Do Spouses Become More Alike Over Time?

We’ve all seen the pictures of married couples who, like owners and their dogs, begin to look alike over the years. Scary isn’t it? There’s even a prevalent theory out there that if you live with your mate for long enough, you’ll start to act alike and share more common traits. Is this theory true? Not exactly. It seems we tend to pair up with others who have similar fundamental personality traits, but we don’t grow more alike over time.

Psychologists at Michigan State University and the University of Minnesota studied 1,296 couples who were married for an average of 19.8 years. They found that couples who were married as long as 39 years were “no more alike in fundamental personality traits than newlyweds.” For couples who were similar, it was likely due to traits they sought out during courtship, not something that developed over time. Read the study details as reported by ABC News.

The study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, focused on 198 factors and personality traits: extroversion/introversion, social disposition, and other aspects, which, unlike hobbies, tend to remain the same during one’s life.

Researchers were surprised at how similar couples were in fundamental personality traits. They surmise that rather than attracting opposites, many of us look for partners who are similar to us. Most couples in the study shared some traits. Regardless of how long a couple was married, researchers didn’t find the similarities diminished or grew over the years—with the exception of one trait, aggression. One partner’s aggressive responses are likely to lead to aggression in the other partner.

So if you are worried about looking and acting more like your spouse every day, fear not, except that aggressive behavior leads to more of the same. While marriage does mean joining two people together, each person gets to retain their individual personality, even after many decades together. The jury is still out, however, on whether you will begin to look more like your dog.

Do you and your partner share many personality traits, or are you rather dissimilar? Read Oh no, I married an extrovert! for my take on personality differences.

Photo ©Cheri/PhotoXpress.com

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7 responses to “Do Spouses Become More Alike Over Time?

  1. Pingback: Happily Married After » Blog Archive » Five, Five Dollar, Five Dollar Foot Long

  2. This was so interesting! I think so many couples start looking like brother and sister instead of husband and wife. I saw an old couple on Oprah years ago that always dressed the same. I love it.

  3. That’s definitely the case. I wonder if anyone has compared roommates becoming more like each other. I’m sure part of it is that married couples live together, but I’d love to know how much of it is the being married part.

    Either way, that’s one thought provoking post.

  4. My husband and I have actually had this exact conversation with some married friends. And, while I don’t think we have become more alike in terms of our interests or inherent personality traits. I have noticed increased similarities in how we speak & how we each handle situations.

    I find that we used the same phrases & oftentimes the same terminology simply because we spend so much time together, so as an outsider looking in, it might actually sound like we’re more similar. And, I think I can agree with the aggressiveness, although I think that hubby & I have met somewhere in the middle. When I met hubby he was easily irritated and could exhibit aggressive behavior (this sounds bad as there are so many different definitions of “aggressive” – he wasn’t out there hurting anyone!!). Anyhow, I think he’s actually toned down his aggressiveness quite a bit and I’ve probably ramped up over the years, but I think ultimately we’ve helped to balance each other out. So now, we are more similar than we ever were before, his behavior is a bit more tempered and mine is a bit more assertive!

    • Interesting. Thanks for sharing your experience. I would have to agree that your phrases and even actions rub off on each other. I hear my hubby using the same nickname I made up for the cat, or the same expression, for example. I feel our personalities haven’t changed much but we have adopted some of each other’s communication styles.

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