One Thing to Look for in a Mate: Advice from Long-Married Elders

I’ve spent time over the past year talking with young people about their hopes for marriage. And the question that comes up more than any other is: “How do I know if the person is the right one for me?” Is there a way to tell if someone is likely to be a compatible long-term mate, or a difficult and contentious partner?

Sounds complicated, right? But in our interviews with hundreds of long-married couples about what works and what doesn’t for a long and satisfying relationship, one simple and straightforward answer emerged again and again. It turns out that our elders believe there’s something close to a “magic bullet” when it comes to deciding in a relationship: “Should I stay or should I go?” And it all comes down to similarity.

But first, let’s take a look at conventional wisdom. Popular opinion tells us that opposites attract. Look at Romeo and Juliet coming from two perpetually feuding families. Or Tony and Maria in “West Side Story,” one Polish-American, the other Puerto Rican, and as different as they are they can’t resist one another. We believe that such different types are magnetically drawn together.

But do they live happily ever after? Certainly not in those two examples, nor in many others. Even The Little Mermaid — the original Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, not the treacly Disney movie — winds up rejected by the handsome prince and dies. In literature and legend, at least, it’s tough to bring two different worlds together.

I’ve asked over 500 people married 40, 50 and more years what is most important for a long and happy marriage. To my surprise, their advice was nearly unanimous: Opposites may attract, but they don’t usually make for great and lasting marriages. Based on their long experiences both in and out of romantic relationships, the fundamental lesson is this: You are much more likely to have a satisfying marriage for a lifetime when you and your mate are fundamentally similar. And if you’re very different, the elders warn although that marriage can work, is likely to be much more difficult.

I can hear some of you saying: But it would be boring if two mates were exactly alike in interests and personality! Although it may sound paradoxical, long-married elders agree that some differences can spice up a relationship. But not all aspects are equally important. There are many ways partners can be similar, but the elders say that one dimension is absolutely necessary: Similarity in core values.

Now I have talked to many people entering into relationships over the years and I have heard all kinds of reasons for falling in love. Things like physical attractiveness, having a good sense of humor, making good money, being a nice person and physical attractiveness (okay, I said it already, but I hear it a lot). Searching my memory, I failed to come up with a single example of someone saying: “Oh, I’ve just met the most wonderful person. The best thing is — we share the same core values!”

The elders’ advice, however, is that alignment of values are precisely what we should look for if we want a long, happy marriage.

Take Emma, who at 87 has been married for 58 years. As she puts it, “It’s quite an achievement.”

“I didn’t know it when I got married, but in retrospect I know it’s important to have the same basic values. In other words, if you’re a free spender, marry somebody who understands that. If you’re frugal, you need to marry somebody who understands that, because money is one of the stumbling blocks in marriages. Fortunately we had the same values on most things.Because of this, we really didn’t argue. And we didn’t agonize over things. We came to our decisions by just realizing that we had usually the same goals.”

 The key phrases here are “we really didn’t argue,” and “we didn’t agonize over things.”

Arguments emerge over apparently trivial issues, the elders tell us, because they really reflect underlying values. Whether the wife purchases an expensive camera or the husband a new golf club is not the core issue in what can become a monumental fight, but rather the deeper attitude toward what money means, how it should be spent and whether the financial interests of the couple are more important than indulging an individual whim. Similarity in core values serves as a form of inoculation against fighting and arguing.

Keith, 78, told me:

“In my first marriage… we had whole different backgrounds, different perspectives. We came to the point where we asked: ‘What’s the point of this?’ I understood this in my second marriage, and it’s been wonderful for 24 years. It’s based this time on compatibility and understanding one another’s values. We’ve never had a fight. In other words, there’s no meanness, there’s no power struggles, no ‘my way is the right way,’ those kinds of things.”

Of course, to ensure shared values, there is a catch: Namely, you need to explore one another’s values while you are in the process of committing to a relationship. Ask the question: Do we believe the same things in life are important? The long-married elders recommend that you discuss this issue and to make sure core values are as similar as possible. A number of the elders offered this tip: Early in the relationship, each of you writes down your basic values or principles in areas like money, children, work, and sex — then share these statements with one another. Because value differences are likely to be at the heart many relationship problems, it’s much better to know them in advance of committing.

As a result of this kind of “values check,” people like April, 74, and her husband went into marriage knowing they were aligned on important issues:

We both had strong commitments in feeling that we owed something back…to the community, not only of resources but of time. We both loved to travel, and we had a sense of adventure. We liked the same people and I think that’s important. Very seldom did we disagree about friends. And parenting, of course. We had very similar values in terms of our kids and what we wanted for them.

The wisdom of the elders is very consistent with research findings over the past several decades. Social scientists who study marriage look for two things over the long term: marital stability (how long the marriage lasts) and marital quality (the sense of satisfaction and well-being partners experience).

The research findings are quite clear: marriages that are homogamous in terms of economic background, religion and closeness in age are the most stable and tend to be happier. Sharing core values has also been found to promote marital stability and happiness. So the elders are in the scientific mainstream when they urge you to seek a partner who is similar to you in important ways. But what should we do with this information?

In this advice, we come up against a dilemma. On the one hand, the elders agree that someone who is generally similar in upbringing, general orientation and especially values is the single most important thing in choosing a mate. On the other hand, we live in a pluralistic society that increasingly values diversity, breaking down old barriers and understanding and appreciation of differences. Is there a conflict here?

The message to take away from this lesson allows for both perspectives. People happily married for decades (and social scientists) don’t tell you unconditionally to avoid marrying someone who is different from you, but with whom you are deeply in love. They just want you to recognize that if you marry someone with values very different from yours, you are much more likely to face complex challenges in married life. According to the elders, in the face of objective differences (such as culture or economic background), shared values and outlook on life go a long way to promote both the quality and stability of a marriage.

(Interested in sharing your advice for marriage? Contribute your marriage lessons at the Marriage Advice Project.)

52 thoughts on “One Thing to Look for in a Mate: Advice from Long-Married Elders

  1. Wish I’d had this advice 7 years ago. I married someone with a different religion, different political views and different values on money, family, and work. I thought the same views on honesty and loyalty were important but I struggle every day because one thing we both agree on is keeping commitments. I also don’t want to be alone.

