Worried you're going to end up marrying someone just like one of your parents? Take heart: A new study in the Journal of Research in Personality suggests that such fears may be misguided.
Researchers analyzed data from a large sample of Dutch twins and their families and found almost no connection between the personalities of parents and partners. The one exception: Spouses were similar to parents in terms of how open they were to experiences and ideas. "Openness is a personality trait that affects whom we like and whom we spend time with," notes lead author Robert McCrae, and it's "somewhat heritable." Thus scores on openness may be correlated simply because two people with similar approaches to life have a higher chance of meeting—and hitting it off.
While early interactions with parents are sometimes a harbinger of future relationships, no single factor can predict whom we are attracted to. Freud's views on mate selection were too simplistic, notes Columbia psychiatrist Amir Levine. "We're very social beings and very adaptable," he says. "We learn different ways of relating to different people."