How much do you and your partner have in common? That’s certainly a question most people ask themselves when they’re attracted to someone. In fact, many people base their chances of success in a relationship on how much they have in common with their partner.
We often try to hang onto a common trend with an attractive potential partner when engaging in initial conversations. This is often built less on reality and more on building connection even if it means changing our perceptions of ourselves to draw upon any form of connection.
I often notice this happening between two people who are interested in each other. As an outsider, I’m amazed at how potential daters can find a true connection based on commonalities on favourite movies or even minute things such as their favourite type of coffee at Starbucks.
Are the similarities we draw really grounded on reality or do we create perceived similarities in our minds? After all, it’s only after a breakup that most people realize that they have less in common with their partner than they initially thought. It can be a scary thought for people when they think about their ex and wonder whether it was a bad judgment call by them in retrospect.
Relationship researchers have been looking at whether we are who we date. They found that after reading a dating profile of a potential romantic partner, participants are more likely to change traits associated to them in order to align with their partner. Furthermore, after being exposed to a potential date that is flawed, participants were also more likely to agree that they held the same flawed traits themselves.
The research I conducted in the past also found that high interpersonal closeness where partners were highly similar increased relationship satisfaction. This was probably because those couples experienced less conflict and were better able to anticipate their spouse’s support needs. Partners also begin to join their identity and became more similar with time.
This research is compelling because it throws the most common notions of dating success out the door: trusting your intuition and that common interest increasing compatibility. The problem doesn’t lie so much in viewing positive traits in yourself based on your partner’s but rather if your partner held negative traits such as selfishness or dishonesty. Will we start to view ourselves as more selfish and dishonest and in turn influence how we behave in the relationship?
To keep your head in the game, here are some questions to ask yourself:
1.Does this person compliment the qualities of where you see yourself in the future?
2. Does this person bring out the qualities you would like to see in yourself?
3. Do the qualities of this person enable emotional security?
It’s difficult to see the forest beyond the trees in relationships because the power of attraction can sometimes blind us in assessing who may be compatible for us. It’s not uncommon that whom we spend most of our time with influences us the most and brings out certain qualities in us. It also feels great when attraction is reciprocated but be aware of how much you are sacrificing because it maybe at the cost of your time, heart and integrity.
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to email@example.com. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.