Relationship Goals: Couples Like the Same Foods Even When They Don't Like Each Other

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Couples in long-term relationships develop similar taste buds over time, but they aren’t necessarily happy. MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images

Updated | Taste buds sometimes cause turmoil in the early days of new love. Going out to dinner can be a challenge: One partner could be on a restricted diet, the other may have an aversion to certain types of food. But for couples with staying power, this particular trouble is likely to melt away. A new study in Appetite found that couples in long-term relationships develop similar smell and taste preferences overtime. And that connection remains even when the couple no longer likes each other.

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In the study, an international team of researchers recruited 100 heterosexual couples between the ages of 18 and 68 who had been together for three months to 45 years.

The researchers used scented felt-tip pens—cinnamon, lavendar, coffee and other fragrances—to see which smells the participants liked. They also measured their preferences for the each of the five taste categories (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami). Relationship satisfaction was measured using a nine-item version of the Marriage and Relationships Questionnaire. This "Love Scale" asked questions including, "Do you enjoy your husband's/wife's company?"; "Do you enjoy doing things together?"; and "Are you proud of your husband/wife?"

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The findings revealed that couples sharing tastes for foods and aromas are not necessarily happy together. Partners who liked similar foods weren't more likely to be satisfied in their relationships, and those who shared similar smell preferences were actually less satisfied. Couples who showed the same scent and taste preferences weren't always happy together. And in fact, those who enjoyed similar smells tended not to enjoy each other.

The researchers hypothesize that similar odor preferences, but not tastes, could indicate that the couple is genetically incompatible to produce offspring, hence their unhappiness with their relationship.

"The aforementioned evidence suggest that preference for similar odors (but not tastes) may be a cue to potentially disadvantageous similarities in the [major histocompatibility complex] MHC, and lower genetic compatibility of partners may be associated with lower relationship satisfaction," wrote the researchers, in their study.

The shared environment has much to do with taste similarities among couples who stay together for a long time. As the researchers explained it, people who live together are surrounded by the same sensations, including tastes and smells. So it makes sense that people who have shared a home for years would also like the same foods.

Couples who can no longer stand each other can perhaps draw comfort from the fact they can still enjoy dinner together.

This article has been updated for accuracy.