It’s not uncommon for strangers to assume that our significant other is a sibling. You may have noticed that couples who have been together for a long time tend to look similar. But is this observation backed by a solid explanation or is it just a coincidence?
Shared Experiences and Environment
Over time we tend to look more and more like our romantic partners. By comparing photos of couples at the time of their marriage to photos taken 25 years later, researchers have found profound facial similarities between partners who have lived together for 25 years.
They believe that this happens as couples often share emotional experiences such as being sad, happy, stressed or angry. This means they frequently activate the same facial muscle groups. With time, these shared emotions can be responsible for similar facial changes like wrinkles or increases and decreases in muscle tone. These changes then makes partners physically resemble each other more with age.
Birds of Same Feather Flock Together
Evidence shows that we are more likely to choose a spouse who resembles us than one who doesn’t. And this happens subconsciously.
For example, a study has shown that people, especially men, prefer partners with similar facial features to their own. This may be due to a subconscious drive imprinted by evolution to ensure that beneficial traits are passed on to children and to ensure there is no interbreeding between species. In this way, similar facial characteristics could signal shared genes beneficial for children and healthy continuation of the species.
Who Raised You?
Something else to consider is that humans may prefer a spouse or long term partner who has similar facial features to the people who raised them. As most people are raised by their biological parents or relatives, who naturally share physical traits with them, it’s easy to see why a person’s chosen spouse may resemble them too.
Interestingly enough, the same also works for foster parents. A study looking at fostered daughters for example found that those who had a strong bond with their foster father were more likely to choose a spouse who resembled him than those with a weaker bond. Associating certain characteristics with nurturing behaviour, we may look for similar characteristics in a log-term partner to best ensure both we and our offspring are best looked after.
In a nutshell, people who live together for long enough tend to grow to resemble each other as they often share emotional experiences and thus facial expressions. On top of this, we may unintentionally choose a spouse who physically resembles us in a bid to acquire shared genes to ensure the best survival of our lineage. Gone are the days of ‘opposites attract’. ‘Like attracts like’ may be more appropriate after all.