Why Do Couples Look Alike
Everyone agrees that the most annoying couples at any cocktail party are those that compromise their individuality and turn into One Combined Being. They use the plural form of their own names, wear matching outfits, and — strangely — even appear to resemble one another. However, science has determined that the more time you spend with a partner (and we’re talking genuinely long-term here; decades, not months), the more similar you become to each other. The first two of these can be halted. If you want to get technical, it’s referred to as convergence of appearance. But why couples start to dress and look alike is still a mystery to academics. There are several opposing hypotheses regarding how your Aunt Wilma and Uncle Wilbur could easily be mistaken for one another.
Even if we casually date people who look different, we’ve heard that we’re more likely to get married to somebody who appears pretty similar to us. Although opposites may attract (Kendrick Lamar is never wrong, right? ), this seems to be a personality-specific phenomenon. While we appear to enjoy some personality diversity in a partner, when it comes to faces, it’s typically all us, all the time.
What on earth is happening here, then? Why might individuals gradually transform into their partners? And why do experts claim that this is a positive sign?
1. You Look Like Each Other, To Begin With
One of the biggest dating pool secrets is that people seem to actively try to date others that are similar to them in some manner, whether it be in terms of education level, height, age, face shape, or anything else. Assortative mating is the theory used to explain why educated people frequently marry similarly educated individuals, doubling their chances of success. It’s not difficult to see why — when you complain about your 9 to 5 job and student loan debt, you appreciate someone who understands what you’re talking about — but on some level, the resemblance is also decided in terms of DNA. Faces are included in this.
We seem to enjoy genetic resemblance. If you believe in science, opposites don’t truly attract one another all that strongly. According to a 2014 study, white people in particular prefer lifetime partners who share their DNA. Forget about the fascination with band T-shirts or the inability to play Monopoly without yelling; the reason you didn’t get along with your ex might have had more to do with their genetic makeup than anything else. We unconsciously desire to pass on our own genes, and having a child who resembles you increase the likelihood that they will be like you. (Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much research on how this trend manifests itself in mixed-race relationships.)
2. You’re Sharing The Same Experiences
People who worry that they are adopting their partner’s frown still use the “facial likeness” study from the now-deceased psychologist Robert Zajonc of the University of Michigan from 1987 as the gold standard. When Zajonc and his team invited volunteers to compare pictures of men and women based on facial resemblance, they discovered that 25-year marriages were frequently grouped together.
There are two primary explanations for why this occurred. Zajonc reasoned that couples would start to resemble one another since they would have shared experiences over the course of a long life together and left similar facial scars. Others were more pragmatic, stating that they thought it was just an issue of genetic similarities becoming more apparent as aging processes eliminated distinct characteristics. In either case, Zajonc’s views are rather simple to comprehend; two persons who have experienced adversity and struggle in their life are likely to have frown lines that are comparable.
3. The Happier You Are, The More Alike You Look
The fundamental tenet of Zajonc’s theory of emotional face-mirroring is that we imitate the people we spend the most time with. We unintentionally emulate our friends’ voices or our boyfriends’ posture at the bar due to a phenomenon known as “unconscious mimicry,” which has been around for eons. Zajonc also believed that it implied that we emulate a spouse over time, which would progressively modify the face. It’s supposed to unite us and let us feel like a part of a group.
Genetic compatibility and marital happiness appear to connect, according to scientific studies, but it’s unclear if this is a cause or an effect. Are you two content because you understand one another or because you have the same gene mutation (5-HTTLPR), which is believed to be necessary for a relationship to function emotionally? Does happiness cause facial similarity, or is it the other way around?
But one thing’s for sure: Just because you look alike doesn’t imply you’ll begin to think alike. Even though they now shared habits, residences, and mortgages, a 2010 study found that people who had been married for 40 years were still distinctly different from one another on the inside. Marriage seems to be superficial.
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