Strong relationships, in both TV and real life, thrive on how each member compensates for the other’s weaknesses with his/her own strengths, and vice versa.
A Motormouth just isn’t as funny if he doesn’t have the Straight Man to torment. Similarly, only when a sweet, shy person is paired up with an equally jerkish one is their kindness and timidness made all the more noticeable.
It is all but guaranteed that the characters’ differences will cause more friction than harmony between them. That’s what gives the Odd Couple its fuel for Slap-Slap-Kiss, Will They or Won't They?, and Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other situations. Bickering and mushiness in one package. What’s not to like?
The Odd Friendship also has elements of this, but tends to focus on how the differences make them see each other, and maybe the world, through new eyes. Perhaps the serious one is Not so Above It All, or the Shrinking Violet has an inner strength she never knew she had. A Moe Couplet also does something similar to this, focusing on how each half of the couplet brings out the other's endearing or nurturing traits.
Opposites Attract has become so widespread in buddy cop shows, in the form of Serious White Guy meets Loud Black Guy, that it branched off into its own subtrope.
About the biggest challenge in creating a day-and-night dynamic is to keep the attract and repel cases relatively balanced. When the pendulum swings too far toward the repel side and the characters seem more interested in torturing each other than helping out, it’s no longer cute to watch; it’s just masochistic. The key (both in fiction and in Real Life) is to watch the pair's goals. If they want the same thing but use completely different methods to achieve it, it's Opposites Attract. If they want different things entirely, it's a divorce waiting to happen.
If you add a third-party mediator for balance, you get a Power Trio.
Contrast Birds of a Feather.
IMPORTANT: Please, no ships, just Canon portrayal of attraction. If you see an example that hasn't been portrayed in canon as this type of attraction (or hasn't been portrayed in canon at all), please delete it. This also means examples will tend to be spoilery, so read on at your own risk.
Shikamaru and Temari from Naruto; he's lazy, calm and prone to doubting himself, she's an aggressive Action Girl (this one is not quite official, but alluded to very heavily). Also Hinata is attracted to Naruto even though she's a stuttering Shrinking Violet with nil self-confidence and he's a loud, overly-optimistic Idiot Hero. Minato and Kushina, the former being very a nice and polite man and the latter being a hot-blooded tomboy. Averted in Naruto's attraction to Sakura; while their abilities as ninja are in stark contrast, her over-the-top Tsundere temperament often exceeds even his.
In Blue Seed, military-minded heavy weapons expert KoumeSawaguchi falls for computer expert and nerd extraordinaire Yoshiki Yaegashi after his character growth throughout the series culminates in him privately demonstrating a great strength that she herself always lacked - internal strength in self. They get engaged two years later in the OAV.
The Official Couple of Monkey High! - Haruna is The Ojou and used to dealing with high-class folks (her father is a now-disgraced politician), while Macharu is The Fool and very much from working-class roots (his parents run a grocery store).
In Kanamemo, no chance is spared to show the loving bond between sparkly Yume and quiet Yuuki.
Ship Tease aside, it may as well be Zelgadis the cynical, weary, brooding chimera paired with Amelia the optomistic, innocent, and plucky princess from Slayers, with hints of Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl peppered in there. In the novels, there is also the hot-headed, driven Luke with the snarky, calm Millina (in this case, this is All Love Is Unrequited).
While not officially a couple as of yet, Soul and Maka from Soul Eater are considered this. Maka is a Badass Bookworm who always follows the rules and feels the need to do everything right in order to get by. Soul, on the other hand, is a Deadpan Snarker who would rather do things his own way and tends to go against orders that anyone bothers to give him.
Of course, this could be said about almost every Meister/Weapon team in the series.
Not necessarily. Kid and Liz both can be hysterical and serious; Kid has major OCD and Liz is a mega scardy-cat. Liz can calm down and be serious when she needs to help Kid get his act together, and when not having a panic attack, Kid is deadly serious. Tsubaki and Black*Star are both generally serious, although Black*Star is loud and obnoxious about it. Stein and Marie definitely fit this trope, but neither Ox & Harvar, Kim & Jackie, Lord Death & Spirt, nor Kilik & Pot of Fire & Pot of Thunder fits this trope.
Ox is very emotionally driven as opposed to Harvar who is more logical and tries not to let his emotions affect him. Kim is a major bully who often bosses around others and likes things done her way, while Jackie is more subissive and simply does what she's told. Pot of Fire and Pot of Thunder are too young for anyone to say anything about them yet.
Also Italy's Hot BloodedCool Big Sis Hungary and her ex-husband-but-still-love-interest, the straightlaced and even more stern than Germany Austria.
