Psytalk - a happiness publication MHN BadgeMeaning of Badge *


Recent research upsets popular belief


There is a widespread belief that, in matters of the heart, opposites attract. When we were children it seemed right to us that Jack Sprat could eat no fat and his wife could eat no lean. They appeared to be in perfect harmony.

Such stories led us to accept the idea that opposites are somehow sublimely matched: A quiet guy and a talkative gal are made for each other. So, too, a calm wife and a volatile husband (as well as vice versa, no need to be sexist). Or a frugal spouse married to a spendthrift.

Made for each other? Not by a long shot! Whether opposites attract is one thing. Whether they can form happy, long-term relationships is another.


Personality Profile Study

In direct contradiction to the idea that opposites attract, studies indicate that it is when couples hold similar values and outlooks that they stay together. Their relationships last longer than couples whose values and outlooks are dissimilar. Furthermore, they rate their relationships more positively.

One such study developed and made use of a personality profile questionnaire that established the degree to which a person found each of seven basic personality issues important. Three groups of people displayed closely matching profiles:

One group consisted of couples who have stayed together a long time. The longer they had been together, the more closely their profiles corresponded. At first glance, this might seem to indicate that people who live together a long time become more and more alike. But there are two elements that indicate such is not the explanation. For one thing, in individual follow-up interviews, these couples reported they had always had similar values. For another, the profiles produced by the questionnaire don't appear to change much over time. Individual profiles show very little change when retested after five years. (Longer periods are not available because the study began in 1990.)

A second group consisted of couples who rated their relationships successful. There was a correlation between whether the participants thought of their relationships as agreeable, satisfactory, and pleasant, and how closely their psychological profiles matched.

The third group was made up of people who had been long-term friends. Again, the longer the friendship, the more closely the profiles matched.

Taken together, these three groups illustrate that similar basic personality traits make for stable, satisfying, relationships. Relationships that eventually become long-term simply because they last.


Additional Evidence

Nor is it just the happy ones who verify this trend. Couples who reported their relationships to be in trouble -- some thinking about separating, some actually separated -- had dissimilar psychological profiles. What's more, the more dissimilar the profiles, the more unhappy the partners were with one another.

This is further support for the idea that it is a couple's similarities that lend the promise of longevity and satisfaction. When you examine it, this actually makes sense -- if both members of a couple value honestly, for example, they are not apt to argue over whether to cut corners on their tax returns. When both value creativity, they can engage in a wide variety of mutually meaningful activities -- from exploring museums to jointly developing an innovative computer program. Similarly, if both value nature, they may enjoy trekking through the woods together; and both will probably be pleased to honor environment-protecting measures such as recycling their trash.

All in all, the more alike people are, the better they get along. It is really that simple.



Self-Help | Finding a Therapist | Psychology of Everyday Living
Responses to Reader Requests | Articles | Guest Page
About Bill Snow | Site Map | Home

Copyright 1996-2006 William W. Snow



Finding a Therapist

Psychology of Everyday Living - for Couples, Individuals, Family Concerns and Addiction

Responses to Reader Requests

psytalk Miscellaney

Guest Page - contact us!

General Information about psytalk

About Bill Snow

Site Map