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.
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? But first, let’s take a look at conventional wisdom. Look at Romeo and Juliet coming from two perpetually feuding families.
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 elders’ advice, however, is that alignment of values are precisely what we should look for if we want a long, happy marriage.
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.