Although the series thrives on not having an official couple, Hayate the Combat Butler's attraction between Hinagiku and Hayate is all but blatent, every character that interacts with them at some level knows it exists. While it also fits the Birds of a Feather dynamic, both these characters went about dealing with it in very different ways, leaving them almost complete opposites with the same backstory.
And to further things along, the third character with a similar backstory is being built up to build a Power Trio dynamic.
Fruits Basket: Kyo, a hot-headed, tough, no manners, always wants to fight boy, and Tohru, a girl who's very sweet and kind.
When their relationship began, Starfire and Robin (later Nightwing) were this: Robin was reserved and methodical to Starfire's passionate impulsiveness. As the trope often works in real life, they began to influence each other so that each acquired a level of the other's personality, to the point that their breakup ultimately had Nightwing making an impassioned plea for Starfire to stay and Starfire making the reasoned, logical choice to leave.
Beast Boy and Raven, also of the Teen Titans. One is an emotionally-schizo daughter of a demon who has a tendency to sometimes turn evil and attack her friends quite frequently, one is a fun loving, optimistic man-child who can turn into just about animal on the planet. Due to Raven's emotional issues and her desire not to harm people she cares about, the two are frequently on/off but always come back to one another due to Beast Boy refusing to take a hint. Prior to the New 52 reboot, Raven had recently made the decision not to ignore or suppress her feelings any longer and to embrace the future with Beast Boy. How they fared may never be known...
BatmanandCatwoman: one is a stolid, no-nonsense upholder of the law, the other is a mischievous (but never malicious) lawbreaker. They Fight Crime (sometimes, when she's not causing it herself).
Cyclops and Phoenix of the X-Men. He's an emotionally withdrawn introvert control freak and she's fire and life incarnate an outgoing redhead who reads minds. He draws the attentions of at least two other hot and extrovert telepaths, which suggests there's something interesting going on behind that facade...
Runaways paired quirky genius Gert with dumb jock Chase.
The Authority has gruff, brooding, cynical Midnighter Happily Married to kind, cheerful, optimistic Apollo. Even their costumes emphasise this trope: Apollo's is white with a gold sun emblem, while Midnighter's is black with a silver crescent moon.
Peanuts features Peppermint Patty and Marcy. Peppermint Patty is extroverted and athletic but Book Dumb. Marcie is introverted and intellectual and not at all into sports. They develop a symbiotic relationship, with Peppermint Patty protecting Marcie from bullies and Marcie helping Peppermint Patty with her studies.
Granted, the fact that they're together at all is only due to an Arranged Marriage, and Elinor outright states that she was less than thrilled about it. This trope only comes into play in that they clearly warmed up to each other somewhere along the way.
Similarly, in Interesting Times, it's strongly suggested that Wide-Eyed Idealist Twoflower's daughter Pretty Butterfly inherited her Rincewindian view of the world from her late mother.
In Death: Eve has pointed out that Roarke and her have this between them, like in Divided In Death. She is a cop who is crude, rude, not interested in money, believes in the law, and has morals that are basically black and white. He is a former thief who is suave, charming, has more money than you can imagine, believe more in his conscience than in the law, and his morals are very much grey. Fortunately, one thing they do have in common is that they both were raised by bad parents and had lousy childhoods.
Enforced in the novel Youth In Sexual Ecstasy, the sexual therapist actually says that for a couple to succeed in the long term, they must have opposite temperaments alongside with similar lifestyles and independent realization. The protagonist and his fiancee agree on this being the case for them.
Alan E. Nourse's "The Compleat Consummators" took this to a horrifying conclusion with a couple whose differing interests and personalities meshed so well that they ended up as a sort of composite creature:
After It had jelled for awhile, It got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee.
Ignatius J. Reilly and Myrna Minkoff of A Confederacy Of Dunces. Him: fat, stentorian (if hypocritical) in his morality, obsessed with chastity, an archconservative—nay, reactionary!—who believes Western civilization took a wrong turn at the Renaissance and longs for an authoritarian king and authoritarian Catholic Church. Her: thin, stentorian in her love of sex, believing that the world in general and Ignatius in particular is perfectible through sex, an archliberal—nay, radical!—who believes in revolutionary socialism and racial (and gender) equality, and who long ago abandoned her ancestral Judaism for—something. It isn't clear what (other than sex). They engage in a fevered exchange of letters that has all readers firmly convinced that they are in fact almost exactly the same despite appearances and perfect for each other. By the end of the novel, Ignatius has agreed to go to New York with Myrna.
