Dating Narcissism: Why We Look for Ourselves in a Partner

When it comes to dating, maybe you’re the yin to your own yang

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In the search for a partner, we struggle to determine who’s our best match. Is it someone who complements us?—the guy who’s calm when you’re emotional; the girl who’s organized when you’re messy? Or is it someone who looks, thinks and acts like us? Do opposites attract or do they “attract and then attack” as eHarmony advertises?

The attributes of the person who “completes” us has befuddled singles for centuries: In Plato’s Symposium, a philosopher asserts that humans began as androgynous creatures with both male and female parts. The gods split each creature in half, separating one being into man and woman. The result? We now spend our lives looking for our soulmate, the one who makes us whole—though it’s unclear whether that other half is just like us or the yin to our yang.

But Plato didn’t have the luxury of examining data from dating sites. An analysis of eHarmony users by FiveThirtyEight.com this week found that while 86 percent of people say they want someone who “complements” them (as opposed to someone who “resembles them”), women and men are much more likely to message those who are similar to them not only in terms of age, attractiveness, education, race and income, but also in terms of less obvious traits like intelligence, creativity and humor. And then there’s the Boyfriend Twin Tumblr that recently surfaced, featuring gay couples that look almost identical running under the headline, “What’s sexier than dating yourself?” A similar Siblings Or Dating? website features straight, gay and lesbian couples who look like they could be related.

Both of these blogs tap that impulse to be with someone who echoes your own personality and looks. That urge is called homogamy, a marriage between two individuals who are extremely similar. For decades, we’ve been becoming more homogamous in terms of education, income, religion and even looks. A Slate article on the Boyfriend Twin Tumblr cites a study that shows people are attracted to versions of themselves: researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign altered their subjects’ faces into those of strangers and asked them to evaluate the strangers’ attractiveness. Subjects favored faces that looked like their own. Another study found that people are even more attracted to those who share superficial traits like letters in their names and birthdays with them.

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