It's a first date, and the get-to-know-each-other personality purge is going down. You tell him you spent Sunday catching up on "Game of Thrones." He says he thinks "high-quality" TV is the opiate of the middlebrow insta-masses. You can't decide if you feel the Bern. He can't decide if he should campaign harder for Trump. You're ready to leave behind the urban rat-race for the 'burbs. He falls asleep to the rattle of the Q train. He's Kendrick. You're Kenny Chesney. Still, the attraction is undeniable. The connection is there. You're both feeling like you have feelings about the possibility of falling. Because who cares about surface-level similarities? People change. Contrast adds dimension. Yins meet their Yangs, right?
Sorry to burst your rom-com bubble, but you might as well bid adieu to your foil and swipe right on someone who shares your affinity for North-Westeros University and suburban fixer-uppers in good school districts. Because, according to a new study, most successful twosomes are like-minded from the get-go. In fact, the need to couple-up with tweaked versions of ourselves is so common, Wellesley College and Kansas University researchers have found, that it's practically a "psychological default."
In describing romantic partners as "similar," the study authors aren't referring to a few, core opinions — they mean "more similar than chance on almost everything we measure," especially regarding issues of personal signficance. The dog-lover with the designer purse-pup and the staunch believer in adopting-not-shopping don't need two pets; they need two different significant others.
"Picture two strangers striking up a conversation on a plane, or a couple on a blind date," said study co-author Angela Bahns in a press release. "From the very first moments of awkward banter, how similar the two people are is immediately and powerfully playing a role in future interactions. Will they connect? Or walk away? Those early recognitions of similarity are really consequential in that decision."
To arrive at their bubble-bursting findings, the research team observed and surveyed an array of couples in different contexts and at different stages of their relationships.
For example, they asked twosomes (romantic and platonic) who were out-and-about in public to describe values, prejudices and personality traits that mattered to them, as well as provide data on the nature, duration and quality of their relationships. Researchers then compared profiles of longterm and newer couples to see if veteran lovebirds were more similar to each other than freshly single mates. If they were, researchers reasoned, then it's possible that people enter relationships as opposites and take on each other's attributes over time. But, the pairs were similarly similar, no matter how long they'd been together.
Researchers also surveyed newly coupled-up people and followed up with them a few years later to assess changes in like-mindedness among pairs who last the test of time. Not much changed, they found.
The study could be something of a wakeup call for people who are set on changing their partners for the sake of making their relationships work. "Change is difficult and unlikely," said Bahns in the release. "It's easier to select people who are compatible with your needs and goals from the beginning."