Marriage will change you in more ways than one — really.

Couples who have been married for many, many years start to look like each other. 

Wait, now. Before you poo-poo this theory look at the results of the studies and open up your eyes when you look at golden oldies who’ve been living together for 50 or 60 years.

My question is: Does she start to look like him or does he start to look like her in their later years?  A new study suggests that the longer we are with someone the more similarities in appearance grow. 

You’ve seen couples who are so in-tune with each other that one will start a sentence and the other one will finish it. That suggests to me that the minds are (for lack of a better word) blending.

And so many times when one oldster dies, it’s not long before his/her mate follows.

My solitary existence has its advantages. I would really hate for some old man to start looking like me — much less act like me. The world is not ready for another me.

It’s really scary but folks say that I am starting to resemble “my Melvin” — the pug of my life.

A study published in the March 2006 issue of “Personality and Individual Differences” may have the answer. Twenty-two people, divided equally between male and female, participated in the study. They were asked to judge the looks, personalities and ages of 160 married couples. The participants viewed photographs of men and women separately and were not told who was married to whom. The subjects consistently judged people who were married as being similar in appearance and personality. The researchers also found that couples who had been together longer appeared more similar.

This in itself may not seem surprising, but the study also offered some answers on why couples may look alike. To start, consider that life experiences can end up being reflected physically. Someone who is happy and smiles more will develop the facial muscles and wrinkles related to smiling. The years of experience of an old couple’s marriage, happy or otherwise, would then be reflected in their faces.

Note the couple who looks like they’ve been eating sour grapes. Not a happy life, I don’t think.

Genetic influences are also a factor. A past study showed that genetically similar people have better marriages [Source: Live Science]. Such families have fewer incidents of child abuse and a lower rate of miscarriages. People also appear to be more selfless when involved with genetically similar partners.

In another study, a researcher at the University of Western Ontario determined that when considering friends or romantic partners, a similar genetic profile made up about a third of the selection criteria. We may think subconsciously that people who are genetically similar work better together. Consequently, we look for physical or emotional cues that tell us that this potential friend, husband or wife is genetically similar to us. 

OK, we’re not talking ‘bout marriage with our first cousin. So then, couples shouldn’t be too genetically similar to start with - in most cultures, relationships between close relatives are taboo, and geneticists agree that diversity is important to a healthy gene pool.

Besides feeling that they work better together, why and how do people choose partners who are genetically similar? Asking for a DNA sample on the first date would be impolite. The answer may be equal parts personality - derived in part - from genetics and consistently ranked by people as important in a partner - and the marriage models we have around us. In other words, many women say they want a guy like dad.

“You don’t marry one person; you marry three: the person you think they are, the person they are, and the person they are going to become as a result of being married to you.”

-Richard Needham

DALE LILLY  is The Gilded Lilly and Lifestyles Editor. Lifestyles@desototimes.com.

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