From the matching Roman noses to the identical bushy eyebrows, thick, dark hair and slim build, the resemblance is startling.
But it was only when Suzy Monty saw the two men standing side by side for the first time that she realised she was dating her dad’s double.
The death knell for her burgeoning romance? Not a bit of it. In fact, four decades later, Suzy insists marrying her father’s clone has been the key to 44 years of wedded bliss.
‘I’ve enjoyed a very good marriage and I do put that down to my late father Alec and my husband John being so similar,’ says Suzy, 66, a former telephonist who lives in Cornwall. ‘Not only do they look alike but I find the fact that John acts so similarly to my wonderful dad reassuring.’
Suzy Monty’s husband, John (pictured left in his younger days), bears a striking resemblance to her father, Alec (right)
It may be an uncomfortable admission, but marrying the carbon copy of your father is surprisingly common.
And the psychology behind the phenomenon harks back to childhood. Scientists have long known animals such as birds, mammals and fish ‘learn’ what a suitable mate looks like based on the appearance of their parents — known as positive sexual imprinting — but it seems humans do it, too.
And it’s not just about appearance, but the nature of your relationship with your opposite sex parent too.
Study after study has demonstrated women who had a good relationship with their father as a child will go on to choose husbands who physically and characteristically resemble him.
A father, in fact, influences his daughter’s future love life more than you might imagine — if he is a demonstrative and dedicated dad, you are more likely to fare well in love . . . and vice versa.
Therapist Lizzie Falconer explains: ‘Every single thing we do in our life is related to our mother or our father. We react to them as role models or against them. All the research shows us that the relationship a woman has with her father in childhood will inform her relationships with men.’
John and Suzy in modern times. Suzy says she finds the similarties reassuring
But isn’t there a slight awkwardness to finding a man who resembles your father attractive? After all, it’s not dissimilar to psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus complex: the controversial belief that a child secretly desires their parent of opposite gender. According to Freud, this is key to our psychosexual development. But many find it a disturbing thought.
And if you marry someone just like your father, does that mean that you, in turn, become more like your mother?
Psychotherapist Jennie Miller, who specialises in couple counselling, says there are side-effects to marrying your father’s double: ‘We all have our parents imprinted in our psyche.
‘We’ve learnt what a relationship should be like from them, so it stands to reason we behave like them. Women will take on the traits of their mother too.’
For Suzy, it wasn’t just John’s appearance that reminded her of her father, but all of his little foibles.
She says of the husband she met at a disco when she was 21: ‘Both he and my dad have always been incredibly protective of me. As an only child, my dad was always warning me not to do things that might hurt me. I wasn’t even allowed to use the slide in the children’s playground.
‘Today, John is exactly the same. We live near the beach and if I walk near the rocks, he is forever warning me to look out, to be careful — just like Dad used to.’
And then there were the similar attitudes to money. She says: ‘While we were courting, John would check the prices on the restaurant menus, and if the dishes were too expensive we’d end up walking out and opting for a takeout on the pier. While other women might baulk at such stingy behaviour, I was used to penny-pinching at home. Dad was always very careful with money, to the point of meanness sometimes.
Rob (left), the husband of Samantha Davies, also looks remarkably like her father, Dave (right)
‘We even married on a budget. John proposed after two weeks, we were madly in love and of course I said yes. But my husband and father’s mantra was: “You’re only getting married!”
‘Everything was arranged with minimal financial layout, my father even refused to pay for flowers. Thanks to their financially prudent ways I even ended up buying my wedding dress on the cheap. It cost a fiver in a sale.’
Researchers in the U.S. found that choosing someone who behaves similarly to your opposite gender parent is entirely normal — albeit unwitting — behaviour. The research team from Wayne State University, Detroit, said: ‘There seems to be an advantage for animals to select a mate somewhat similar to themselves genetically.’
Presumably this means your chosen partner will get on swimmingly with his father-in-law then?
Certainly that was the case with Alec and John. ‘Before we married, Dad insisted on meeting John and giving him the once over,’ says Suzy. ‘Of course they hit it off. They loved playing chess, going on long walks and gardening. While neither suffer fools gladly, they’d both go out of their way to help you.’
As for Suzy’s mother, she ‘adored John because he looked like Dad’.
Samantha describes meeting Rob as ‘a thunderbolt moment’. Although she didn’t realise his likeness to her father at first, it didn’t take long for her to cotton on
She says: ‘Mum was very taken with him. He charmed the socks off her. She thought he was the best boyfriend I’d ever had.’
Sadly Alec died of Parkinson’s when Suzy was 35. Although 30 years have passed his influence still looms large in the Monty marriage.
‘Since John retired he has taken up the same hobby as Dad. He loves making things out of wood in his man cave. All the banging Dad used to do would drive my mum mad. Today I understand why.
‘When John’s frustrated, just like Dad, he’ll never swear but use the same expression Dad did: “Gordon Bennett!” Hearing it even today reminds me of my father. It’s comforting really.’
So has Suzy turned into her mum over the years, too? ‘I don’t think so,’ she replies, ‘though John thinks otherwise!’
And what does John make of being compared to his wife’s father? ‘I was surprised at first when Suzy remarked on the similarity,’ he admits. ‘I could see what she meant, though.’
