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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Do you think opposites attract?
Kate Winslet and husband Sam Mendes: lookalikes?
People don't want opposites in partners, they want mates who look like themselves or have similar characteristics, American scientists have found.

Contradicting previous findings that people seek out mates with good qualities for raising children - the New York Cornell University study found that a person's perception of themself governed what they looked for in a mate.

If people rated a particular attribute as important in a partner, they tended to give themselves a high rating for the same attribute.

Are you a lot like your partner? Is it your similarities that make up the attraction? If opposites do attract, how do they stay together with so many differences to deal with?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

Opposites do attract
Simon S, UK
My wife and I have nothing in common whatsoever! I'm bald, she's not. She likes boybands, I hate them. She loves Big Brother and I'd rather watch paint dry! Opposites do attract, thank God!!
Simon S, UK

I'm a man, my girlfriend's female. How much more opposite do you want?
Ed, UK

I happen to be studying at Cornell University where the study was done. Interviewing a bunch of 18-20 year olds, subjectively, in an artificial campus climate (Ithaca is the most boring place on the world, really) doesn't strike me as representative of the human population.
Tom, Ithaca, USA

It's just one of the great mysteries of life
Robbie, UK
It's about time that academics realised that virtually nothing about human emotions, thoughts, and perceptions can be put into their little boxes. It's just one of the great mysteries of life.
Robbie, UK

Call me a classicist but I don't think you can predict who you fall for, if you could, the world wouldn't be nearly as complicated
Adrian, England

The characteristics we look for in 'a mate' aren't always the ones our true soul mate ends up having. How many of us are now happily with partners who on first meeting we thought nothing of?
Angela, UK

I'm living proof opposites attract. I like new houses, my wife likes old ones. I like football and motor racing, my wife doesn't. I'm an atheist, she's a Christian. I like my friends, she doesn't. I like Nicole Kidman, she likes George Clooney. I think I look like George Clooney, she doesn't. Proof positive.
Peter, UK

Everyone agrees we are very well suited
Clare, Edinburgh, Scotland
My husband and I are complete opposites in terms of our likes and dislikes but have very similar ideals and outlook on life which means although we can't go to the cinema together, we don't argue much! We look alike, as we both have dark hair and dark eyes. Despite any differences we may have though, everyone agrees we are very well suited.
Clare, Edinburgh, Scotland

I definitely think opposites attract even though the rest of my family don't - they don't think a relationship would work if the couple aren't the same religion, race or background. I'm with someone now who's totally opposite to me. We have totally different backgrounds, race and religion, we look different, listen to different music, eat different food, but we get along great.
Malathi, UK

Opposites do not attract. I think some people want to pretend that opposites attract to pretend they are nice people. A lot of women who fancy bullies like to pretend when they fancy a bully that they themselves are nice people but they are always bullies themselves.
Mr Smith, Wales

Yes opposites do attract. I'm a man and I am so attracted to women. Simply love them.
Garry, England

Who on earth would fancy a bald, ugly woman with a hairy back?
John, England
I certainly don't find women who have characteristics like me attractive - who on earth would fancy a fat, bald, ugly woman with a hairy back, a propensity to drink too much beer and a sense of humour that makes Cannon and Ball seem sophisticated??
John, England

It is the balance brought by having two opinions in a relationship, which often complement each individual person's qualities, that makes different personalities work together in the end. Of course they also drive you up the wall half the time, but no system is perfect!
Phil B, London, UK.

Power attracts, and absolute power attracts absolutely.
Mike, UK

Funny - I was thinking that my current 'main squeeze' would have to go as we are so similar emotionally - it's a double whammy when you both feel down! I think there should be differences to keep variety and spice and in the proceedings.
Al, UK

I'm a true cynic through and through, my other half sees the world through rose tinted glasses. Quite a contrast but it seems to work. She prevents me from becoming depressed and angry at the world sometimes. I keep her from being taken advantage of.
Ian, UK

