Should you say I love you on the first date? Ask my husband

What drew us together is on my mind, thanks to a new US study on romantic relationships debunking the old opposites-attract adage.

Published in Nature Human Behaviour, the research found for over 80 per cent of traits analysed –religious and political views, the age people first had sex, drinking habits – partners were often remarkably similar.

Building on studies dating back to 1903 that suggest partners often share core values, hobbies and even childhood neighbourhoods, scientists did a new analysis of 133 traits in nearly 80,000 heterosexual couples.

Partners were more likely to be about the same age and show similarities such as whether they were breastfed as a baby and the number of sexual partners they’d had. But height, weight, personality traits and medical problems varied among couples.

When opposites did attract, the associations were less impactful. Think early risers pairing with night owls or left-handed people with righties.

As Tanya Horwitz, a University of Colorado PhD student and the first author of the study put it, “Birds of a feather are indeed more likely to flock together.”


Our millennial friends, Katie and Tom, are marrying in December. She’s a manager, he’s a pilot. He’s allergic to rabbits, she dotes on them. He likes golf, she can smash a pole dance routine.

Was their initial attraction based on similarities or differences? “Our principles, core values, ambition and drive were the same,” says Katie.

“Our politics and emotional attachment styles were not. Our lived trauma and hardships weren’t either, or our views on health and wellbeing. These were barriers, but because we were so equally into each other, there was room and respect to tackle the differences.”

Paula and Joseph, gorgeous Sydney friends, are also engaged. Both with a European background, they met at Croatian dancing. She has three psychology degrees, he’s a forklift driver. She loves parties and community connection, he loves an organised home.

“While our cores values are the same, the expression of them is very different,” says Paula. “It works because we agree on the non-negotiables – family, commitment to growth, integrity, a greater good mindset, not needing to win.”

Maybe we need to rethink magnetism.

Kate Halfpenny is the founder of Bad Mother Media.

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