Evolutionary attraction

Supposedly all couples – no matter how mismatched – end up growing to look alike as they age.

Dating games cartoon (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dating games cartoon
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Evolutionary Psychology published a study about dating and how “narcissism guides mate selection,” asserting that “humans mate assortatively, as revealed by facial resemblance, following an algorithm of ‘self seeking like.’”

Basically, people are drawn to someone who looks like them because it gives them a sense of comfort and familiarity. Or maybe it’s because we’re all so narcissistic that we’re attracted to people who remind us of ourselves? But is this a good thing or bad thing? It would be an interesting study to see if couples who look like they’re related were more or less successful in love than couples who don’t resemble one another.

Narcissism often has a negative connotation, but why would being attracted to someone who reminds you of yourself be a negative thing? Regardless of how society may categorize your looks (pretty, average, ugly, etc.), if you have confidence in your appearance and find someone else who reminds you of yourself, then it seems as though the narcissism theory is working in your favor in a somewhat healthy manner. You like what you see in the mirror and you like what you see in your mate. But if you have terrible self-confidence, then you may end up being with someone who will only further bring you down. In this way, the narcissist is seeking someone like him even though he doesn’t have an inflated ego or a healthy love for himself. Remember: it’s how he sees himself, not how others see him.

Take for example my friend Monica. She is beautiful, with blue eyes and a gorgeous mane of hair, a slender build and a great smile. She thinks she’s ugly and fat and undeserving of a nice, good-looking man who will treat her well. So although she consistently has boyfriends, the relationships always end in disaster because she is attracted to men who don’t make her feel good. She needs someone who will make her feel beautiful on the inside and outside, not just because she is but because she deserves to be treated that way.

So I stepped in and set her up with Alex. Alex knows he’s good-looking. He thinks Monica is gorgeous and tells her so all the time. Now not only is she starting to think she’s beautiful, but her self-confidence is being built up too. She is literally walking taller. Neither of them is vain or self-absorbed, so they don’t fit the traditional definition of narcissists (nor would I categorize either as one), but they are both attractive people, have similar facial features and are attracted to each other. Monica even told me that they laugh about how much they look alike, thus confirming the narcissist theory themselves.

When you put two people together who fit the true definition of narcissism – an inflated sense of self-importance – I don’t believe you’ll end up with a successful relationship. Two people who both think they are better than everyone else could certainly bond over how amazing they each think they are, but eventually they’d butt heads over who is better than the other. And no one would win in that scenario. If you’ve decided to date exclusively Jewish, then you will find that most of us do seem to look somewhat similar so it only make sense that we end up falling into the narcissistic theory trap, even though it seems to be somewhat unintentional. It just so happens that Monica has curly, light brown hair and so does Alex.

It just so happens that they both have olive skin with a sprinkling of freckles across the bridges of their noses. It just so happens they both have almond-shaped blue eyes. Or maybe it isn’t a coincidence after all? I call couples like these “look-alike couples,” the ones who look like siblings or, at the very least, first cousins. Supposedly all couples – no matter how mismatched – end up growing to look alike as they age. It reminds me of how dogs and their owners often look alike. I always wondered if the owner was drawn to the dog that reminded him of himself or if the owner morphed over time to look like his canine companion. Sometimes this conundrum is adorable while sometimes it is downright freaky. The same goes for couples who look a little too much alike.

Not all couples start out as look-alikes. My friend and her husband seem to have had actual changes to their facial bone structure in the nine years they’ve been together. Both of their faces have become narrower and longer in less than a decade. And even if it’s not a physical change, couples start to adopt each other’s facial expressions and body language and begin to look alike in their actions. Using your hands while you speak, raising an eyebrow, standing a certain way, even walking similarly are all examples. This isn’t unusual at all: studies show that people subconsciously mimic those around them. If I yawn, you’ll yawn; if I cross my legs, you will too. Living with someone and being with them 24/7 means you will end up doing many things the same.

It doesn’t stop there. My husband and I have adopted each other’s lingo and manners of speech, so that we sound alike too. We answer questions similarly, make the same lilted remarks, have the same tone in our sarcasm and the same tease in our jokes. We’re so in tune that I can guess what he’s going to answer but I ask the question anyway. I can’t help that we’re a look alike-couple and I think it’s only normal that we act alike, but I can learn to control myself from assuming I know what he’s going to say or do. It’s nice to let him be his own person, have his own voice and surprise me every once in a while.