

And There’s More

Chemical reactions aside, there are also some pretty strong psychological issues at play. To start with, we often desire that which we do not have. Opposite personalities can be naturally complementary. As people, we can be drawn to those who exhibit traits we don’t personally possess but may wish we did. For example, someone who is shy and unassuming might be attracted to someone outgoing and confident. Or someone who is very non-political (but wishes they were) will attach a higher value to someone deeply political. The attraction is rooted in the difference.

Another psychological reality is the inherent excitement contained within something “new” or “different.” When you are used to certain groups of people or hearing certain conversations, the sudden arrival of someone looking or talking differently about familiar topics is going to stand out like a neon sign. If everybody is sporting a blue hat you can’t help but stare at the one person wearing a green one. What this means is that there are lots of reasons you might not be able to take you eyes off that certain someone. The big question is are they pushing my buttons (and making me angry), or am I attracted to them?

How Do I Tell the Difference?

I’m not going to lie—it can be tricky. Plenty of people find themselves in relationships where they are unhappy and frustrated, yet totally confused as to why the very things that first drew them together now seem to be pushing them so far apart. They followed what they thought was their heart and now find themselves trapped hopelessly inside anger and pain.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, start by asking some serious questions of yourself. And don’t forget, honesty counts, especially in this circumstance.

1 Do I sincerely respect the other person?

Those sparks that flew during your first months together may have come from your opposite points of view clashing. If that initial excitement has seen itself harden into a loathing of the other person’s beliefs or ideals (or even face!), however, that’s a sign your initial attraction was something less than romantic and far more based in chemicals roiling around.

2 Have any of my opinions actually changed?

Another clue about the reality behind your union is whether your own opinions have shifted or adjusted in any way. (And theirs too!) A mutual give and take would suggest both of you have found common ground on multiple points. If that’s not happening, it’s likely your attraction was more about the novelty of your differences than anything significantly deeper or more important.

3 Do I look for reasons to fight?

This is an obvious one. If you are struggling in your relationship and find the only way to spark some closeness between you is to start a fight, that suggests the “fight” is the only thing keeping you together. And while making up is always fun, it’s simply not healthy to require constant conflict to successfully enjoy each other’s company.

4 Do you defend them to others?

If you find yourself throwing your special someone under the bus when folks are discussing them behind their back, it suggests contempt has taken the place of affection, and that’s not good for anyone. Looking out for the one you love is a great way to become closer, especially when they’re not around. If their absence instead becomes a chance to say what you really think, then your relationship is the exact opposite of good.

5 Duck, dodge, and dive

If you spend more time avoiding certain subjects or circumstances, it’s a safe bet that your compatibility is not only nonexistent, but that it’s become toxic. Having some topics off-limits and others avoided is like living life inside a minefield—and no one wants that. A relationship is about growth for both of you. When something as integral as communication becomes an exercise in explosion-avoidance, it is probably time you admitted that as opposites, the two of you do not genuinely attract. Move on. You’ll be glad you did.

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