Spouses/partners absorbing each other's traits

I’m not quite sure how to word this. Maybe I should say that in many cases, a spouse/partner influences the other one to such a degree that the other changes significantly. I’ll give several examples:

  1. My Uncle P. never used to be a religious nutcase until he married Aunt A. She had a very definite influence on him, though I certainly realize that he must have been willing to accept it. My mom, P’s sister, swears he wasn’t like this before he married her.

  2. Same situation, with the genders reversed, with Other Aunt A and her husband, Uncle V. He was an ordained minister as well as a mean, miserable person who turned her into a miserable religous nut.

  3. My brother never used to be flaky and late everywhere he went until he married his wife.

  4. My neighbor J. is very negative and always bemoaning her bad luck and how “you can’t trust anyone.” We’re pretty sure she picked this up from her husband, whose negativity is stronger and more pervasive than hers.

  5. My cousin C. has gotten so obnoxiously condescending, insulting, and snooty that we can’t stand to spend time with her anymore. The fact that her husband’s family is a bunch of snobs (who treat me and mine like we’re inferior to them) may have something to do with this.

As I said, it’s just a few examples, but I can’t believe it’s coincidental. I just can’t imagine changing to such a degree because of another person, though it’s obviously possible.
Any comments or theories about this?

All of these are very negative changes, and about topics/habits which are likely to draw attention. Have you noticed any of your friends or relatives becoming happier, better people, or generally being better able to cope with stress, disappointment, low self-esteem, or being more likely to take adventurous trips or dye their hair a different colour, or wear different clothing better suited to them?

I think there is probably a lot of confirmation bias in these observations.

But, yeah, parts of your SO’s personality/habits/preferences do tend to rub off on you over time, simply because you spend so much time with them. In theory, you both make each other better people (“better” defined however way you wish) but in practice, you also get the bad along with the good.

I think if you put the right 2 people together it can work in a very positive way as well. It seems to be working that way for my SO and I.

Yup. I like to think my husband and I make each other better people.

My husband and I can frequently be heard saying to each other, “OMG, I’m turning into you! :eek:” “You say that as if it’s a bad thing. ;)” Then laughing our asses off.

So yeah, we definitely influence each other. But I think mostly in positive ways. And I’m definitely a better person because of his influence!

mnemosyne: I wish I could answer yes to the more positive things you mentioned, but it’s just not the case.

I’m glad there are some positive influences out there somewhere.

Shayna: Love your location.

I had a strange conversation with a woman once who was convinced that the reason couples start to be more similar the longer they are together is because the man’s sperm was actively re-writing the woman’s genetics.

Certainly happened in my marriage. Unfortunately, I hoped that I would absorb all the sterling character qualities my wife brought to the table, and that is not the case. Now she curses like a sailor, farts at the dinner table, doesn’t balance the checkbook any more, that kind of stuff. Sheesh.

Most of the traits I’ve seen people pick up were things that already existed to some extent in their personalities to start with. Those things just intensified and came to the forefront with continued exposure. Positive ones, negative ones, they were all traits these people started out with.

Which makes sense, really. I mean, if there wasn’t something appealing in those traits, why would they hang out with these people?

“…for my SO and me.”
The OP is certainly onto something. Mrs. Montoya married the man of her dreams. Because of who they both were he became something she didn’t like. Divorced now, he has become the man of her dreams again. (Except now totally unobtainable to her.)

I never popped a single zit in my life until I met my ex-wife. Even now, three years after we split up, I spend several minutes a day in front of mirrors hunting those little bastards down. If a popable pimple lasts more than two hours on my face, I consider it a personal failure.

My husband and I both became more punctual after we got together. I was chronically late, he was chronically early, so we balanced each other out nicely. He became a registered voter due to my influence. We’ve been good for each other.

I find that very sad. I know most of the cases you mentioned were family, but if the same is true for your friends, then you need some happier friends!

Not every influence my husband has had on me has been positive and vice versa, (not that I’m going to list them!) but we enjoy being together and overall are aiming for “making each other better”. I think things certainly balance out that way.

Another thing, though, is I have heard comments and complaints about “people changing into their SOs” by people who are single/don’t get to see their friends as much anymore/etc. I wonder if people notice the similarities in couples mostly because when they DO see their friends, the friend’s SO is often there too. So “you*” don’t see your friend, you see the couple, and that will be a different “personality” than either member of the couple on their own. Either that, or so much of the friend’s life now includes the SO, that it sounds like that’s all they talk about. Again, I think there’s a bias there.

  • I am not trying to single you out at all vivalostwages! This might not be the case for you - I’m just making a general comment!