Brains: How intelligent do you want your partner to be? Do you want someone with whom you can have intellectually stimulating conversations, or do you feel threatened by someone who seems to “know it all”?
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Status: Is it important that you be from the same social circle? If you lead a life of dinner parties and theater, and your partner has never ventured beyond the local cineplex, you may find that your interests are just too divergent to find common ground.
Religion: If you and your partner are from different religious backgrounds, you may find yourself having conflicts during the holidays, with your families, and in raising children. If you are not very observant, you may be willing to let your partner have the upper hand in deciding religious matters, But if your religion is important to you, think long and hard before hooking up with someone who doesn’t share the same views.
Politics: Although Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver managed to maintain an apparently successful marriage despite vastly different political backgrounds, (until another issue pulled them apart) this is certainly an exception to the rule. Your political ideals say a lot about your views on social issues, government regulation, the environment, and so many other things. If your politics don’t “mesh,” you may find yourself arguing about major life issues.
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Culture: Sue's family is from Korea. Jane's fiancé, Jose, is from a boisterous Mexican family. When Sue and Jose took both their parents out to dinner, it was disastrous. Sue's parents were appalled by the way Jose's parents talked so loudly in the restaurant and joked around with the waiter. Jose's parents found Sue’s parents to be “stuffy” and too “stiff” for their tastes. Sue and Jose are always going to be dealing with this “culture clash” at future family gatherings.
Common interests: How important is it to you that your partner and you do everything together? If your boyfriend loves football and you can’t stand it, will you start to resent how much time he spends in front of the television during football season?
When considering a long-term relationship, these issues can become critical in determining whether you will succeed in building a lasting partnership. It’s important to clarify in your mind what you can really “live with” in a partner who you hope will be in your life for a very long time. Major differences in these areas can become divisive sources of tension in a relationship. You can prevent this from happening by giving plenty of thought to the qualities you want in your future partner, and not compromising by settling for less.