I take a strong position on the importance of two people being a lot alike if they’re going to try to make a relationship last for a lifetime. There are some similarities that, in my opinion, are just absolutely critical to a long-lasting love relationship. There are also some that are less important.
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.
Every time you have a dissimilarity, a place in which the two of you just don’t agree or don’t have an interest in common or whatever, you often have to negotiate that dissimilarity. You have to work to try to make that okay in your couple relationship.
Let’s think for an instance about the spending of money. If one of you wants to save money and the other one likes to spend money on important things to you, the two of you are going to come into conflict. You’re going to have to negotiate how you deal with your money. That negotiation almost always requires give on both your parts. That giving on both of your parts is okay as long as one of you doesn’t always have to give or as long as both of you don’t have to give so often that it feels like your relationship is just a constant giving experience.
I want to give you several similarities that in my opinion are crucial to the solidarity of your long-term relationship and I want to tell you why I evaluate them as critical.
The reason I think this is so critical is that it involves the way you go about dealing with your life. If one of you is a very spiritual person you will tend to be internally focused. You will think of praying. You will think of meditating, of reflecting on the problem internally. The opposite point of view will tend to look outside of you. You will think of assessing the situation, of coming to a rational understanding of what to do about a situation without involving so much of your internal process.
The two of you will come at life in such different ways. I happen to know a lot of people for whom spirituality is a big part of their existence. It influences the way they make virtually every decision in their lives. And then I also know some people who are not at all spiritual and who find individuals who are quite spiritual as a bit, what one man described the other day, as kooky. They just don’t think that praying makes any sense. Those two people probably are going to be quite unhappy together over time.
Now, I don’t know how intelligent you are and it really doesn’t matter; you can have a wonderfully happy marital relationship at any intelligence level. But it’s important for you to find someone whose intelligence level is about the same as your own. I know persons who are literally geniuses. They’re not going to be happy with persons of just average intelligence.
Two people need to be able to talk to each other as peers-as equals. I have known persons who had a great deal of difference in their intelligence level. One of them regularly feels frustrated because she has to talk down to him or he has to talk down to her. They just don’t feel the other person can understand what they’re thinking and feeling. On the other hand, the person who is in the down position regularly feels talked down to. They feel put down. They feel hurt and frustrated on a regular basis. This simply doesn’t build a relationship in any meaningful way.
I know people whose ambition I would describe as “low level.” I remember a couple that came to me some years ago. She was the vice president of an ongoing, up-and-coming company. Her dad was the owner of the company. She had tremendous ambition to move ahead in the company.
Her fiancï¿½ didn’t have the same level of ambition. He was a sales person who made a fair wage, but he had no desire to make a big wage. He often took the afternoon off to play golf. She was so ambitious, but he didn’t have much ambition at all. I’m sorry to have to tell you that in my opinion, their difference in ambition level led to the early demise of their relationship. If your ambition level is very high, marry some one who’s right there with you with a high level of ambition on their own.