There are no perfect couples; there are simply people who despite their differences complement each other and, over time, end up resembling each other not only in the way they act but even in their appearance.
A research from the University of Michigan confirmed that, even if it goes unnoticed, couples become physically similar over the years. This theory was put forward in 1987 by psychologist Robert Zajonc, when he conducted a study with 12 newly married couples.
For 20 years, the psychologist asked them for a photo to analyze their physical traits and revealed that couples began to resemble each other much more as time passed by. The interesting thing about this study is that the change was directly related to the perception of happiness in married life, just as the physical differences became more evident in the divorced couples.
Psychologist Zajonc talked about “selective matching”. This theory explains why people choose familiar faces in order to have children with their most pronounced features. It is natural selection.
Zajonc passed away in 2008 and the University of Michigan resumed his studies, but this time they used the best facial recognition technology and digital photography. In 2017, they brought the couples together once again to conduct the experiment; the difference was that this time they had to choose from 10 photographs the person they were most physically attracted to.
Each photo was digitally modified to include features of the partner and features of their own in a face that the subjects had never seen before. The result was that the patients found that the face they liked the most was the one with facial traits of their partner and themselves, even if 30 years had passed.
The scientists of this new study assure that people choose their partner because they have a certain similarity in the nose, eyes or smile, concluding that the resemblance is evident when emotional and vascular processes are related.
“The vascular theory reveals to us that repeated empathic mimicry between the couple creates very similar facial features. These people have been together for more than 30 years and have adopted gestures that modified their facial musculature during marriage. Therefore, the kinship similarity is due to prolonged social contact”, reveals psychologist Gina M. Peloso in the study.
Scientists call this phenomenon social facilitation, and explain how your partner’s behavior can unconsciously modify your physical features.
This is how some people are attracted to what is familiar to them, because it gives them security and confidence. This explains why some couples get along so well.
But it also happens in the opposite way; people are attracted to someone totally different. It is a challenge, because they are facing something unknown and it is understandable to feel attraction.
However, most couples meet in common or familiar places. For example, if you are an architect, you will probably meet your partner studying at the same university or at work. Or in this digital age, where hobbies in common make it easy to meet on social media or dating apps.
Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist at Indiana University and author of the book ‘Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life’ explains: “What is familiar, what is similar to us gives us security. And what makes us feel secure gives us confidence. What is familiar to us is what attracts us the most, although we are not always aware of it”.
A total of 517 couples between 20 and 69 years old were studied. The aim was to understand whether over the years, couples reflect a clear physical similarity. The conclusion was negative in this aspect: the faces of these people who have been in a relationship for decades do not become similar.
What does occur is a social and emotional mimicry, that is, over time and due to the environment and shared experiences, similarities are created between couples. They converge in personality styles, intelligence, way of communicating, dressing, lifestyle, attitudes and values.
The study concludes that living together brings couples closer in many aspects to the point of being very similar, but not in the physical aspect.
That is why when it is said that opposite poles attract, it is not true at all. There are times when soulmates are sought in every way; experientially, emotionally, psychologically and physically.
Traducción del español: Catalina Oviedo Brugés