  2. This is interesting. My current boyfriend and I share similar economic values (both frugal), both want to have kids and be near our families when we are settled down, are similarly productive with chores and work hard while at work. We are both very nice and loyal people, although we differ in the fact that I am the more educated-book smart one and he more enjoys learning about things he can do with his hands (cars, tools, etc). We also differ in that he is rather mellow and doesn’t worry, lives in the present…whereas I tend to think way too much in the future and worry a ton. I think we balance each other well although sometimes I wish he could keep up with my level of intellectual conversation…Any thoughts from the “elders” on this point?

  3. Maria… have you figured anything out? I am in a similar predicament. We have a couple of core values in common, but he is a doer and I am a thinker. I have never been with someone who I cannot really relate to intellectually. I feel he cannot understand how my mind works so he cannot understand me. But he is so supportive, sweet, never quick to anger, hard working, stable, considerate. But in his simplicity, he also does not seem to try to work on himself for himself. He wants a woman, a partner. And as long as she is happy, he is happy. He has some very deep-rooted self-esteem issues that leak out in certain behaviors. I don’t want him to work on those things FOR me, though. I don’t know. I feel I need to be single, at least for a while… but is it foolish to let such a good man go?

  4. It’s funny because our boyfriends sound identical in the list of attributes that you listed off…except mine does try to work on himself often (teaching himself Spanish, learning how to garden, build things, etc.) We are still together and things are going well. I am not considering breaking it off with him over the one thing…just because I feel like I’ve been discovering more about him and am impressed. We still don’t have rivetting intellectual conversations, but at the end of the day it hasn’t been a “deal-breaker” for us. I am such an overly-analytical person I think it would be bad for my health to be with someone who is as well (ha,ha). In your case, it sounds like there is a little more of a problem since you know what’s its like to be intellectually compatible and that’s something you crave ( I haven’t found found this with many people so don’t really know what that’s like ) and that he has insecurity issues. Have you talked to him about the insecurity? It might be a good idea to broach it in a polite way and see if whether he is or isn’t willing to work on it himself..

  5. I am on the same boat…my bf is a very sweet, caring, thoughtful, hardworking, generous man who is a loving son and brother. We don’t have the same background or upbringing, which is concerning since it causes some differences in life perspectives. I grew up in fast Paced nyc where I went through the rat race with schools whereas he is a military brat who calls Alabama his home. I see professional development as my top priority before settling down where he thinks they are simultaneously compatible. Additionally, we don’t share highly intellectual conversations,..which is also bothersome since I wish to learn mentally from my significant other. It is not a deal breaker but i do wish I could share that side of my life with him. We share common core values and are grounded in our Christian faith. We have a lot of fun traveling together and being together…but I wonder if that justifies a foundation for a longterm relationship…

  6. Maria, Olivia and Rachel, I feel such a relief that you guys posted your stories! For I am in the exact same boat, he is present-oriented, and not intellectual at all, while I am future oriented and enjoy thinking and intellectual conversations. Other than that, he is a very good partner- caring, easy going and a great listener! I am 31 so I should be thinking of the marriage topic. Now I am in the middle of the “marry him” book by lori gottlieb to try to get an insight, but I am not sure whether I am just convincing myself to bite the bullet. Hope you share your stories more!

  7. “On the other hand, we live in a pluralistic society that increasingly values diversity, breaking down old barriers and understanding and appreciation of differences.”

    Appreciation of differences is great when each person can rely on the strengths of the other, but if those differences are core values, then each person is likely to reach an impasse in major disagreements.

    Our society has become pluralistic to the extent that the foundations are crumbling. That’s no model for a marriage.

  8. I’ve given this topic a little more thought, and I’m beginning to see things a bit differently. Even though I am more intellectual, I tend to be really overly-analytical. It is nice to be with someone who does not need to analyze everything. It is also great that he is intelligent in the way that he can fix basically everything for me. ( I am not smart at all in that area, ha ha) I think as long as I can continue to have intellectual conversations with other people in my life… I feel OK with not having them with him.

  9. Well for a 60 year old man like me getting married again is very hard for me since meeting a good woman this time around is very difficult for me since my wife Cheated on me, and i was a very caring and loving husband that was very Committed to her as well but it wasn’t good enough for her. Being Single at my age as you can see is very difficult for me since i really do hate being all alone now, and i have no children either. Many people that are still married should be very thankful that they still have each other, and if i had a choice right now i certainly would love to be married again instead of being all alone and having no one at all.

  10. To all the lucky ladies, hold on tight to those good,sweet, loving,caring and hardworking men. Do you want an intellectual man that may be dissatisfied with your weaknesses, hold on to those hardworking men, I wish I could find one, it’s been seven years now for me searching for a good man, still hoping. To the sixty year old man who would love to be married that is so refreshing to hear that you haven’t been tainted by your ex’s betrayal. You are a smart man!!! Make sure to give a new woman your trust. It’s not because of you she cheated, it’s her own problem and a blessing for you she didn’t deserve you.

  11. Larz0: very well put!

    Maria, Olivia and a little bit Rachael: it’s funny, but I see something of the tv version of a happy couple in how you describe you and your partner’s cognitive differences. Unless your respective significant others are present-oriented to the point of being hedonistic, and/or you are so future-oriented to live in austerity, I don’t find your intellectual differences to be incompatible. Take this with a grain of salt, but it could be a good thing to have that difference in perspective in your relationships; it’s not good to have no thoughts to the future, nor is it good to be stuck in an ivory tower. In a word: balance. Compatible and complimentary in that you are both intelligent, just in different ways.

    Perhaps the want of self-improvement is a core value, I don’t know (boy, I wish there were a list somewhere).

    As for me: I am SO in Alice’s boat in that I wish I knew this 6 years ago. Maybe not though, because when you meet “The One,” you realize that your whole life, including every past bad relationship, was to prepare you for the big one. We are only 6 months in, but we both think we are the lucky one and consider each other too good for the other. We’re taking it slow, though, since we both have a failed relationship or 2 in our stories. Even though we have different religious and cultural backgrounds (she’s Southern Thai, I’m Alaskan), we have very similar values about education, raising children, money, and what’s important in life (“be excellent to each other”). I defer to the above article, though, in that we both come from loving, supportive families and a comfortable middle-class upbringing.

