long-term relationship, relationships, successful relationships, partnership, couples, marriage, self-other overlap

They say that women marry men like their fathers, but a new study suggests that we actually end up marrying people more like ourselves. Sounds like a no-brainer in hindsight, but according to researchers, how much of yourself you see in your partner can predict how long your relationship will last.

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It’s called the self-other overlap and psychologists now believe it’s what can make or break a union. The reason being comes down to the negative implications of comparing our relationships to others – which let’s face it, we’ve all done at some stage. Apparently, whether or not you view your partner in a bad light as a result of this is due to how much of yourself you have invested in them.

“People who are high on self-other overlap will attempt to protect their partner and minimise the threat by rating the trait or skill that they compared their partner on as less important,” said University of Toronto psychology PhD candidate Sabrina Thai.

“Furthermore, these people are able to maintain positive views of their partner in spite of unfavourable comparisons. They still see their partner as being close to their ideal partner, which has positive implications on their relationship.”

Thai’s findings, which were published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, claims to provide “the first evidence that people do compare their partner to others with significant consequences for the relationship.”

So in simpler terms, as noted in an example by the researchers, when Julie compares her husband George to her friend’s hubby, Sam, she notices that he’s better at helping out the kids with homework. But because she and George operate as a unit, Julie recognises that she actually enjoys doing the homework with the kids and it’s not that important that George does it. Therefore, the comparison has little to no effect on their relationship.

“People who are low in self-partner overlap have difficulty maintaining positive partner perceptions following threatening comparisons of their partner to others,” explained Thai. “This may be a key source of stress and conflict in people’s relationships.

“Moreover, by highlighting the benefits of high self-partner overlap, this research may identify a possible future intervention technique. Perhaps temporarily boosting someone’s perceptions of self-partner overlap may help them cope with and overcome the negative outcomes of comparing their partner,” she concluded.

Image via thetherapycentre.ca