I'm single again and haven't a clue whether to follow my instincts
Nat, UK
Attraction doesn't necessarily result in a successful relationship though does it? I am a successful woman who is attracted to successful (in whatever field) men. They end up completely one-dimensional and usually have a major hang-up somewhere. If I become attracted to someone who's not as achieving or driven, the boredom is awful and I leave. I've absolutely no idea if similar characteristics attract and more importantly whether these relationships are better. It's just something else to add even more confusion to this Holy Grail. I'm single again and haven't a clue whether to follow my instincts in what I find attractive, given my disastrous record!
Nat, UK

Rubbish! I'm attracted to Kate Winslet and she looks nothing like me!
Craig Miller, UK

Particularly as you get older, it is remarkable how many couples look similar. As you live and share together, the way you look, act and respond is going to rub off on your partner. To the casual observer, couples will then appear to be similar.
Chris White, England

My wife and I share the same hair and eye colour - however thankfully she doesn't have a beard! As far as personality goes I'm a drunken lecherous idiot with very obscure tastes in music and friends - while she is the opposite. Maybe we balance each other out? Either way despite these differences we still fancy the pants off each other after nearly 15 years!
Karl, UK

I think money attracts...
Marnie, USA

The number one rule in love seems to be there are no rules
Mike, UK
It seems to me that you have to have enough in common to build a life together and enough difference to keep each other interested. But the number one rule in love seems to be that there are no rules.
Mike, UK

This is a bit self-selecting because if people like something about their partner's personality they will develop the attribute themselves whether or not they had it in the first case. In terms of looks, well at my company there was a notorious relationship between the ugliest man and the ugliest woman, both of whom had deeply unpleasant personalities.
Steve, UK

Why didn't anybody point out the obvious flaw in this experiment that people's ratings of themselves are rarely in line with what others would say about them? The experiment merely shows that the virtues people find important, they attribute to themselves whilst also seeking in a partner. They should have asked a third person to rate both partners.
Adrian May, Germany

I am attracted to total opposites. I am a tall English girl with northern European origins and, although atheist, I have Protestant roots. My ex-husband is Bosnian, short, extremely Mediterranean in looks and Muslim by religion, and in attitude, morals, and upbringing. You couldn't get two more different people. Needless to say the marriage fell apart pretty quickly.
Sophie, UK

I have found in him what I don't have
Nathalie, France
I am married to a man who is completely opposite to me in his appearance but similar in his tastes and mode of life. We are similar and different at the same time and we are happy! He is an Arab and I was dreaming to have dark skin since my childhood so I have found in him what I don't have in my appearance. I can hardly imagine the life together if we had not the same thoughts, tastes and aims after all! Thank you.
Nathalie, France

Opposites attract. Great for a feisty, flirty short term relationship. not much good for anything else
Marc, England

Opposites do definitely attract, as my partner and I are more different than alike. I would hate to be with someone just like myself! We do have similarities, but I think the main reason we work is that we are so different.
Suzanne, Herts, UK

Opposites attracted me to my husband. A couple with opposites can make a more stable and balanced family life. In the sense of life struggling, the family composed by an opposite couple is more powerful.
Jinmin Miao, Finland

After a night out, my friend and his girlfriend got chased down the street by some drunks who were sure that they were brother and sister and hence behaving inappropriately.
Simon, UK

It is our experiences in life that carry us through to a permanent relationship
Pauline Marriott, UK
My ex-partner and I were described by all our friends as looking like brother and sister. He said when we left that we were too alike. I have a theory we ARE attracted to people with similar facial attributes - mouth or smile or eyes. We see our family members from day one and so we would be comfortable with similar looking partners. I would have said that my husband and I would have been together for life (we still get on) but it was the affairs that I couldn't cope with. His girlfriends are similar facially to him and have been told that they are similar to me in personality. The only difference they do not have the same responsibilities eg children. We get on with people who facially are similar but it is our experiences in life that carry us through to a permanent relationship or not.
Pauline Marriott, UK

My husband of three years and I are poles apart in formal education, income, and background - the sort of things that sometimes make people stop and think if a partner is "suitable"... but we share a silly sense of humour, we like to do a lot of the same things with our leisure time, and we both want children and to have a settled family life. Not sure about the comparative physical attractiveness question, but we fancy each other and that's the main thing!
Em, UK

Opposites 'do not attract'
01 Jul 03  |  Health
Dusting dads 'more attractive'
11 Jun 03  |  Health


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