    This article is great and this project sounds like a wonderful resource. Thank you Cornell, for supporting it.

    Or, you could take the advice of my erudite cowboy of a grandpa; who, after a divorce of his first wife and outliving his second, has recently started seeing a new girl (and he’s in his mid-eighties!), put it: ‘Really, it’s just about finding someone willing to put up with ya.’

  12. I’m very very interested on someone at the moment who has the same personality type as me, pretty much. He’s an INFP and I’m an ENFP so the only difference is he’s more of an introvert, and I an extrovert. I’ve only known him a coupled months, but from the time that I met him I realized the majority of our values are exactly the same. We figured out that our previous relationships were almost identical and the effects were the same for both of us. The only different between us that really is noticeable is he’s into the “dark and creepy” things and stupid humor, where as I’m into more light and happy things and can’t stand stupid humor.
    The thing is, as much as I love him and want a good healthy long relationship with him, I’m terrified because everyone around me keeps saying “opposites attract” and “you two are cute but you won’t last long, your too similar.” I don’t know what to do, whether I should try it and hopd and work towards the best, or give up…any suggestions?

  13. Me and my boyfriend don’t seem to agree on marriage in a way. He thinks that marriage is just a piece of paper and the difference is just the woman’s last name changes. He says that there’s no difference in where we r now and being married. marriage and engagement shouldn’t matter if u love someone. I personally think there is a big difference between boyfriend/ girlfriend, fiances, and being married. We both have been married before and divorced. I know that when it comes to love there’s time but if 6 years go by and someone does not believe nor want to take that step of marriage I feel like I’m wasting my time cuz I believe in marriage so much. Maybe I’m wrong to feel that way and idk what to think anymore.

  14. We are both from the same religion, same country, same upbringing with parents’ love and care as well as education. Yet, we seem not to have a long conversation, especially something involved in working process or organization I’m working for. We are currently going through different directions to future: He expects to have a peaceful life, which means husband will go outside to earn money for family, and especially he must be good at working, and also in higher position than his wife; I’m different, I do respect others’ dreams, I do wanna study abroad to expand my overview of cultures and lifestyles, or mindset; he does not expect me to study abroad and just care me as a little girl, or at least I think like that. He’s too much caring to me, though sometimes just through words, but at least when I share them with my friends, they comment like that way. Sometimes, it’s stuck at my mind that leaving him, I cannot imagine those days after, but sometimes it urges me. He’s too good, I’m afraid that I cannot find someone like that, or even can, I’m not sure when? Sometimes I feel tired, he seems to fight against my expectation to moving on my works, but then afterwards, we’re fine since finally he agrees (I confirmed I had to do, and my mom got involved to persuade him). But it’s too tired, since we have to convince all the time.

  15. I WOULD say that the best mate would be of the four legged type, dog or cat. Married almost 48 years and our marriage has been one big waste of time. In all these years we have done nothing together, we haven’t talked in decades. He eats and sleeps in his new garage and I have the house, thats our marriage. We hate each other, I do my own thing he does his. To old to care any more so that’s what we’ve like all these years.

  16. My boyfriend of five years and the father of my daughter have different religions, upbringing, views on money. Somehow i am just so unhappy with him and i feel like something is wrong although i cannot always explain why. I just feel unhappy like i am not my best self with him.

  17. I believe this information in my heart to be true. I was married once and when it failed I was devastated. I have been in a relationship now for two years and it has been up and down. Mainly down as my partner has not been truthful at times. I now find it hard to trust. I have a faith background and he does not. We disagree a lot and sadly I do not think we could marry as I do not trust him like I should. I do not like to give up easily in relationships but do not want to spend the rest of my life worrying about him texing and being in the company of other women when I am at work. This has happened numerous times and when I ask him about it he gets very angry. I feel sad and betrayed. What kind of relationship
    Is this. I hope for it to change but do not know what to do but find the courage to leave this if he cannot stop doing this… I just want to be happy, want him to be too but wonder why he does this when he knows it upsets me and hides it.

  18. Olivia
    I would be interested in what you decided. I’ve had two relationships , both of 18 years duration. The first – he was violent. I fell madly in love with someone else but over the years he became controlling and took me for granted. I am 62 but still feel young. I now have met an old boyfriend who – in his words – ” is only happy if you are ” . He’s kind , adores me but I just don’t feel happy. If I say jump he’d say “how high ? ” to quote an oft used phrase.
    Should I go it alone? Release him? Break his heart ? Or spend what could be my last 18 years ! With somebody who is kind but ” pipe and slippers ? ” I’m not financially dependent on him. Any advice ( not just Olivia ) would be appreciated.

  19. I am currently in a relationship of seven months with a man 10 years older, I am 24, he is 34. We met through friends and during an acitvity we both love dancing/music.

    I believe we have had similar upbringings (upper middle class, highly educated parents, similar social economic backgrounds and both our parents valued education. We also both grew up in homes without religion (except I became a christian in my early twenties, I still belive deeply In God identify proudly as spiritual, he on the other hand does not. He thinks the idea of God is equal to the idea of Magic and struggles being respectful of my conviction otherwise. He identifies as a Libertarian ( he was raised in a Republic household) and more of an Independent (raised in a Deomocratic household) I feel a great responsibility towards social justice, but he does not, he cares more about the free market etc ( I believe this comes from internalized values) . We seem to have similar political views regarding most things (which is why I think we are both more centrist than we admit) nonethess, this and the fact he does not believe in God did worry me at first.
    I think this is why in the beigning we use to argue a lot more frequently than either of us were accustomed to, but little by little things have gotten so much sweeter, calmer and harmonious. Recently, we have reached a deeper level and we both feel much more secure and happy than we have. His family adores me and I love them, also my family is awe with him as well.

