New study shatters the ‘Opposites Attract’ myth, revealing couples are astonishingly similar in up to 89% of traits

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Busting the common belief that opposites attract, a comprehensive analysis from the University of Colorado Boulder reveals that romantic partners often share up to 89% of analysed traits. The study, which spans over a century and includes millions of couples, suggests that we are more likely to pair up with those remarkably similar to us across a range of characteristics, including political leanings, social habits, and even age of first sexual activity.

The research, published in Nature Human Behaviour, analyzed more than 130 traits. From political views to substance use habits, and even the age of first intercourse, partners were found to be more similar than different. “Our findings demonstrate that birds of a feather are indeed more likely to flock together,” said first author Tanya Horwitz, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Only 3% of traits showed substantial differences between partners. This contradicts the age-old assumption that “opposites attract”, stressing its inaccuracy when it comes to human relationships.

The study reviewed data from nearly 200 papers dating back to 1903, involving millions of male-female partnerships. It also analyzed 133 traits in almost 80,000 opposite-sex couples enrolled in the UK Biobank project.

Across both analyses, couples largely matched across a range of traits. This included political and religious views, levels of education, and some measures of IQ. Even habits like smoking and drinking were found to be similar among partners.

However, not all traits showed similarity among couples. Height, weight, medical problems, and personality traits varied among partners. Extroverts were no more likely to partner up with other extroverts than introverts, illustrating the randomness in some aspects of couple compatibility.

Interestingly, even relatively unexplored traits such as the number of sexual partners or whether individuals were breastfed as babies showed some correlation among couples. Despite seeming like choices made freely, Horwitz suggests there may be underlying mechanisms influencing our relationships that we aren’t fully aware of.

The implications of this study extend beyond simply understanding why we choose certain partners. The researchers note that if taller people pair up with other taller people and shorter people with other shorter people, future generations could have more individuals at the extremes of the population’s height distribution. The same applies to social habits and other traits.

Some studies suggest that people increasingly pair up along educational backgrounds, raising concerns of a widening socioeconomic divide. This highlights the potential societal implications of our partner preferences.

Despite the popular belief in the allure of opposites, this comprehensive study offers a striking counter-narrative. The data suggests that similarities, not differences, play a significant role in shaping our romantic relationships.

Even traits that we might perceive as being left purely to personal choice, such as number of sexual partners or substance use habits, showed a higher correlation among couples. This leads us to question how much of our ‘choices’ are influenced by unseen factors or subconscious preferences.

The societal implications of these findings could be profound. If people continue to pair up along lines such as height, social habits, and educational background, it could lead to more marked divisions within society. These divisions could manifest in various ways from physical characteristics like height to larger societal issues such as an increased socioeconomic divide.

In light of these findings, the concept of ‘opposites attract’ may need to be reevaluated. As Tanya Horwitz observes, even in situations where we feel we have choice in our relationships, there may be mechanisms at play behind the scenes influencing our decisions.

This research invites us to reflect upon our relationship choices and their broader implications. It serves as a reminder that our personal choices can have far-reaching effects on societal patterns and structures. The findings also underscore the need for further research across disciplines – from sociology to psychology – to fully understand why we end up with the partners we do.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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