But John insists it doesn’t bother him. ‘I take it as a compliment that she fell for me because we’re so similar. Although our relationship is an equal one — I am very much her husband and not her father.’
When stay-at-home mother-of-three Samantha Davis, 37, introduced Rob, 41, to her mother, Jill, 62, the latter was instantly taken with him.
‘I was amazed at how easily he slotted into my family,’ says Samantha. ‘Everyone loves him! Mum said to me, “If you hurt Rob, I’ll kill you Sam!” ’
Samantha, who already had children, Harry, now 14, and Molly, 13, describes meeting Rob as ‘a thunderbolt moment’. Although she didn’t realise his likeness to her father at first, it didn’t take long for her to cotton on.
Communications consultant Sally Grant, 62, is another who willingly admits to marrying her father John’’s (right) mirror image, also called John (left)
She says: ‘I don’t find the similarity unsettling. Dad’s a very steady guy. When I see how he lives his life today, I know I’m looking at Rob in 30 years.’
Not only do both men look strikingly similar but, according to Samantha, just like her father Dave, 69, Rob is a family man and good with children.
Rob is a software engineer, while Dave used to work for the electricity board. Both men enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together again. Father and son-in-law love action films, play in bands and are ‘completely phobic’ about filling in forms.
Today the couple, who have been married seven years, live in Southwater, West Sussex. They also have a son, William, six. Yet Samantha’s younger sisters haven’t married men who mirror their father.
‘While Dad and Rob are two sides of the same coin, my sisters’ husbands are lovely chaps, but they have different senses of humour and temperaments. Is it because I’m the eldest child that I went for someone like Dad? I couldn’t say.’
Psychotherapist Jennie Miller says birth order does play an important part: ‘Elder daughters are likely to go for someone like their father. We know that the relationship with first children is always closer and more intense.’
The couple were friends before starting to see one another in 1988 and marrying in 1989. But it wasn’t until a family holiday in 1990 that the resemblance dawned on Sally
Their spouses also do not share the same domestic ineptitude as Rob and her father.
Samantha continues: ‘I speak to my mum most days. We always have a laugh about our husbands because there is always a story to tell. They are both incredibly literal.
‘Recently, I asked Rob to pick up six eggs on the way home from work. Most people would know that I meant a box of half a dozen eggs. Not Rob. He arrived home with six boxes of eggs. The same thing happened when I ask him to get a four-pint carton of milk.
‘Whenever I have a light-hearted whinge about things like this, Mum will always say: “I did tell you you’d married your father!”
‘But the upside is they are both family men. I’ve recently suffered a bout of illness and Rob stepped up to help with the housework. Since Dad has retired he has taken on a more active role around the house too. They love their wives and the kids. So I can’t complain too much.’ At the same time, Samantha admits she is becoming more and more like her mother: ‘Every day I notice it. From how I talk to the children to the habits I’m developing.’
For his part, Rob admits he has a fair bit in common with his father-in-law — but he’s adamant the similarities aren’t the reason his wife fell for him.
He says: ‘I suppose I do see some similarities between us. But I don’t believe for one moment she was attracted to me because I reminded her of her dad. I think it’s a total coincidence.’
Communications consultant Sally Grant, 62, is another who willingly admits to marrying her father’s mirror image. In fact, she says it helped to smooth a rocky start to husband John’s relationship with his in-laws.
The couple were friends before starting to see one another in 1988 and marrying in 1989. But it wasn’t until a family holiday in 1990 that the resemblance dawned on Sally.
‘In 1990, my husband John and I were on a sailing holiday in Scotland with my parents. Seeing my father and husband together side-by-side in the motorboat taking us up the loch, relaxed and with the same healthy complexion and zest for life made me take stock. It was then I realised how similar they are.
‘They were both in their element. It was a happy moment for me because it had taken my parents a while to warm to John. He’d been married before and there was a 15-year age gap between us — he’s now 76.
‘But when Dad [who’s also called John] got to know him, he realised how much they had in common. They both loved sports, along with the countryside and mountaineering. They are stoic and resourceful.
‘John’s face lights up when he smiles, he is over 6ft tall, with an athletic build. Those characteristics could equally have been applied to my father, too. It’s uncanny.’
As for becoming her mother, she says: ‘I hope I am like her. I’ve inherited her love of cooking and gardening — she used to be a school cook in charge of a kitchen.
‘We are both frugal, hate waste, love the outdoors, doing family things and having the house full of people, but she is more organised. A close-knit family is the bedrock for us — we both reduced our careers to look after our husbands and families. Our kids worship her, so I hope I am like her.’
According to Sally, John, too, is pleased with the comparison to his father-in-law: ‘My husband adored my dad, who died in September 2011 aged 90. For his kindness, generosity, honesty and devotion to the family. He says it is a compliment to be compared to him.’
But John, like Rob, refuses to believe there is a subconscious psychological reason behind his wife’s attraction to him, saying: ‘I genuinely don’t believe that my wife chose to marry someone like her father at all.’
Nevertheless, Sally agrees with Suzy Monty that marrying someone like your father is the key to happiness. She goes as far as to say: ‘I’d say to any woman who has a lovely dad that marrying a man like him is the recipe for a long and happy marriage.’