    Now of course 7 months in and he says he still has reservations about if this will work out long term, i.e. marriage. He says its the closest he’s ever felt to it , that he loves me more than any woman he has ever dated, I am the second woman he has said “I love you” to, but I am the first woman he means it with. He has a lot more experience dating that I have, but I have been in love once before, whereas this is his frist experience. Although there is no manual and last time I was dead wrong about “the love of my life”. Shouldn’t he know at 7 months if I am the one or not? I mean he’s 34….he’s been “shopping around ” for quite some time. What is the normal duration of time for one to know that ? I worry that I am wasting my time, I know i want to start a family young and that I can see myself with him. Sure it is normal to have reservations, but until when? I suppose I have some too, but they barley cross my mind anymore. He says his only doubts come from the aruguing, he worries we have so much fire/passion it would burn us. I understand his perspective but I seem to come from the belief that when you experience this type of moving love, you go with it, and the kinks will work themselves out as they are already working out organiclaly. I have no gut feeling as to end it or continue trying, but if at 34 years old, 7 months in a relationship with the first woman he really loves should I not concerned that he has doubts? Shouldn’t he have none?

  20. Eventhough I have known this in my heart, it’s good to read the research behind it and especially the stories others have commented.

    To most of you I should say though: the differences in many of your relationships seem very minor and not about core values, so don’t worry! Being a homebody or outgoing, it which kind of humor you prefer is not in my opinion an issue these elder ppl are talking about. Unless you are marrying a clone of yourself, there are bound to be done differences.

    But I wish I had listened to my heart when choosing my own spouse. It’s been a great ride, I don’t regret that, and in many ways I think marrying someone so different was a much needed experience for me. I have had to clarify my own values, learn to tallk about feelings, negotiate conflicting wishes, manage expectations and voice concerns in ways I would’ve never learned in a relationship with someone very similar. That is something to be very grateful for.

    It is only the different dreams about our future (realizing I want a life filled with friends and family, children, adventure and laughter – and he truly prefers a more peaceful, pondering existence where he can focus on his ambitious pursuits) that make me at times desperate. Differences are of course one thing but another is ability to compromise, and neither one of us likes to do that when it comes to our core beliefs, dreams and ideas. We both probably think this impasse would settle itself just fine if the OTHER person will just let go. And neither of us will. (:

    We’ll see how this turns out. The artsy hippie (wannabe-) mom and eccentric entrepreneur hermit union. Sigh.

  21. I truthfully think you should wait to find someone with a similar background.i have been married 11 hard years. My husband and I have similar view but our translation of how they play out is different. Head bothine to spend money and save but he never allows if we need something he ways rushed off to buy it… Including the kids logged and couches etc. when I was pregnant he waited until I was asleep at 8:30 and then went t his friends houses about 4 to 5 nights a week. He hls with the grocery shopping and loves disciplining and playing with the kids. He lacks compassion for women and can’t understand why I might need him around that it’s discouragibg when I wake up to take care of the children and he’s not at home. I am so distracted much of the time. I spoke to an. Boyfriend who said he hayesgling out to be with his friends at night and would love to go to bed at &:30 and read a. Book. I Always said that I was worried that he was a partyer and he promised to change. Well when the going got tough he went back to his old habits. He doesn’t drink to much but just needs to be out at his friends man camp. I hHis parents would never think this behavior was bad. And his parents don’t beleive in private schools which I went to. He’s only supportive of mr creative endeavors but not of my coaching which would actually make me money. So I im 41 and exhausted. I have four children. I adore them but I am in a marriage that is emotionally lonely. I love the kids but I would only ever marry someone with my exact background again.. The only thing helping me is my meditation practice otherwise I’m pretty miserable. Should Iea e him? He refuses to go to thereo?

  22. I might also add that intellectual conversation is extremely important because if you like watching ted talks and he likes fixing things when you have kids you’ll be doing different things in your rare free time. If you have a problem the likelihood that he’ll go to therapy will be low. Take it from me findsomeonetgTis your intellectual equal. Sorry for the typos from my phone. One more thing … I have to takemy extra money to sneak the kids piano lessons and my daughters lessons because he would only pay for sports…

  23. Maeve, thank you for your post. I posted previously (beginning of this chain) and although everything I say still holds true- he is hardworking, kind, fixer, lack of intellectual compatibility but that is not a huge deal breaker for me. But, since we moved in together, there have been some issues and doubts creeping up. 1) He is a partier. I’ve asked him about his values and FUN always comes up. Although I’d like to have fun, I feel like this was a true priority of mine in my early 20s. Of course having fun is important to let go and enjoy life, but I wouldn’t consider it my “priority” and there are other things I find more valuable, like improving myself. We got into some pretty big almost break up arguments because of his partying, and him just not changing. It took almost breaking up for him to start putting in more effort to party less and spend more time with me. 2) His immaturity. I worry that his indecisiveness could cause problems if we take our relationship further :/ . I am also indecisive and prone to anxiety, but I am also a go-getter, I definitely take initiative, plan, take control. He has not shown these qualities, and I have been in the driver’s seat for most of our big decisions- getaways, finding an apartment, etc. 3) He is not interested in going to therapy with me, I already go. I think this is sort of a differing value in that I value personal/emotional growth more than him (he values gaining skills, I value becoming a better person emotionally). 4) I start to wonder because of his immaturity and partying if someone more mature would be more well suited for me. I think having someone who carries more of their weight, or at least contributes more to big decisions with me, would take a lot of stress out of my life in the future. We’ve mostly many functioning as two independent people to this time, and it is starting to bother me. We are both 26, but I feel like I am moving faster than him in terms of maturity, I’ve always been a step ahead. So thanks Maeve for giving me perspective, although I feel for you in your situation :(. Relationships are really difficult. I think trying to appreciate what he does contribute, seeking out support from others, and attending therapy yourself to give yourself perspective on making a decision would be good things to do.

  24. Appreciate everyone’s honesty and willingness to share their situation. I’ve been having a rough go lately and everyone’s comments have really helped give me perspective. There are several women on here who mentioned wanting more intellectual conversation, so I thought it was only fair to let you know that there are men (or at least one man) that have the same issue and it will only eat at you more as time goes on.

    I’m a 20 something who is married to a woman who is wonderfully caring, kind, and frugal. She is a school teacher who I’m told all the time is so and so’s favorite teacher and parents lover her. We share similar values on many things, but she is laser focused in the sense that kids and early childhood education are the only things that she cares to talk about. For the first 3 years that we dated and the next 2 years of marriage everything was still new and exciting enough that we didn’t have many issues.

