There’s an old Paula Abdul song called “Opposites Attract,” which preaches the message that differences are actually a good thing for a relationship. But alas, a new study and past research reveal this couldn’t be further from the truth, at least where core values are concerned.
Karl Pillemer, author of the book 30 Lessons for Loving, asked more than 1,500 elderly people for their take on what made a relationship work, and the overwhelming majority of responses seemed to line up with multiple studies on the issue.
“We have in our popular culture this vast amount of examples of where opposites attract and make for great relationships, from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ through ‘The Little Mermaid’ through ‘Pretty Woman’ and on and on,” Pillemer explained. “Both the elders and research say, not so much. Marrying somebody who is very similar to you — in the trade, we call it homophily. Homophilous marriages, where the partners are pretty similar across a range of domains, tend to last longer and be happier.”
This is especially true when it comes to core values like the following.
- Work and the importance of work
- The number of children and the way children are to be raised and goals for children
- How important money is
- Spiritual and religious values
“If there’s core value similarity, that seems to really make for these longer and happier marriages,” Pillemer added.
But does that mean you have to marry an exact clone? Not exactly.
“What they would say is, you can have differences,” Pillemer explained. “Sometimes differences do spice up a relationship. But if you have two people who are, for example, strongly committed to two different religious traditions, you’ve got to be aware that you’re going to have to work around that in your relationship. If you have other kinds of strong value differences, it’s important to be aware of those and deal with them.”
How important are core values for you in finding a relationship?