Opposites Neither Attract Nor Last

In the end, is it the similarities that glue a couple?

Writing on Slate, Christopher Beam makes the point that 40 million rom-coms can, in fact, be wrong: while Hollyowood might posit that opposites make for sparks and romance, the reality is differences grow tiresome. Quoth he,

It's an established tenet of social psychology that similarities rather than differences-whether in attitude, personality, age, income, race, or religion-produce a lasting relationship. "Opposites tend to attract in the short term, but not in the long-term," says Catherine Sanderson, a psychology professor at Amherst College who teaches a class on close relationships. "Over the long haul, one of the bigger predictors of success in relationships and marriages is similarity."

Of course, there are exceptions that prove the rule — and as the product of an Annie Hall-era relationship myself, not to mention half of a Breakfast Club-unlikely couple, I'm invested in thinking so — but study after study has shown that the more homogamous the couple, the better the odds. Different personality types begin to grate on each other; differing schedules becomes exhausting; different backgrounds lead to fights about how to raise kids. Yet, at the same time, as Beam points out, couples grow more similar the longer they're together. And what one of my friends calls "complicity" can become the glue of a relationship.

Beam also makes a good point, even as he sort of contradicts the piece's ScarJo-RyRen peg: at the end of the day, stars are really similar. When you're both multimillionaire stars with rarified lifestyles and extraordinary beauty, you're a lot more similar to each other than the rest of the world — whatever your tabloid "persona." After all, you already work the same job.

One thing Beam doesn't address is that, as very different people, you're also prone to a lot of judgments: by friends, by family, by strangers. (See: Pretty in Pink.) And it's true, after the credits roll, the rest of us have those realities to deal with. But there are also the shared jokes, the solidarity, the complicity — and while it's dull movie fodder, that, too, can be a beautiful thing.

Self-Love, Actually
[Slate]