    For the last 8 months or so, the fact that she is oblivious to current events, enjoys teen fiction, and doesn’t know any of the presidential candidates has really started to eat at me. There are other issues, but this is definitely a big one. My background is more of a type A, workaholic, bookworm, so I’m not sure if I’m just being selfish and if the pros just don’t seem to outweigh the cons because this issue is at the fore, but either way the sense of shame and guilt at thinking about ending our marriage is impossible to explain.

    If any of you ladies with this issue are still reading these posts, let my situation be a cautionary tale. If it bothers you now, it will bother you long-term. Before taking the next step with your significant other, you need to search deep and be honest with yourself as to whether your 100% sure you’re okay with foregoing that intellectually stimulating conversation from your significant other. If it is a core value for you, I would think twice before compromising.

  25. Interesting thread. I must say though, that this applies also to men (there has only been women voicing it out!)

    @Rock and Hard Place, I have found myself in the same situation, except that I haven’t married this girl. She is the first woman I have ever courted. And so you can imagine, first cut is the deepest. So the thought of calling off the relationship is really a dreadful one. She is a wonderful Christian woman; very loving; generous; free-spirited; honest; we the same brand of humor, same taste in music, we have the same love languages… But we are not equally yoked intellectually. While her idea of a great evening is watching a sit-com, mine is having an engaging discussion that appeals to my intellectual appetite.

    I have been researching to try and find out how I can work around that. And one of the things I found is that I can have my intellectual appetites satisfied by other means such as having friends who are on the similar wavelength as me and realize that the main reason why I need to marry is to be loved and to love in return, to have someone I can come home to who cannot wait to see me after a long day… Which I totally value. But what makes the intellect issue a major is the fact that it encroaches into our important discussions. Discussions of matters that affect our relationship. She is rather too passive for my liking. A bit ignorant, actually. I believe one of the things that a spouse ought to do is to bring out and harness the other’s abilities. And so each time I say something that I perceive to be profound and she does not appreciate or value it, I kind of feel like she is trashing an antique collection piece, you know. Like when we are having a conversation, and I the conversation starts to take a more engaging route, and I start saying “deep” stuff, she just shuns it and changes the subject. And it is quite annoying.

    I know I am rambling on because I haven’t really had a chance to actually talk about this.

    So I am really hoping that there is a way to resolve this situation and find common ground. I am not the kind of guy who likes going in and out of relationships.

    I have made a list of the good and the bad. Thee is a lot of good. But the question is does it weigh as much?

    But then again, love isn’t self-centered. It is patient and long-suffering. “Love is a verb.” And that’s what should sustain the relationship.

    I don’t know…

  26. Love this article. I’ve been married for 17 years and have 3 gorgeous children. My husband is well liked, well respected, good job, good fun (sometimes), very sporty, nice looking…. but something has been niggling me throughout our married life and I’ve finally worked it out… we see different sides of the coin in pretty much everything and this results in bickering a lot and generally disagreeing with each other. It’s exhausting. It made me realise that if you and your partner see things similarly then you are likely to find life so much easier. The elders in the article know what they are talking about. When you start a relationship you think you have so much in common, same taste in music, you may both like dancing, you like the same people, you both think you want the same things in life, you have similar backgrounds. But you never ask yourself do you have the same perspective on things. Seventeen years on I realise our perspective is different on so many levels. And it’s frustrating because he is a lovely person and so am I and everyone thinks we are a perfect couple because on the surface we appear to be similar. But when we talk to each other it sometimes sounds as if we are talking a different language. He sees things differently – with respect to money, to travelling, to going out, to education, to kids bedtimes. So we clash a lot. If I was married to someone who thought and saw things similarly to me then our life would flow better, in the same direction. As it is, we are constantly locking horns about everything, big and small. Luckily we are aware that we have different perspectives and whereas before we would just argue and simply not understand how the other could be so unreasonable, now we are more aware of our differences so our marriage will endure. However if you are aware of differences now then fast forward your life 20 years and you will find that a life of constant disagreeing is no life at all. Better to be brave and start afresh – there will be someone out there who will see things the same way as you do and you will be far happier because of it.

  27. I am 28 years old and have been with my boyfriend (30) for just over a year now.
    When we first started dating we talked about what exactly we were looking for in our other half, and seem to have agreed on most things. We also share the same values when it comes to religion, both adore our families and come from loving homes and we share a love for many of the same things. We make each other laugh and can talk for hours.
    Lately we have gone through a few rough patches. We live about a 4 hour drive from each other and currently take turns to drive over the weekends.
    The conflict is normally due to the fact that I think I am mentally further into this relationship than he is. I am at a point where I have changed my views from there being a ” u and an i” to an us, I compromise, I sacrifice and I support him. I’m at a point where I want to start talking about marriage and maybe possibly getting engaged at some point this year. Our aspiration differences and his selfishness has now become a problem, he is so focused on his career and Its starting to seem like that and his own family is all that is truly 100% important to him. He has also recently told me that his firm is giving them the opportunity to work at the company’s branch abroad for a few months if they wanted to go. And he is considering it.Where does this leave me? He says it doesn’t change anything in his eyes. But I am a woman, and I cant wait forever to start my life! I think I deserve to be chosen as a priority

  28. My love broke up 6 months ago and left me heartbroken, this made me sick and my problem became very very difficult and it made me almost gave up but after the love spell from Robinson Buckler, my relationship was restored instantly, I was happy that the outcome was fantastic, only 3 days after [Robinson.buckler @ yahoo . com] started it all. Never in my life have I thought this would work so fast. My man reconcile with me and he started acting completely different, we make love everyday (last weekend, we did it 8 times in total!). Now I can say that Robinson’s spells work! I can now say I feel happy once again, and like never before. It felt so good to have my lover back again, Thanks to Robinson………………………………………

  29. Melanie, I was in the same boat as you with my ex, except our relationship started when I was 32. I kept waiting for him to put me first and want to commit to me, and giving everything to our relationship, for 3 years, and he kept leading me on. Until one day he broke up with me out of the blue and it destroyed me. I was 35 and I deeply regret wasting so much time waiting for him to decide. My advice is to put yourself first.

