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The Scientific Reasons Why Couples Start To Look And Act Alike

Studies
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It’s not your imagination: the longer a couple stays together, the more similar they become in both looks and actions.

“As human beings, we’re instinctively drawn to people who remind us of ourselves,” wrote Lizette Borreli for Medical Daily. The question is, why are we inclined to such a unique brand of narcissism?

“We are drawn to those we have the most in common with, and we tend to have the most successful long-term relationships with those we are most similar to,” Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist, said in the same article.

Because we tend to view our own traits favorably, we also look positively on those same traits in others. This applies to both personality traits and physical characteristics. A 2010 study presented participants with morphed images that combined their own faces with the faces of strangers. Though the participants did not know their morphed faces were included in the experiment, they showed a preference for the faces that had their own features when asked to evaluate their attractiveness.

Other studies, like this one from 2014, have found that humans are likely to pick partners with similar DNA. This “assortative mating” strategy helps ensure our genetics are successfully passed on to future generations.

So, for starters, we may be more likely to pick someone with similarities to us from the get-go. However, there are also scientific findings that explain why couples seem to morph into each other over time.

We unconsciously “mirror” those we’re close to, adopting their mannerisms, gestures, body language, and tone of voice in order to bond with them. A lifetime of sharing emotions, experiences, and expressions leaves similar lines on faces, theorized Robert Zajonc of the University of Michigan in a study, causing partners to look more alike.

When it comes to speech, a 2010 study found we’re more compatible with our significant other if our language styles are similar at the start of the relationship. Those similarities become even more pronounced as a relationship continues thanks to unconscious mimicry. “In addition,” wrote Borreli, “using the same phrases and syntax is an example of shortcutting communication through shared experiences.”

The next step is behavior. After you’ve adopted a partner’s body language, facial expressions, and syntax, you’re likely to adopt their actions. Couples naturally change their behavior to match each other - for example, a 2007 study found that if one partner quit smoking, and began to exercise or eat healthier, their spouse was more likely to do the same.

Science has repeatedly shown that we favor partners who look and act like us, and that genetic compatibility is linked to a happy marriage. What it doesn’t answer is Borreli’s final key questions:

Are we happy because we understand one another, or because we share similar genes? Does being happy lead to facial similarity, or is it the facial similarity that leads to happiness? Does mirroring dictate the longevity and success of our relationships? And most importantly, are doppelgänger couples happier in the long run?