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What similarities between two people are not important for relationship success?

If you've read any of my writings on relationships, you'll know that I'm a big fan of similarity between both partners before the relationship begins.

It goes like this: Similarities between two people are like money in the bank. Dissimilarities are like debts they owe. It's okay to have a few debts as long as you have plenty of equity in your account; otherwise you're likely to be bankrupt at a frighteningly early stage.

I can remember a pre-marital discussion with a young couple. They were obviously worried about the idea of marriage and the girl, Nancy, was quick to point out why.

"Dr Warren, I'm worried because I've read your articles on similarity. I'm afraid we aren't enough alike to have a successful relationship."

She went on to tell me that she was a morning person. She loved to get in the bed early, have a good night's rest, and rise at daybreak. Doug, it turns out, was the exact opposite. He liked to watch Sports Center at 11pm and then read until he was tired. He was a writer and liked to take advantage of his flexible schedule by sleeping until 9:30 in the morning.

So I asked about the rest of their relationship. It turns out that Nancy and Doug had the same religious background, were of comparable intelligence and ambition, both loved to entertain socially, and had the same financial goals and personal values. They were, in fact, extremely similar in most important ways.

Nancy was noticeably relieved when I told her that all similarities are not created equal. In that spirit, I want to give you a list of traits that don't seem to matter so much when it comes to long-term compatibility.

Formal education
My brother-in-law has a PhD My sister is a high-school graduate. The two of them get along wonderfully well. I want to remind you that intelligence is a crucial similarity, but formal education doesn't seem to be a necessity in terms of a similarity. If you have intelligence in common the two of you can be quite differently educated on a formal level.

Age
Only in America do we make a big thing about two people being of a similar age. In other civilized countries of the western world there are examples of two persons who are quite dissimilar in terms of age. She can be older, he can be older, and they get along perfectly well. I know a lot of relationships in which age is not a similarity and the two people do unusually well.

Sense of humor
Well, it's nice to have two people who laugh at the same thing. They don't need to be similarly talented in terms of wit. Sometimes it's helpful if they're not. For instance, one person can be the entertainer and one person can specialize in being entertained. You don't have to be the same in your production of humor, but it is nice if you can have some similarity in enjoyment in what is produced.

Sleep Habits
I would suggest to you that if the person in whom you are deeply interested has a different set of sleeping habits, for instance, maybe he only sleeps five hours a night and she may require eight hours a night, if there is sensitivity in the relationship so that he will be quiet so that she can continue to sleep as long as she needs to the two of you will get along fine.

Energy level for physical activity
Plenty of couples I know involve a situation in which he or she, though more often he I think, has more energy for physical activities outside. She doesn't have as much energy but they do just fine together because they have so many similarities over in the other areas.

It is important to remember the broad outline of this policy on similarity. Your relationship can easily endure dissimilarities as long as your "bank account" has a healthy level of equity. Be sure to consider each debit and credit with an eye on the total balance and you can make sure you're making the right relationship decision.

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