  30. Hello friends! My Name is Amanda Stephen from Canada I have had a lot about Dr Ajaguna on his good work, for bringing back lost relationship but I never believe because so many spell caster scam me because of my husband who left me and three kids over a year and two months. so a good friend of mine introduce me to Dr Ajaguna just because my condition was so bad and the responsibility in my matrimonial home was more than me. my husband left me to another woman just because I don’t have male child for him. so I email Dr Ajaguna and told him everything, he told me not to worry that my husband will come back and I will have a male child for him. he only told me to believe on him that after casting the spell my husband will come back immediately and beg for forgiveness. he really did it for me and my husband come back to me in the next two days. I was very happy and thanks DR Ajaguna. And I then told Dr Ajaguna that I will start shearing his testimony to every one in the world if he make me to have a male child for my husband. And he also did it. As am shearing this testimony to everyone out there, that am with my new bouncy baby boy. now I believe that I am the happiest woman on earth because Dr Ajaguna restore my life in my matrimonial home you can thank him for me or email him for urgent help in any bad situation I promise you he will also help you. (

  31. I’m 62, widowed after a 32 marraige, and considering marrying another widower 8 years older. I may seem old to many of you, but the issues are the same at any age. Except with age comes experience and a bit of learning along the way. My late husband was very bright, the intellectual interaction was definitely there, and I totally loved him. But it was a rocky marraige too many times, due to some differences in core values. We were polar opposites I believe. I’d do it all over again – with him – but not with another man like him, so different from me. Too much conflict. Is there an intellectually stimulating age appropriate available man out there who’s also a lot like me? Haven’t met him yet…and don’t expect to.. The man I am in a relationship with now is a lot more like me, we’re even the same Myers – Briggs. And smart, but not as smart as my husband was – or my father for that matter. I confess I struggle with this sometimes, I think strong intellect is a core value of mine. He is smart in other ways though, and musically talented, which melts my heart. No one is perfect, including me! He has many wonderful qualities and we get along easily. We just have to take ppl as they are, they won’t change, and decide if we can love them and be happy with them as they are, and if so, then be good and loving to them.

  32. yaa now i see i am not the only one,i am dating a guy divorced and he has got two kids.He is very loving , caring ,supportive and realy hard working.The issue is we dnt match intelectualy ,i m the think tank he is the doer,i love his kids but m worried that will he be abe to impart the zeal to learn to his children since he has the strongest bond with them.personaly i want cool kids a kid whom i know i ave groomed to stand against the world,would that happen if he is falling to upgrade himself

  33. I am 60 and was divorced last year after a long marriage. I would love a new long-term relationship. My ex and I had much in common in core values and mutual interests at the beginning. Also we had a very growing, intellectual, spiritual, and loving relationship at one time. Though it was rocky at some points. But I overlooked a few things when marrying him. Our upbringings were harsh so emotionally we were stunned. I think I didn’t really understand what I needed or everything that was important to have in a marriage or how a man thought or needed either. Several things changed including how he managed money and he stopped growing with me. He wasn’t interested in nurturing the relationship anymore and I was tired of holding it together.
    But I have learned that people can change and you don’t have any control over that. I read the book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. It is an excellent book; I wished I had read it years ago. I don’t know if it would have improved my marriage as it takes two to grow. It is very valuable and everyone should read it in my opinion. Now I find that the most important traits (besides the most obvious ones like honesty, fidelity and being financially stable) are being affectionate, attentive, 100% invested, good communication, having mutual friends including people of different races and religions; and willing to do a little traveling. I read a book about how to tell if you should pursue a relationship just after 2 dates. What it comes down to is- Writing down ten things you have to have in a relationship and ten thing you cannot tolerate in relationship. And then make sure you don’t give up any of the ten things you have to have or the relationship would eventually dissolve. It is an old book called, “How to Know if someone Is Worth Pursuing in Two dates or less. Neil C. Warren.

  34. This is a great article and I’m glad to have stumbled upon it. Actually I’m going through something right now where I’m in a relationship and thought it would be leading to marriage, that’s the plan. But the disagreements though don’t seem to be serious are very frequent and frustrating. And I’m wondering if I want to spend the rest of my life asking him did you really need another (whatever) right now? We have bills, we have rent, we have basic things that need to be taken care of and still he doesn’t think twice before blowing money on the next shiny new toy. And then, if that’s not bad enough, he doesn’t seem to care very much about things once he buys them. He will buy a tool for exsmple, a drill and we have no immediate need for it. Sure it’s nice to have in case but we could put that money to something we do need. And so it sits in the closet but when a time does come to let’s say fix a cabinet the cord is missing cause he used it for something else now we can’t find it, the drill bits are missing, and he wants to go buy another one. I’m like :[ frustrated… It sounds dumb but it drives me crazy. If I spend any money on myself its something j need, or that we can both use, and I take care of so that it lasts and I won’t need a new one. I have things still that I got 10 years ago that work fine and in fact I think better than the new stuff out today. His carelessness just overwhelms me sometimes and I’ve been trying to be as convincing as I can when I say ‘oh that’s awesome!’ When he comes home with his new 50 dollar electronic cigarette after losing the last 4 he bought, keeping each about 2 weeks on average, but its really starting to get to me where I feel depressed after he does this. I feel he doesn’t care about the goals we have together, he is not a bad guy, I love him. But I don’t understand why he can’t hold onto money without spending it on unnecessary things. Its affecting my ability to trust Jim now. Thanks for letting me vent. Anyways great advice. I’ve got to talk to him about these things. 🙂

  35. Colleen, that sounds like a difficult situation. I have not been incompatible to the extreme on that sort of thing with anyone, so I can’t say from experience. But I know that sort of thing can really cause rifts between couples, it might be something worth going to counseling over to work through a compromise.

    As a follow up to my previous posts… my boyfriend and I broke up. In the end it was due to incompatibility issues in terms of mainly maturity – also we lacked a deeper intellectual connection and couldn’t really get past a certain point in communication. He was a very sweet guy and good person, but I know there is someone out there that I’d be more compatible with.

