Humans don’t really know what we want. We love sexy movies about opposites clashing only to fall desperately in love. When we try it ourselves, it usually flames out with someone’s clothes burning in the front yard.
Research has found that humans tend to marry those who are similar to us in almost every way. People want a person who shares the same values and enjoys the same activities we do. Other key areas of similarity important to relationship stability include physical attractiveness, wealth, desire for children, religion, socio-economic class, and education.
So according to science, Richard Gere would never have actually stayed with Julia Roberts in the movie Pretty Woman. A generation of women’s dreams just died.
When opposites do attract, it’s because they still share complementary sex-role attitudes. An example of this would be the 50’s era man who believes his role is to bring home a paycheck and mow the lawn, while the woman who wants to stay home with the kids. For a more sex-specific “opposites attract”, think of dominant people with submissive partners – both conceptualize and participate in that specific dichotomy.
However, newer research has found that people don’t want to be with a clone of themselves. Partners who agree on every point get bored. The happiest couples seem to be those who are not the closest nor the most distant in similarity, but somewhere in between.
Perhaps it all comes down to personality. A recent study published in Evolutionary Psychology found that above all else, people preferred a partner with the same sort of personality. That similarity in personality trumped other factors such as attitude, religion, and values.
Interestingly, there were a few common factors that all women seem to look for. They want men who are conscientious, outgoing and emotionally stable – all traits that indicate an investment in the relationship and any potential children, according to Live Science. Men didn’t seem to share any universally-appealing characteristics (except Megan Fox. For both sexes, finding common ground was the top priority.