Is your Partner a Good Reflection on You?

It’s not a bad thing to prefer partners who are a lot like yourself.

Posted Apr 04, 2018

It’s kind of amusing when we consider how much we say we loathe a narcissist while science provides evidence that we all think enough of ourselves that we seek out partners who physically resemble us and share the same general background, intellectual level, economic status, and social standing that we do.

We make up our minds about whether we find a particular person to be sexually attractive to us at about the very first moment we lay eyes on that person. We are taking in a lot of data and making what we think are “gut decisions” about the data; the data, however, is being treated to some sophisticated scrutiny. Research shows that when we meet a new person, we respond at the emotional level as well as psychologically as we compare the new person’s face to all the information stored in our autobiographical memory center. When we feel that someone “reminds us of someone,” the emotional association we feel for this new person is influenced by the memories their face stirs up in our own repository of historical data about the person their appearance favors.

What’s also interesting about first impressions is that we ascribe more flattering qualities to attractive people than we do to unattractive people. We make assumptions about whether or not we will like a person based on their level of physical attractiveness.

And if his cheekbones or his jawline reminds you of your own, you may not realize it, but that’s a point in the favor of attraction building between the two of you. It’s a fact that you are generally seeking a sexual partner who looks more like you than one who doesn’t. Narcissism is kind of natural when it comes to choosing potential sexual partners — we are driven by evolution to seek out partners who we believe will help us pass on our own genetic content. Thus, the potential mates who look like we do are the ones that our deeper instincts are encouraging us to select.

There are some fun mobile apps that merge and morph the faces of two people in a photo into an amalgamation of features. What is interesting, though, is how similar so many couples already look to one another. Not only do we find this phenomenon of “like choosing like” among partners, but there are also a lot of amusing internet photo sites that share photos of people who own pets that look like themselves. While it may not be intentional when the choice is first made, the similarity starts to become more obvious as the “separate entity” loses its novelty and the couple or the pet and owner spend more time together.

So, the drive to choose a partner who mirrors aspects of your own identity is an instance when primitive safeguards may drive contemporary choices. Most of us are surprised when we see a highly mismatched coupled in terms of education, attractiveness, or social standing. This is because these pairings are a lot less common than those between similar individuals. There’s also some evidence to show that we feel that a partner is less likely to cheat if our levels of attractiveness are about equal. Unfortunately, the lure of something different or a little strange might still tempt some people away, for the most part we believe that partners who are similar to us are going to respect the monogamous union at about the same level as we do ourselves.

While you and your partner might not be the spitting image of one another or share the same opinion or have come from the same neighborhood or school, chances are good that there was some shared value or experience that the two of you both value highly and that might be the glue that drew you together and keeps the bond strong. Highly emotionally charged events – political demonstrations, catastrophic incidents, risky situations – all seem to be catalysts, as well, for couplings. We somehow attribute and morph the excitement we experience during the risky situation into a sense of arousal that we attribute to that person we’re with. Kind of like "bonus points" for the potential relationship's development.

Regardless of what first drew you to your beloved, it’s a pretty sure bet that if your relationship is going to thrive, you’re going to find yourself growing increasingly comfortable with and similar to this person in unexpected — and perhaps unnoticed — ways.

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