    Fortunately, we were pretty similar economically ((although we didn’t share income other than bills for our shared house)). I could see how big differences could really force a wedge between couples. We actually made similar amounts of money and were both frugal, but in terms of spending I only want to spend on experiences and him only toys. (are all men the same in that respect? ha ha).

  36. Haha, I decided to do a search for an article on how differences in core values don’t really matter but found this article instead of what I was hoping to find. My wife and I have very different core values, but I have never really stopped loving her. The difference in one key area is that she cannot compromise on any of her core values, while I struggle hard to accommodate her needs over my own. It’s funny how things work, I’m in the divorce process by the way, not of my volition, but rather my wife’s… she requested a divorce through a text message of all things while I was away on a trip. If everyone’s personality were based on natural elements, mine would be water in that I’m very fluid and easy-going. Her’s would be metal or stone, something hard and stubborn, uncompromising and controlling. Even though I’m able to accept her flaws, she isn’t able to accept mine. In the end, the deal breaker was because she could not adapt to differing core values, while I’ve constantly tried to change myself to fit her mold, it was never enough because no one is perfect and you can’t expect someone to change who they are just because you married them. Better to be who you are from the start instead of pretending to be someone you’re not to gain his attention. I’ve always been myself before and after marriage, because I’ve always wanted my partner to know me just as I am to her. Apparently, this wasn’t a mutual view as she pretended to be someone else so I would marry her. That said, I have never stopped loving her even now as she continues to insist that she is the victim, while assassinating my character on social media.

  37. I think that my husband didn’t really want children. He agreed to have them but didn’t take much of a interest in them except to play with them when they were very little. I think he resented them. I was also naive when marrying. I thought our relationship would get closer and better over the years. not. I see now that I ignored a sign that he wouldn’t be attentive at the beginning. Seemed like he was always obsessed about something and our relationship was always on the back burner. There was also several years of me not feeling well and then his daughter died which took about five years. Then he went back to drinking in the end. Found a girlfriend shortly after he moved out. I just got the feeling that he didn’t really want to put the effort into a loving relationship. He wouldn’t sacrifice enough of his time to even do small things to make me feel valued. We both bought baggage into the relationship but the drinking and girlfriend killed any chances of reconciliation. I do believe that there are others out there that would be a better match for me now that I have gotten over the shock.

  38. I am married and after 7 years still very much in love, though I’ve sacrificed so much to be married to him that I’m becoming resentful and deeply unhappy. I’ve always had trouble getting out of relationships, even very bad ones. I think I don’t put my own happiness first. My husband doesn’t value or understand money, doesn’t value family time or couple time, and has never seemed to care about my happiness. He’s chosen a dangerous career where he works many nights, weekends, and holidays – all for very little pay. Yet, he has an exceptional memory for names, obscure medical terms, places, history, etc. and always received straight a’s all through high school and most of college. He works 50 -60 hours a week. When we had a baby 4 years ago, his schedule forced me to quit my dream job in order to save our marriage since we never saw each other. I’ve tried to convince him to work less, but the fact is now that I’m not working,we need the money. We had to rent out our house, give our dog to his parents, and move in with my parents. We have one car and no savings. Meanwhile, he has done NOTHING to find a better job. He lives moment to moment. He always says he loves his job and that it’s my fault I quit mine and my fault we’re so poor, not his. He also thinks I’ll always be unhappy no matter what the situation is. I think he doesn’t understand how little he earns and how low his prospects are if he stays there compared to what someone with his IQ should earn. I’ve asked him many times find a new job or pack up and leave but he never does. I’m at the point where I might leave him – though I’ll have to find a good job fast to survive. But he should leave. This is my parents house!!!

  39. i read this beacuse i`m strugling with my relationship. This has not been mentioned, but my bf is 4 years younger than me(20,24). Never bothered me, but cant be ignored because I graduated and he started collage, so those are 2 different parts of life.
    but, to side all that, we realy love eachother, he wants to work on any problem and is often more mature person in relationship, calms me and we are happy together.
    Lately it seams that all problems in his life come from his familly, that appears perfect, but is very disfunctional. (money, and dealing with problems with alcohol) Now that i became the person he comes to and tells his problems – I cant handle it. I feel selfish now and dont know how to talk to him , that I cant be like this anymore.
    The worst thing is that i realise that he comes from this place, sees this rolemodels all the time, and he will live with them for few years for sure, I cant stop imagining our life like that. I dont want to spend years fighting for him not to become his dad/mom.
    family defines many core values, and I think it ruins greatest loves.
    (sorry for my spelling, not native english)
    just needed to share. All best to everyone

  40. i am in a relationship for four years and a half now, we had struggles, ups and Downs, had a breakup in the half and retearned again, at the first there was a spark and i didn’t give attention for differences because i thought i loved her and it was supposed to be without reasons (more like movies though :D) but after one year i realized we are totally different, i’m the type of intellectual person who love to develop himself and have good conversations ,i am always positive, i like to try new things, i like my friends and go out and have fun, while she was kinda the opposite she don’t like to learn new things, always steps behind intellectually and like sitting posting on Facebook only, and most of the time negative.. although she is very caring and love me..

    I wanted to seperate but i was too coward to take the action, i cheated on her multiple times since i don’t enjoy her company as we were, we have gone through hard times, and here i come at this moment, i took a decision i must break up because it’s exhausting to me , i am sure i will find my other half somewhere but i can’t get rid of the guilt feeling , since i feel i am the man and i have the responsibility of making things work out, she was loyal all along and love me a lot and technically i cheated on her so i am suposed to be the mean one, and she forgived me for that, i kinda feel sad for her since she loves me and she cries if we don’t talk or anything like break up, i feel she is a wonderful woman but just not for me, any help out there for this conflict inside me?
    How to turn things right without feeling so guilty?

