Couples Can Get Too Similar Over Time. Here's Why (& How To Retain Your Identity)

Ah, love — there's nothing quite like getting swept up in the butterflies and excitement that occur at the beginning of a relationship. After all, who doesn't want to spend all their time and energy with a new partner that they are falling for? While this feeling is natural, so is retaining your own identity and interests. Yet, identity fusion, or the act of combining one's personal identity with that of a significant other, occurs in many relationships, according to The Daily Texan.


While a combined couple's identity is completely healthy and normal, it is important for the couple's identities to be equal and balanced in order for the relationship to succeed. In fact, research published in the journal "Self and Identity" shows that individuals who shared an equal blending of their personal self and their partner's self-identity experienced fewer relationship threats and had better coping responses to relationship conflicts than individuals who had an imbalanced couple identity where one partner had a more dominant identity in the relationship.

We all likely know a couple that talks, dresses, and even behaves like each other. While there is nothing wrong with sharing similar values and interests, at the end of the day, it is crucial to never lose sight of your individual identity. Sometimes, couples can become similar to one another over time. Here are signs of that happening and how to balance your individual and couple identities.


You mirror each other

When you're falling for that special someone, it is only natural to want to feel in sync with them. This can look like finishing each other's sentences or sharing the same passions and interests. This subconscious effort to be similar to someone you are attracted to is called mirroring (per Brides).


Now mirroring works exactly how it sounds by matching or mirroring someone's verbal and nonverbal behaviors. But the ultimate question comes down to if this is a good thing or a bad thing? On the one hand, mirroring the same gestures, posture, or even tone of voice can be a great way to build a connection with someone. By imitating their verbal and nonverbal cues, you are letting your partner know that you are connected to them. It can also be a great way to make your partner feel comfortable.

However, mirroring can also backfire if it comes across as insincere. For instance, if your partner is an outdoor enthusiast and you don't particularly love the outdoors but still pretend that you do, it can lead to problems down the road. While it's good to take an interest in your partner's passions or hobbies, you never want to mirror someone in a way that is not true to yourself.


You have shared experiences

When you become someone's life partner, you experience everything that life has to offer with them by your side. In fact, research published in the "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology" shows that this shared sense of reality and experiences plays a huge role in making you feel connected to your partner. This reality can include traveling to the same places together, attending similar events, or even going through traumatic events like the loss of a family member together. When you've experienced major life events together, it's easier to have a shared worldview that causes you to be similar to your partner.


Shared experiences can also lead to couples having similar physical appearances. This can look like matching worry or frown lines from experiencing sad events together over a period of time.

While all types of shared experiences can help you feel closer to your partner, it's important to recognize whether these experiences are genuine or what is known as a trauma bond, which is a form of narcissistic abuse, according to Healthline. If the latter is the case, then it is crucial to take action by seeking professional help or support. 

You both engage in the same activities

Chances are that you and your partner engage in some similar activities that you both enjoy. Maybe you love the outdoors and can often be found hiking or camping. Or perhaps you are into sports and athletic activities are at the top of your weekend to-do lists. Regardless of the actual activity, being in a relationship often involves engaging in similar hobbies. Relationship experts say that we are often attracted to people that have similar qualities or are in general similar to ourselves. So you and your partner could have potentially similar interests or hobbies before you even get together. However, as the relationship progresses, you are more inclined to engage in these shared interests or activities more often, leading you to be even more similar to your significant other.


Your activities can also dictate your lifestyle, such as influencing your eating habits or how active you are as a couple. According to a study in the journal "Nature Immunology," individuals that share an environment, such as couples who live together for a long time, have even been shown to have very similar immune systems.

You mimic your partner's behavior

Have you ever noticed yourself reacting to a situation very similar to how your partner would? Oftentimes, we mimic the people that we are attracted to in order to get them to like us. This can be any form of behavior, including copying our partner's nonverbal cues, like how they cross their arms, when they crack a smile at a funny joke, and even how they frown. These gestures are simply a way of flirting or tools that aid our romantic interactions. As time goes on, these gestures can also develop into habits, causing you and your partner to behave or act in the same way.


While it's perfectly normal to pick up habits from the people we love, it's not an indicator of relationship satisfaction or success to have the same personality traits or behaviors. Rather, complementary personality traits are more likely to thrive in relationships, according to Talkspace. This can look like two partners who are both conscientious or always aim to do the right thing but react to situations in their own unique ways.

You both share a similar vocabulary

Being in a relationship can feel like you have your own little world with just the two of you. And sometimes, this can also include your own secret language, like shared inside jokes or words that only make sense to you both. When you've been with your partner for a long time, you may also find yourself using the same phrases as each other in daily conversation. In fact, research published in the "Journal of Communication" shows that various aspects of daily linguistics, including your syntax, language style, and semantics, grow increasingly similar to your partner as your relationship evolves. This isn't limited to face-to-face interactions, either, and can even include texting like your partner or writing like them on social media platforms.


This idea of matching your partner's speech and having a shared vocabulary rests on the theory of emotional contagion, which is essentially the idea that it is human nature to mimic the people that you love. Since the way you speak is part of what makes you who you are, it's only natural that couples share a similar vocabulary over time.

You have acquired a shared sense of style

We all know a couple that wears color-coordinated outfits and just seems to have a matching wardrobe. But what motivates couples to dress similarly? Well, there may be a few different psychological reasons at play. For starters, dressing in matching outfits is a great way to announce to the world in a cute way that you are together or even celebrate big life moments like an engagement.