Penny and Leonard on The Big Bang Theory are such an extreme example as to nearly defy belief. Leonard is a bespectacled, hopeless nerd with a Ph.D in Physics and alarmingly subpar social skills (which suddenly appear impressive when compared with those of the people he hangs out with); Penny is an attractive aspiring actress who works as a waitress in the nearby Cheesecake Factory and never finished college. Lots of Lampshade Hanging on this one.
Ultra-conservative Alex P. Keaton finds himself attracted to women who are the ideological opposite of him - while his best friend, Skippy, is the intellectual opposite of him.
Degrassi has done this for just about every pairing and friendship it can. It'd be faster to list the exceptions.
Moonlighting, starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis. Maddie (Shepherd) is a chic, smart, former supermodel who's dead serious about running the business; David (Willis) is a glib, lighthearted, and pragmatic Private Investigator.
The show Dharma and Greg revolves around this trope. Dharma is a free-spirited, tolerant, and ditzy flower child. While Greg is an upright, conservative, somewhat uptight lawyer. Despite the fact that they have virtually nothing in common they got married on their first date.
iCarly: Subverted or Inverted with the Sam/Fredde arc depending on what aspect you look at. The subversion is they are complete and total opposites that become physically attracted to each other but eventually break up when the actual relationship fails. They are unable to find any common ground in their interests and actually end up sabotaging them for each other when they try being involved in each other's activities. It ends up being one of the main causes of their break up. The inversion is Sam wants someone abnormal like her, and Freddie wants someone more normal like him, so that while they did have an Opposites Attract vibe, it's not what they need in a partner, making it clear that in their case they are attracted by similarity not opposition.
Bones has the coldly intelligent, scientific, atheist, hyper-rational titular character and her partner the FBI agent- religious, more emotional, more of a people person. Clearly they complement each other, but each also finds the other fascinating and attractive.
Both lampshaded and subverted on the show; Sweets wrote an essay about Booth and Brennan's relationship dynamic called "Opposites Attract", which Gordon Gordon punctured by calmly stating that Booth and Brennan were complimentary, not opposites.
Stargate Atlantis: Elizabeth Weir and John Sheppard. She's a civilian diplomat and has a total of two relationships throughout the series; he's a Air Force pilot and military man who practically has a girl on every planet. Despite this they establish a successful co-command of Atlantis, frequently defend each other from other interfering superiors and build a close and affectionate friendship, often acting as each others' only confidantes. With lots of Unresolved Sexual Tension thrown in of course.
Parks and Recreation: Who'd have thought a liberal feminist vegetarian community college professor would be hot for the carnivorous libertarian man's-man Ron Swanson?
You Lost My Memory by Skyclad. This romance doesn't end well, but is described as sort of awesome anyway.
The Brownian-Motion within this love potion,
ensures our opinions are always dividing.
The Paula Abdul song "Opposites Attract" is basically all about this trope. And the music video involves her singing it as a duet with an animated rapping cat...
The song also called "Opposites Attract" by Juris.
BioWare has a tendency to create somewhat psychotic mad people (usually women) who can be most successfully romanced by a nicer player character.
Jack in Mass Effect 2 is impulsive, impatient, anger-driven, and generally insane; the Paragon romance arc involves calmly and patiently listening to her issues and generally being nice.
Morrigan in Dragon Age: Origins is a survivalist in the extreme who believes love is a weakness; she does, however, approve of some of the Warden's behavior that is rather contrary to her stated doctrine.
Garrus in Mass Effect 2 has trouble with the rules, but is just as likely to fall for Female!Shepard if she calls him out on it and points out that the rules are there for good reasons as if she goes along with his ends justify the means ideas.
Bastila in Knights of the Old Republic is attracted to the male player character no matter what, so if you are a silly rule-bending sort or an Ax Crazy maniac your very straight-laced and overly serious companion will still fall for you.
Viconia DeVir in Baldurs Gate 2 is a neutral evil drow priestess who believes that the strong are meant to dominate the weak, but that doesn't stop her from being romancable by good-aligned male player characters.
In Fire Emblem Elibe we have Fiora (serious, motherly Pegasus Knight) and Sain (Chivalrous Pervert who mouths off to authority). And if you max out their supports, they get married.
The Forerunners Didact and Librarian from Halo. The Librarian is a Friend to All Living Things whose favorite species was humanity. The Didact is a Four Star Badass in a society of pacifists, who was responsible for destroying humanity's empire and sending us back to earth as cavemen. Everyone lampshades how odd this match is; however, they both love each other fiercely.
Bornstellar: Your relationship with the Lifeshaper does not seem ideal
Homestuck: Vriska Serket and Tavros Nitram, as well as Vriska and John. This is also rather the point of moirallegiance; two moirails are supposed to balance each other's negative traits, thus allowing their other relationships to be more successful and facilitating self-improvement.
