Saturday, May 21, 2011

What's the most critical coupling compatibility factor?

I've always been interested in the dynamics of what helps a couple stay together. (Mike and I have been married for almost 21 years now, and both of us come from parents with intact marriages, a fairly rare record in this day and age.) Research such as that done by John Gottman in his marriage lab at the University of Washington (and his book, The Seven Principles that Make Marriage Work) fascinates me. What makes couples stay together through the difficult (and mundane) parts of their marriage?

My parents on their wedding day, almost 50 years ago
According to a new study by Rice University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, shared political views might be the best indicator of a successful relationship. After the researchers studied the physical, personality, and behavioral traits of more than 5,000 married couples, they scored various qualities (body shape, weight, religion, ideology).

The study found that people prefer to be with partners who share their social and political views, and in fact, similar political opinions took precedence over personality or looks. Only one thing scored higher than political views: the frequency of church attendance.

This does not surprise me at all. I've always found it difficult to imagine being with someone whose political, spiritual, and moral views veered dramatically from my own. So much of who we are is made visible in how we see and relate to the world and each other (made manifest in those political, spiritual, and moral views).

"...people place more emphasis on finding a mate who is a kindred spirit with regard to politics, religion ,and social activity than they do on finding someone of like physique or personality," John Alford, associate professor and the study's lead author. "It suggests that, perhaps, if you're looking for a long-term romantic relationship, skip 'What's your sign?' and go straight to 'Obama or Palin?' And if you get the wrong answer, just walk away," added Alford.

Maybe this explains the breakup between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. But last I checked, Mary Matalin and James Carville are still together.

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