Every wonder what causes an immediate attraction the first time two people meet?

Sarah finally discovered that she kept dating the same type of abusive person over and over. Bill accidentally called his new girlfriend his mother in the middle of an argument. Steven who was shy his whole life married a flamboyant salesperson.

While there is no known origin of the saying, “Opposites attract,” the concept appears to be related to Coulomb’s Law of physics (1785). The electrical force between positive (+) and negative (-) is stronger the closer the two move towards each other. While this is true in nature, it can also be true in relationships.

But while opposites attract, so do dysfunctions. Some types of mental disorders naturally seem to be drawn towards others in a way that either compliments or repels the other. Another saying, “Birds of a feather flock together,” helps explain how some people are naturally drawn to their own dysfunction.

Yet another concept can be realized from British author and philosopher, James Allen (1909). “The soul attracts that which it secretly harbours, that which it loves, and also that which it fears.” So the very thing a person might fear the most, they might have the strongest attraction towards. This can be very dangerous for a person who has experienced severe trauma.

Understanding the natural attraction two people have for each other is an essential foundation to discovering a healthier alternative. Here are five common examples.

  • Magnetic attraction. The closer two opposing magnets get to each other, the stronger the connection. This concept explains these three typical examples.
    • Introvert/extrovert: Introverts are drawn to those who are comfortable in social environments and can help to stabilize an otherwise anxious situation. Extroverts like the tranquility an introvert naturally possesses.
    • Hyperactive/unhurried: Unhurried people tend to have moments when their brain is turned off which is a direct contrast to the constant over-thinking of most hyperactive people. In some way, each wants a piece of what the other does not naturally have.
    • Sensitive/stoic: A sensitive person feels so deeply that it is a relief to be around a person who doesn’t. Stoic people tend to admire the intensity of the sensitive person.
  • Like finds like. This idea of “Birds of a feather flock together,” manifests in relationships that are matched by two people with the same type of personality trait.
    • Passive-aggressive: No one understands a passive-aggressive person quite as well as another passive-aggressive person. This personality trait is marked by someone who feels an emotion such as anger but won’t directly express it. Instead it comes out in forgetfulness or procrastination of a task that has been repeatedly requested.
    • OCD: A person with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) appreciates and values another person with a similar behavior. The two tend to feed off each other and normalize their dysfunctional actions.
    • Anxiety: Heightened bouts of anxiety and/or panic attacks are best understood by others who suffer from the same disorder. Those who don’t experience intense anxiety tend to minimize the situation and its’ affect.
  • Dysfunctions that match. This list is a small sampling of common disorders that are naturally drawn towards each other in a cycle that perpetuates the continuation of each.
    • Addicts/co-dependents: In order for an addict to thrive, they need someone who enables their addiction. Co-dependents get pleasure from rescuing others especially those who are typically forgotten or misunderstood by others.
    • Borderline/dependent: A person with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is well matched with a person who has dependent personality disorder (DPD). The BPD has an intense fear of abandonment which is a good match for the DPD who will not leave even a dysfunctional relationship.
    • Aggression/suppression: The anger style of aggression likes to unleash on those who will not fight back, such as a person who suppresses their anger. Likewise, a suppressive person admires the aggressor’s ability to let go of their anger and not revisit it over and over.
  • Parental attraction. Sigmund Freud believed that a person is often attracted to their parent in childhood. But weirdly enough some carry this subconscious attraction into their adult relationships.
    • Marry favorite parent: A person might enter into a relationship with another because of the strong similarities a mate possesses with the parent they most adore. While this might be favorable initially, sexual attraction often diminishes when the realization of the similarities becomes more conscious.
    • Marry least favorite parent: By contrast, some enter into a relationship with a person very similar to the parent they least liked. This is a subconscious attempt to heal the broken relationship between the adult child and their parent.
  • Trauma rehashed. Unfortunately, when trauma has not been dealt with properly, people often place themselves in similar places of vulnerability
    • Abusers/abused: This is most clearly demonstrated when a person finishes with one abusive relationship only to enter into another one. Until the reason for the tolerance of the abuse is addressed, a person will continue to repeat the abusive pattern.

“Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.” M. Scott Peck wrote in his book, “The Road Less Traveled,” which is the inspiration for this article. Healing from natural dysfunctional attractions opens a person up to healthy functional relationships.