Think Opposites Attract? Not When Choosing Your Spouse

Opposites may attract in that initial starry-eyed meeting, but when it comes to choosing a marriage partner, you’re more likely to pick someone who has similar personality traits. That’s according to researchers who’ve determined that old married couples who seem eerily similar in their mannerisms started out that way, rather than adopting parts of their partner’s personality over time.

“Existing research shows that spouses are more similar than random people,” lead author Mikhila Humbad of Michigan State University said in a statement. “This could reflect spouses’ influence on each other over time, or this could be what attracted them to each other in the first place.” Her investigation, which analyzed data from over 1,200 couples who had been married for an average of 19.5 years, showed one clear message: amazingly, even two decades of marriage can’t cause individual personality traits to shift. Rather, any similarities were there to begin with.

This is one exception, however. One specific personality trait did grow on partners over time: aggression. When only one spouse reported aggressive tendencies, the other tended to exhibit the same behaviour over time, suggesting that aggression fosters aggression. “It makes sense if you think about it. If one person is violent, the other person may respond in a similar fashion and thus become more aggressive over time,” Humbad noted.

Not surprisingly, these personality traits have a tendency to last through several generations, since two similar people will undoubtedly pass their shared traits onto their offspring.

Obviously, these findings are a welcome discovery for matchmaking sites like eHarmony, who claim to match singles based on their personality characteristics. “I could see how matchmaking firms use that to their advantage,” said Humbad. “I think they are already doing that, finding people with certain traits.”

But although we may select a spouse who’s similar to us, that’s not to say we’re never attracted to people who might seem to be our polar opposite. Humbad told WebMD that she plans on making initial attraction her next area of study by conducting research on single strangers in a five-minute speed-dating situation: “Based off of this five-minute conversation, I want to see what their preferences are in terms of who they would select as a dating partner, a long-term partner, who they are most attracted to.”

What do you think? Are you similar to your spouse?

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