Conformity may be another reason behind the matching outfits that you see couples wearing. According to HuffPost, we tend to want to fit in with the person that we are with, and a simple way to do so may be through a shared wardrobe or a shared sense of style. We often match our wardrobe to our environment, such as dressing for work versus a party atmosphere. So, it seems only natural to want to blend in with your long-term partner and eventually, start to dress similarly. This only becomes a cause for concern when you are forced to abandon your sense of style or dress a certain way to appease your partner. While it's fun to wear a matching outfit here and there, at the end of the day, your personal sense of style is part of who you are as an individual.


You share each others emotions

When you've been together for a long time, it can become easier to predict your partner's different moods. For instance, you probably know if your significant other is happy or grumpy in the mornings and can predict what things might cheer them up or make them upset. Over a period of time, you might find yourself not only able to predict their moods but also share their emotions. This is called emotional fusion, according to RWA Psychology, and it often occurs in relationships when each partner feels a sense of emotional oneness or togetherness. 


According to relationship expert Amber A. Price, most of us engage in emotional fusion all the time to some degree. However, this can start to get tricky when you lose all sense of emotional responsibility as this can very quickly turn into relying on or needing your partner for complete emotional support. While your significant other is there to support you through turmoil, it is ultimately up to you to engage in proper self-care activities and take charge of your emotional needs in order to lead a healthy life.

Biology plays a role

You may be wondering how biology plays a role in couples becoming more similar over time. Well, from a biological standpoint, we pick people that are already similar to us. According to a study published in "The Royal Society," this phenomenon is called positive assortative mating or PAM, which is essentially the evolutionary tendency of individuals to mate with someone that possesses similar characteristics to themselves. For instance, if you are taller, you are more likely to pick a taller partner to share your life with.


The psychology behind this phenomenon relies on the evolutionary basis that humans hope to pass on our genes to future generations so we are wired to choose partners who resemble us. Choosing a partner with similar looks, traits, or characteristics to us gives us a good opportunity to ensure that our kids, grandkids, and so on, resemble us — both physically and personality-wise. So, while it may seem that some couples start to resemble or act similarly over time, there is a possibility that they had similar genes to begin with.

It could be the familiarity effect

Did you know that studies show that people prefer those who look like them? In fact, if someone has similar facial features to you, they are probably more attractive to you than someone who has less familiar features. According to Psychology Today, this phenomenon is known as the familiarity effect, which is essentially the idea that people prefer those who like them because they feel familiar. In addition, if you gravitate towards those that have similarities to you, then over time, you could acquire similar lifestyles that lead to a shared appearance, like a similarity in weight or body mass index.


Another way that the familiarity effect takes place is through proximity. Because we are comforted by what is familiar, a long-term partner seems attractive to us. This, coupled with the fact that we form relationships with people who are similar in background, attitudes, and lifestyles, can make couples who have been with each other for a long time seem very similar. Plus, if you take comfort in familiarity, you could want to grow even more similar to your partner in order to feel at home.

The length of your relationship has a hand in it

Apparently, the longer you are with your partner, the more you start to resemble them. A study published in the journal "Motivation and Emotion," had 110 undergraduates trace the photographs of 12 couples when they were first married versus 25 years later. The results showed that after living together for over 25 years, many couples now had greater physical similarities. In addition, couples that had more similarities also reported greater marital happiness.


The length of your relationship can also have a hand in the way that you and your partner are similar. For instance, a couple that has only been together for a few months can probably attribute their similarity to biology or similar genes and initial mirroring tendencies. However, couples that have been together for years may be able to attribute their similarities to a shared sense of vocabulary, a similar acquired style, and shared experiences. Plus, if you've been together for a longer period of time, chances are that you have grown increasingly similar to one another due to cohabiting in the same space.

Signs you're losing your individual identity in a relationship

In any long-term relationship, forgetting yourself can be easy as you get caught up in a desire to be perfect for your partner. However, maintaining a healthy sense of self is crucial for your self-esteem, independence, and ultimate happiness. There are certain definitive signs that you are losing your individuality in a relationship. A major one is when you are caught up in pleasing your partner all the time. It's one thing to want to cheer your partner up from time to time. However, if you are constantly seeking their happiness and worrying that something might go wrong to hamper it, then it becomes an issue. While it's natural to worry about someone you love, you should also take time to make yourself feel content.


Another sign of losing your individuality is if you find yourself constantly questioning your own feelings. If you're feeling insecure about your life choices and constantly questioning yourself in the relationship, then your self-identity might be at risk. Try to ask yourself what it is about the relationship that is making you insecure. Perhaps your partner has been dominating the relationship or you've been putting your priorities and interests on the back burner. In a healthy and balanced relationship, you should have time to pursue your own hobbies and interests, rather than constantly doubting yourself.

How to maintain a strong sense of self in a relationship

A healthy relationship cannot exist without two healthy people, so it is important to work on yourself in order to better your relationship. You can tackle this by starting to take time for yourself and by making it a priority to improve your mental and physical health. This can look like hitting the gym more often, seeking out counseling, and simply indulging in self-care activities like taking a nice long relaxing bath. The goal of these activities is to spend some time away from your partner in order to help you understand yourself better.


Another key aspect of maintaining a strong sense of self is through solo socializing, which essentially means finding your own circle of supportive friends and family. While it's great to socialize together as a couple, it's equally as important to maintain your own identity by having a group of people that you can turn to outside of your relationship. By living a full and healthy life and encouraging your partner to do the same, you can maintain your own individuality while also growing stronger together as a couple.