Robert Winch was an American sociologist of the 1950s developed a theory known as the “complementary needs theory” to explain the factors that influence attraction between two people. so that they consolidate as a sentimental couple.
Robert Winch’s Theory of Complementary Needs originated from one of his studies in which he attempted to investigate the means by which complementarity occurred between the 25 couples who participated in the study. He determined that for two people to fall in love to the point of seeing each other as the right couple, they had to complement each other taking into account a number of factors that we will detail later.
What is Complementary Needs Theory?
Robert Winch’s Theory of Complementary Needs, located in the fields of sociology and social psychology and aimed at the study of couple formation, was developed from a study that Winch conducted with 25 couples in order to than investigate the ways in which complementarity has occurred in pair selection.
The first step in this process of selecting a potential partner consists of dates between the two members, once they have previously arranged to make that date for the initial attraction which may be between the two .
The next steps in forming a couple would go through a series of encounters between the two members over time that made it easier for the two to fall in love, the preliminary step to establishing a romantic relationship.
Winch himself has proposed that, in addition to dating being the first step to falling in love, the most common way to meet this potential partner with whom we can have more complementarity is to take place in the environments in which we evolve. usually.
For this step to be taken, according to the theory of complementarity a person chooses who they want to be their partner looking for someone who has needs complementary to their; therefore, if each of the members of the potential partner saw in the other that there was a complementarity with himself, they would both like to take the final step in the formation of a sentimental partner.
Developing the theory of complementary needs, Winch also noted that people assessed, in addition to choosing people who were complementary in terms of tastes, values, and hobbies as a potential mate, also focused on other factors such as religion, race, social class, educational level, place of residence, etc. According to this theory, when these factors that we have just listed are common or at least quite similar, they facilitate marriage between two people.
In the theory of complementary needs, it has been qualified those people who fit into the complementary factors of a person such as the “Eligible Joint Applicant Field”, can be one of those people we see every day (for example, the waiter in the cafeteria where we usually have coffee every morning, a classmate or colleague, someone who goes to the same gym than us, etc.).
The idea of opposite poles
It’s quite common to hear the idea that “opposite poles attract”, being a topic that Robert Winch also researched. While it’s true that they can be attractive, that doesn’t mean they’re durable. Although we won’t say that two quite different people can’t get to have a lasting relationship, because putting them both on their side might come to find common ground and also there are other factors that are perhaps more important for a relationship to work in the long term, such as trust, support and mutual respect.
The same goes for the opposite side, and that is that even if two people agree on most of the factors that they think are important for wanting to train a partner, it does not mean that success is guaranteed and is -what, as we know, in the field of relationships not everything is low, horse and king, but it is a much more complex thing and there are several factors that influence whether a relationship will work out or not.
As for the idea that opposite poles are attracted, the theory of complementary needs comes to mean that Complementarity is what makes a relationship work, so that each member of the couple is the support of the other in times of need. (For example, when one person arrives in a bad mood because they had a hard day at work, the other person can be there to reassure them, when one person is angry for some reason because their partner is there to stop and help each other, to think clearly before acting or to encourage each other).
As can be seen, the theory of complementary needs starts from an idea intermediate to that of the opposite poles and those who claim that people who agree on everything will succeed as a couple; that is to say, having certain tastes, values and even a religion or social status favors the ability of two people to be interested in each other but it is also important that they complement each other, as if they agreed on everything and found no fit, the relationship may not last as long as originally thought.
The theory of complementary needs states that it is this complementarity between two people that promotes the strengthening of their bonds as a couple, so in addition to being important common factors for there to be an attraction between the two, also the differences between the two work in their favor, so they serve to complement each other. And it’s very common that a person is attracted to another who has different traits from theirs (e.g. a shy person who is attracted to another outgoing person and vice versa).
Some examples of people who could become partners according to the theory of complementary needs would be: a confident person with an insecure person, a dreamer with another who is more focused on the realistic side of things, an affectionate person and another colder, an insecure person with a more resolute one, and so on. That is to say that the complementarity would come to give, according to this theory, personality factors or ways of acting, having previous common factors such as values, beliefs, etc.
In short, it’s mutual feedback that can help a relationship work in the long run, both members being allies in the sense that each member is supportive of the other’s concerns and so is the other way around, being able to achieve this through active listening, so they know how they can support each other, if needed, and also know when the other person needs help to know how to act at any given time to be able to provide that support.
Main factors that influence the attraction between two people
Now that we have seen the theory of complementary needs in general terms, we will explain some important factors of mutual attraction between two people according to various theories in the field of social psychology.
1. The resemblance in the attraction between two people
Heider’s equilibrium theory states that two people who are similar in various factors will be more attracted to each other than to others with whom they differ more than similarities, establishing a principle of similarity according to which people who resemble each other can form a balanced and harmonious system, while the reverse could cause discomfort on the psychological level.
On the other hand, much of the research carried out in the last decades in the field of social psychology on the attraction between two people states that people tend to be more attracted to others who are similar in terms of attraction. for a series of characteristics, attitudes, values and beliefs.
This assertion made in social psychology would have a point in common with Winch’s theory of complementary needs, because this theory also claimed that people tended to be attracted to others who were similar to them in terms of a range of factors, although later they differed as much as different personality characteristics and way of being, being that thing that forms that complementarity that he was talking about in his theory.
2. Familiarity with attraction between two people
According to some social psychology theories of interpersonal attraction, people tend to be more attracted to people who are familiar to them than to people who are unfamiliar to us, this idea can also be supported by the effect of simple exposure. In addition, people tend to pay more attention to those who live closer to them, which promotes the establishment of a sentimental connection.
In this regard, the theory of complementary needs also asserted that a very important factor was the fact that the two people would reside in the same locality or at least their places of residence would not be considerably far apart.
- Brubaker, J. (2016). Complementary needs theory. Two: 10.1002 / 9781119085621.wbefs499.
- Quadrat, I. (2013). Interpersonal Affiliation, Attraction and Rejection: Central Aspects of Interpersonal Relationships. A E. Gaviria, M. López & I. Cuadrado (Coords.). Introduction to social psychology. Madrid: Editorial Sanz i Torres.
- Schellenberg, J. and Bee, L. (1960). A reexamination of the theory of complementary needs in the selection of colleagues. Marriage and family coexistence, 22, p. 227-232.
- Winch, R. (1958). Mate-Selection A study of complementary needs. New York: Harper.