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Going My Way? Commuting Can Draw Couples Closer

Feeling attracted to the person sitting next to you on the bus? There’s a reason for that.
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Sharing a life’s journey is more pleasant if you and your partner are on parallel paths—literally.

Studies in the U.S. and Hong Kong found that greater satisfaction with romantic relationships arose when couples took roughly the same route to work. "This was true regardless of whether the partners left for work at the same or different times," a research team led by Irene Huang of the Chinese University of Hong Kong writes in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Researchers found this pattern in both an online survey of 280 married Americans, and a man-on-the-street survey of 139 married adults in Hong Kong who ride the subway to their place of employment. The correlation between marital satisfaction and shared direction of daily travel “was independent of the number of years married, the number of children, income, gender, and between-partners difference in commuting time,” they write.

The apparent reason for all the interpersonal bliss: on a symbolic level that resonates deep in our psyches, similar routes imply matching goals, and this convergence “increases interpersonal attraction,” according to Huang and her colleagues.

This explanation was confirmed in a follow-up experiment, also conducted in Hong Kong. It found that randomly paired participants were more likely to be attracted to each other if they walked into an exercise room from the same direction.

Adding a literary note to her scientific paper, Huang quotes the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but looking in the same direction together.” To put it less poetically: many roads may lead to lasting love, but it helps if you and your partner are taking the same route.