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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).

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.

Dave Meurer Unfortunately, some people use very strange criteria in making their decision about who to marry. How often have you heard someone say, “I’m getting married because I found my soul mate”? The risk of thinking otherwise is that when you believe you have found “marry that person.

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. 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.

Based on their long experiences both in and out of romantic relationships, the fundamental lesson is this: 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!

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’s based this time on compatibility and understanding one another’s values. 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?

We came to the point where we asked: ‘What’s the point of this?