There’s something so nice and not cynical about a good how-we-met story, and a new and hugely popular Instagram account is chronicling these stories like a bunch of tiny rom-coms. Some of them are sweet, like the pair who first met all the way back in kindergarten. A surprising number are actually a little bit boring, with settings as unlikely as Walmart or Starbucks or Subway.
“I love to talk about relationships,” Brooklyn Sherman, who started the account, told Today.com. “Going up to people on the street I don’t even know, saying Oh my god, you’re the cutest couple. How did you guys meet? That has been part of who I am for so long.” Funny she should mention it: Last summer, Science of Us did exactly that, stalking couples on the Highline for an afternoon and asking the happy(-seeming) ones to tell us their “how we met” stories. The stories we collected were wildly different — compare, say, the high school kids who met in Spanish class with the woman who fell in love with her Airbnb host. But the themes of the best ones were often the same, told with undertones of disbelief at the coincidences of the meeting: Can you believe it? He/she was right there, and at the exact right moment!
And yet the particulars of the story don’t really matter; what does matter is the way the couple tells it, according to a classic John Gottman study published in the early 1990s. Gottman recorded couples telling stories from their shared histories, including how they met, and he and his research team noted whether they were positive and enthusiastic about relaying the tales or if they tended to be more negative and withdrawn. When the researchers checked back in with the couples three years later, those who had excitedly told their stories were more likely to still be together than those who’d told them in a more negative light. The way they talked about their past seemed to shed some light on their future, the researchers argued. How you actually met, in other words, matters less than the way you talk about how you met.