Being with someone for a long time changes the way you see the world. It also changes you. These are the 5 things that happen to couples who have shared a lot experience and have been together for a long time.
1. You start to look alike
In a study, psychologist Robert Zajonc found that there’s a very obvious reason that married couples who stay together start to look alike: They use the same muscles so often that, over time, they start to mirror each other.
This coordination of movement isn’t accidental. Instead, it reflects what psychologists call a ‘shared coordinative structure,’ which includes how we harmonize our gaze, body sway, and the little mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of how we speak.
2. You have a bunch of inside jokes that no one else thinks are funny
Research suggests that couples who’ve been together for a long time are more likely to mirror each other’s body language — which in turn makes them look alike. All of your shared experiences and memories inform your gestures, posture, and the words and phrases you use with each other.
A study, for example, found that people were more likely to copy each other’s eye gaze when they’d both heard the same background information before their conversation.
3. You and your partner develop your own private language
Ever get a text from your significant other that means absolutely nothing on its own but carries a certain significance that you can’t quite explain?
This private language is one of the first signs that the two of you are operating in sync. Secret communication accomplishes two things: First, it helps deepen your bond — romantic or platonic. Second, it establishes a unique, shared identity.
Private language can include everything from inside jokes to nicknames. Bruess’ research suggests a link between how often partners use these private words and how satisfied they are with their relationship. Bruess found that the more often couples used secret words and phrases, the happier they tended to say they were.
4. You start to sound alike
In addition to having their own private vocabulary, long-term couples eventually start to match each other in the basic rhythms and syntactical structures of their speech.
Part of that is a result of a phenomenon that psychologists call “emotional contagion.” Basically, when two people spend enough time together, they begin to match each other’s speech patterns. We mimic everything from the other person’s accent to the amount and length of pauses he or she put between words and sentences.
Part of a 2010 study of language use among couples that looked at couples’ text messages, for example, found that when two people “sounded” more alike they were also more likely to still be dating three months later.
5. You stop self-censoring
When we’re with others, most of us “self-monitor.” That is, we try to please the people around us by adapting our behavior to suit theirs. But when we’re with an intimate partner, we let go of this pattern of behavior and instead talk fluidly and naturally. In other words, we stop having to constantly check ourselves before we speak. We’re more candid and more open.
The University of California Berkeley psychologist Daniel Kahneman, for example, tells “Like most people, I am somewhat cautious about exposing tentative thoughts to others.” But after he’d spent a few years working with his research partner, cognitive psychologist Amos Tverksy, “this caution was completely absent.”