  41. I’m Elijah and I have a relationship problem that since my first love and I don’t fit have left a huge void in my heart and I never love anyone but until over a year now when I met this girl that I grow fond of her at first soon I began to be in love with her but the hurtful thing is that she is in a relationship with another. She also at first seems to like me a lot. It seems because of her bad relationship with her boyfriend. Now her relationship is worked out and it really crushed me. The most painful thing is that she came to me and ask help from me and after I prayed for her God seems to restore her relationship. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I saw her she relate with me quite well and happy talking to me. I just love her so much and I saw her to be the one for me. She shared with me some of her secrets which she never share with anyone and somehow I can relate to her easily with those issues she have. I am struggling to see pass her and hope for another because she supersede the first girl I love. She is way up there above all girls. We have many things in common but why does to be together have to be this complicated?. I am a guy but she made me cry.

  42. I used to think that being different people made the relationship exciting but three years later it is starting to take a toll on my happiness. I am constantly asking myself whether this is the person I want to spend my life with and tbh I don’t know the answer to that anymore. I love him with all my heart but I feel like I am outgrowing him. I am very career driven just graduated university and on my way up the career ladder whereas he is 7 years older than me with no formal qualifications and an entry level labouring job. When I get home from work I want to have intellectual conversations and am excited to share what happened during the day. He would listen but it would go right over his head and he will say “oh yeh well anyways today…” And start talking about something else. It just discourages me so much. Before I used to be fine with him finishing a work week and having a beer with the boys but now a week finishes and I want to have a quiet night at home with him but he is still adamant on spending time with the boys and having a beer. I am over it I just feel like I really need someone on my level. We are similar in every other way, culture, sense of humour, family and religious values but it’s other things that get me down and make me question the relationship. I don’t think this comment has any structure at all complete brain fart but anyway. I would like to hear about anyone’s experience who has bitten the bullet and chosen to accept a difference and if it actually helps or whether you are better off finding someone more compatible?

  43. I am so glad i stumbled over this post.
    My boyfriend is 17 years older than me. We dated for 3 months. and then i broke it off because i hardly ever saw him( lives 3 hours away and is full time uni + work). 2 months later we got back together. All was well but i threatened to break if off 3 months later and he begged me to give him a chance and wait till he graduated then he would have more time for me.( Mind you before him i had been single for 6 years waiting for Mr right so i was expecting a full blown romance i guess).
    We are very different and similar in someways… like we share same humour some core values and some not….
    including the break ups we have been seeing each other for 11 months but i still havent met any of his friends or children? Should i be concerned?
    He hasnt met any of mine either( i have never had a serious relationship myself so i have never introduced a boyfriend to friends and family….

  44. Thanks.
    Wish I’d had this advice 7 years ago. I married someone with a different religion, different political views and different values on money, family, and work. I thought the same views on honesty and loyalty were important but I struggle every day because one thing we both agree on is keeping commitments. I also don’t want to be alone

  45. “Marriage as a long conversation. – When marrying you should ask yourself this question: do you believe you are going to enjoy talking with this person into your old age? Everything else in a marriage is transitory, but most of the time that you’re together will be devoted to conversation.” Neitzsche

    Research Meyer-Briggs Personality Types. Intuitives need to marry other Intuitives. In my experience, Intuitives and Sensors will never truly be fulfilled together.
    I was in a similar situation to many of you. I was with a wonderful man with similar core values who would do anything to make me happy, but he didn’t share my desire for intellectual conversations and self-growth. When I chose to leave, I told myself that I may never again find another man as good as this one, and asked myself if I was certain. I was. I have never regretted it. Life is long. I have watched too many people become a shell of who they were by staying too long with someone who wasn’t right.

    Research has shown:
    1. The importance of authenticity in relationships
    2. That authenticity is defined as feeling that you can be your BEST self with the other person.

    “I used to think the worst thing in life is to end up alone. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” Robin Williams

  46. Allie: I think I agree with your comment. My parents and my brother are all high intuitives. I’m at the 98% intuitive. My husband, on the other hand, is sensing and I’m rarely interested in talking to him. I can’t seem to help it. I try SO hard! We obviously were into each other the first two years. But now I yawn. I look away. He also doesn’t like talking to me much. I lecture him often about “active listening” and give him reasons to pursue personal growth. All to no avail. Sometimes, we can talk about politics. We agree completely on politics, values, morals, and religion. We have the same interests and hobbies to some extent. And, mostly I chose him because he gets along well with almost everyone and is a happy-go-lucky person. He doesn’t express his love well, but I know he feels it. So, mostly it’s all fine and I’m not sure if it’s worth striking out on my own simply because he isn’t intuitive. Though I have though MUCH about it, especially shortly after our wedding. I’ve never dated or known many intuitive men other than relatives. The few I have known, I’ve really liked immediately.

    But, since I’m highly intuitive, I believe in dreams, signs, and premonition. It’s hard being married to someone who doesn’t at all. He doesn’t because he’s never felt it or anything spiritual or had a gut feeling. So much is missing because of that, I know. We’re more like utilities or furniture to each other sometimes and have to actively try to avoid it by forcing ourselves to talk to each other. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to pull out teeth, it’s so hard. I had to TEACH him to say hello and kiss me when he comes home and to have conversations with me. He avoids me a lot – or just forgets to pay me any attention. He prefers to watch movies and garden. And, in fact, sometimes forget to talk to him too. I like him physically, certainly, and like his hobbies. I like that he’s smart and funny, happy and committed to work. And yet, there a constant feeling that something I deeply desire, that I MUST HAVE is missing in our marriage and I never can’t quite reach it no matter how much I try and work on improving myself and our conversations.

    On the other hand, I can and sometimes will stay up until 3 a.m. just talking to my brother about psychology, personality types, reading people’s minds, and personal growth because I CANNOT tear myself away (I’m usually in bed by 9, so I don’t like staying up late). Conversations with my brother come so easily. I wish I had that with my husband. I think you’re right and it would make all the difference, not that I plan to leave him over this any time soon. He such a good person in every single way except for this so leaving him seems like a strange choice. Except for that deep feeling that something I need isn’t there. That he’s borderline boring to me because he isn’t intuitive. It’s very weird.

  47. Allison,
    I hope you get this post. I’m in the same position! You said it all. I cannot add any more. It’a as if I wrote this post myself, except we are not married. Though I hate you have to endure an unfulfilling relationship, it is good to know I am not alone.

  48. I wish this article would have spoke on people having kids trying to connect with people who don’t. I wish one person they questioned would have spoke on their relationship having outside kids and how it effected their marriage.

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