Opposites Only Attract When They’re Single, New Studies Find

This article may contain affiliate links, learn more.

For some, attraction is an instant feeling. They see someone they consider beautiful, handsome, or otherwise and immediately feel a connection. For others, it takes much longer. There has to be a foundational friendship or an emotional closeness before they can even begin to think of someone as physically attractive.

Within all these types of draws to other people, we hold preferences. They might be reoccurring traits in exes or a weakness for a certain personality type, but what’s even more fascinating is that these preferences can change depending on our partner, or lack thereof.

In any relationship, always take stock of your feelings and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?

Love is more than just kisses and butterflies, it’s much more than that. If you want to know more on what your birth chart reveals about how you love and what you need out of a partner, check out this personalized report based on date of birth.

Fish In The Sea

Have you ever noticed a trend when it comes to those you’re attracted to, specifically in the way they look? It’s not unheard of to have a ‘type’ of some kind, a common thread among partners or particular traits you know you find attractive, but that can apply to appearance, personality, or character. For this thought, focus on the former, and try to think of similarities that might have remained hidden away from your conscious thought.

Crowd of people at festival.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

After all, our brains tend to lead us in certain directions without even knowing it when picking partners.

A Look In The Mirror

Where it leads us, though, is entirely dependent on our relationship status.

A woman looking in the mirror, a hand held up to her face, looking concerned.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Before we get to that, people will often say that any relationship begins with yourself. You have to know if you’re in the right place to be romantically engaging with others. Maybe you’re still too fresh off a breakup to be jumping back into things, or you’re simply not interested in dating at the moment but feel pressured to do so. Analyzing our own comfort and readiness is paramount to knowing if we should be scouting out the dating pool or not.

We also have to be comfortable with ourselves physically.

Self-Love And Power

That isn’t to say you need to be fully, supremely self-confident at every moment of the day to be in a relationship. We all have insecurities, we all nitpick our own appearance at times, but being so uncomfortable in our own skin that it impedes us on a daily basis can impact how we interact with prospective partners.

A woman posing confidently under some sunlight coming in through a window.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

It’s not advised to lean on a partner to raise our confidence, as that means we’re not doing any work to heal our own wounds. However, evidence does show that we might start to find ourselves more attractive in a roundabout way once we’re in a relationship.

Formal Examination

And this returns us to the earlier point of our relationship status changing who we become attracted to.

A stack of printed polaroid photos next to a camera on a tabletop.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Recent studies have proven that when single, we tend to greatly prefer faces that are very dissimilar from our own. Then, when we’re in a relationship, we pivot and become more attracted to faces very similar to our own.

This study was run by Dr. Jitka Lindová of Charles University in the Czech Republic along with her team, who gathered volunteer university students and asked them to rate the attractiveness of faces they were shown in photographs.

A New Breakthrough

What they weren’t told is that these photos had been edited to look either more or less similar to themselves.

older man and older woman laughing on a first date,
Envato Element
Envato Element

The results were pretty straightforward, with Lindová saying, “We found that single participants, those not in relationships, rate dissimilar faces as more attractive and sexy than self-resembling faces.”

This remained true no matter the sex of the person in the photo or the volunteer’s own sexuality. This study was a first of its kind in terms of results, again with Lindová stating, “For the first time, we have observed how our partnership status affects who we find attractive.”

Protecting Ourselves

“Our interpretation is that attractiveness perception mechanisms that give us a preference for a genetically suitable partner may be suppressed during romantic relationships,” she explained.

Romantic adult couple hugging while covered by a woolen colorful blanket at the outdoor park.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to worry about suddenly finding people like you attractive while already coupled. In fact, Lindová thinks it may be a strategy to prevent us from straying away from good partners. “This might be a relationship maintenance strategy to prevent us from finding alternatives to our own partner, or perhaps self-resemblance becomes more important in terms of the social support we expect to receive from relatives, which are known as kinship cues.”

A Grander Scale

As with any study, it wasn’t perfect, and Lindová is hoping to further the research with more real-life cases.

Middle aged couple on motor boat
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Her main critique of how the study was carried out is that it was too isolated and divorced from social contexts that might have either changed things or provided more insight. “For example, as those not in a relationship were not influenced by kinship cues and our findings might help to explain social phenomena such as parent and adolescent disaffection.”

Some Mysteries Remain

As for why our brains drift away from finding our own faces attractive when single, they’re not totally certain, but there are theories. It might be a defensive move to prevent some less favorable types of relationships—namely ones with potential relatives. Our brains might register anyone looking too similar to us as family, and thus steer us away from them when actively seeking a partner to prevent any negative outcomes.

Young woman tourist looking in binoculars, telescope in the city view. Back view of woman use binoscope in the viewpoint on the river bank.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

The more natural answer is that our tastes fluctuate, and the individual mind, though it can be largely influenced the same as anyone else, is uniquely complex in a way that the reasons why are lost on us.

Not Wasting Time

And that’s not a bad thing! Feelings of love, attraction, and desire are natural in their occurrence with very little we can do about it. If you find dark hair more attractive than light hair, there’s no amount of bullying you can do to yourself that will change that, nor should you! Preferences like that don’t hurt anybody and are nothing to be ashamed of.

A couple cuddling on the couch, the woman resting on the man's chest.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

You also shouldn’t be ashamed if you do find your tastes changing, especially over time. Life is too short to constantly be policing what types of people we are or aren’t attracted to. Find beauty where beauty lies and enjoy it!

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]