Discussed in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal's "Uncomfortable Truthasaurus!" by Zach Weiner. Common misconception: Opposites attract or like attracts like. Somehow you get both of these. The truth is that 95% of people want someone hot. 100 % of people just want anyone with a higher social status.
Mille and Iriana of Ilivais X. Iriana is a Broken BirdCreepy Child who acts like an Emotionless Girl to avoid her Drive Core pushing her towards being a hyper Love Freak, and is highly logical and cynical, yet becomes surprisingly impassioned and devoted when those she cares about are in danger. Mille is essentially a blank slate Phonos Weapon in the form of a cheerful, lively, and outgoing Ethical Slut who's a little on the ditzy side and erratically emotional, but take Iriana from her and she becomes dark and sullen. They couldn't be more opposite, and they couldn't be crazier about each other.
Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable who do eventually hook up. The first one is a popular overachiever, the second one is a unpopular underachiever.
Exaggerated in Kids Next Door with Kuki Sanban (Numbuh 3) and Wallabee Beatles (Numbuh 4); he's an abrasive hard-boiled proto-Badass with an extreme aversion to everything cutesy and sugary, while she's an upbeat Japanese girl with a kind heart and an obsession for stuffed animals. In the series Distant Finale they get married.
Warm, passionate, generally friendly, closer to Earth Wonder Woman and cold, stoic, anti-social, sometimes arrogant Batman on Justice League.
Deconstructed realistically in Total Drama with Alpha Bitch Courtney and her delinquent ex-boyfriend Duncan. The bitter arguments start up almost as quickly as the sparks fly, with her ultra-preppyness directly contrasting his harsh nature. Their relationship is unstable from the beginning, and they break up and come back together several times. Eventually, the constant arguing becomes too much and Duncan to tires of her by season 3 and he cheats on her with goth girl Gwen; leading to his and Courtney's final breakup.
Actual science tends to show that the best predictor of compatibility is in fact similar background, interests, and attitudes. A likely reason is that we tend to only notice the ways a couple are different (since it's not that surprising when two partners are alike), at which point we feel the need to form a theory to explain why all the couples we see are so different (when they are, in fact, Not So Different). The grain of truth in it is that a partner who's exactly like you in every way would probably cause all sorts of problems, so we do seek our opposites, after a fashion—just not our total opposites.
On the other hand...according to the prevailing thought within the Jungian-based Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality codification, those who have opposite types (Introvertednote Socializing costs energy with Extrovertednote Socializing increases energy, Thinkingnote Logic-dominated mindset with Feelingnote Emotion-dominated mindset, Perceivingnote Attracted to novelty and flexibility with Judgingnote Attracted to structure and closure) are most compatible as romantic partners. The one type that should remain similar between the two should be Intuitivenote Thinks in possibilities and Sensingnote Thinks in factual history.
SPC Kate Norley, an activist representing Vets For Freedom, a group whose "mission is to educate the American public about the importance of achieving success in [Iraq and Afghanistan]," and still an occasional guest commentator on Fox News, while attending the 2008 RNC convention to show her support for John McCain, as part of a campaign that earned her praise from right-wing bloggers up to and including Michelle Malkin, apparently fell in love with one of the correspondents there. They're now engaged, and they expect to marry sometime 2011. His name? John Oliver.
Roger Ebertand Gene Siskel. For example, Roger Ebert hatedMars Attacks! because Tim Burton "seemed to like the aliens more than the humans" (paraphrasing); Gene Siskel loved it for the exact same reason. Even in watching old At the Movies episodes, you can tell that Siskel is more carefree and cheery, while Roger Ebert is ever-sarcastic and snarky.
The biggest case of this is perhaps their disparate views on Blue Velvet. Ebert notoriously hated it and found the scene with Isabella Rosselini standing naked on Kyle MacLachlan's lawn to be misogynstic, while Gene Siskel loved it and compared it to Psycho.
James "The Ragin' Cajun" Carville and Mary Matalin. He's a rather liberal Democrat; she's a quite conservative Republican. They were both prominent campaign managers/political operatives in their respective parties from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, facing each other occasionally in races across the country and seeing each other as rivals, being the top operatives of their day. It came to a head in the early 90s, when he was chief strategist for Bill Clinton and she was deputy manager for George HW Bush, in preparation for the 1992 presidential campaign. Then...they started dating. Mind you, while they were thinking of ways to beat each other (making this a case of Dating Catwoman, as well). They married in 1993, and now have two daughters. They understandably do not talk politics at home.
One wonders about that now the daughters are old enough to have opinions and watch CNN—where Carville and Matalin are often pitted against each other as pundits.