We’re all pretty familiar with the term “polar opposites attract.”
It’s practically a major storyline in most romance books and movies; people who have next to nothing in common fall in love and live happily ever after.
But even though Hollywood makes it seem like this is the norm, just how true is that for us?
Everyone has a mental checklist of what they’re looking for in a partner, a lot of which revolves around having similar tastes. But when you find someone who doesn’t exactly follow that criteria, it makes them even sexier. Seriously, science even confirms that.
In a 2009 study by European Society of Human Genetics, it was found that differences in genetic makeup actually influence our partner choice.
More specifically, the study suggested that people who have “diverse major histocompatibility complexes (MHCs) were more likely to choose each other as mates than those whose MHCs were similar.”
The study attributes this to being biology’s way of making sure that we have a healthy reproduction.
Professor Maria da Graça Bicalho, who was one of the key researchers, took things a bit further. She said that although it’s “tempting to think that humans choose their partners because of their similarities, our research has shown clearly that it is differences that make for successful reproduction.”
This basically means that we’re wired to think that having different genetic traits will help us have healthy kids.
What’s even more interesting is that a 2013 study conducted by Columbia University proves that having too many things in common with your partner is actually detrimental to your relationship.
So even though it’s ideal to share common ground, having different interests shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
The study measured this by looking at how many similarities a couple shared in regards to their beliefs, personality traits, and relationship goals. The study found that the couples with the strongest relationships were actually those that fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
Having some variety in your relationship isn’t a bad thing. In fact, these differences create just the right amount of space to balance out your love life.
Even a study conducted in 2019 by researchers at the Université Paris Diderot reaffirmed that humans are able to detect if they are genetically compatible via smell.
As humans, we are able to “sense” the differences between a person’s MHC (“a cluster of genes that plays an important role in immune function”). This means that we are attracted to those who have a different arrangement of MHC, so when two people of two different MHCs have children, the children will benefit from both parent’s immunity.
According to Dr. Bonnie Weil, “We need the tension [that comes from this opposite attraction] to give [our relationship] the sizzle”. In even better news, Weil stressed that those pesky fights between you and your partner will just lead to the best sex. How’s that for heating things up in the bedroom?
Essentially, our genetic makeup plays a significant part in why we’re so attracted to people who couldn’t be more different from us.
So, whether you and your significant other are alike or polar opposites, just remember that it’s possible to keep the chemistry alive. You just may have to get a little creative.
Tabitha Blaisdell is a freelance writer whose work can be found all across the web on BuzzFeed, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Psych Central and more.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted in March 2013 and was updated with the latest information.