Is it better to be like your partner?
Researchers have found that how similar you are to your partner can affect your happiness – but it’s complicated.
Among many monogamous species, from cockatiels to cichlid fish, studies have revealed a clear pattern: it helps to be more similar to your mate. When mating pairs are behaviourally similar, their reproductive success tends to be higher.
In human terms, this would imply it’s better to be similar to your partner. Indeed, for a long time psychologists and others have argued that similarity is probably beneficial – after all, then we will be more likely to enjoy the same pursuits, values and outlook on life.
But no matter how intuitive the idea seems, for decades nearly every study has failed to support it.
Now, though, a team of psychologists at the University of Amsterdam think they know why. They’ve taken a far more sophisticated and nuanced look at the issue than in previous research. Their findings suggest that partner similarity does actually matter – especially for the trait of ‘agreeableness’.
Their study is not alone. Other recent research looking at factors besides personality has found similarity is important in other ways, like whether you’re a morning person and if you share political attitudes. But above all – and perhaps more important than how similar you are – is how much you each come to develop a sense of a shared identity.
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