Selecting and keeping a partner in love and romance is a little like choosing a political running mate; you want someone who balances the ticket. The differences of strengths between you and your mate bring new skills, ideas and talents to your team.
Here's your self-help ticket to creating a balanced relationship ticket:
1. Agree on the big stuff.
The Democrats and Republicans may talk about big tent philosophies, but they don't ignore their party platforms. "Sharing core values provides a foundation of mutual interest for a good relationship," says Kevin Gogin, a marriage, family and child counselor in San Francisco.
Core values include everything from religious orientation to views on child-raising and life philosophies.
Who's neat or messy has nothing to do with core values, explains Carol Kaplan, a marriage and family counselor in Monterey, Calif. It's like Felix and Oscar of Odd Couple fame. They get on each other's nerves, but they agree on underlying politics, morals and ethics.
2. Discuss issues together.
Specialization in a relationship is terrific. But it only works so long as you include your partner in decision-making.
3. Enjoy togetherness and separateness.
Couples with children know about specialization. He does the laundry; she watches the kids. But your differences may even affect leisure time. When your spouse has to attend a networking event with business associates on a Friday night, resist the temptation to tag along.
4. Throw guilt and resentment out the window.
Your partner cooks, cleans and does the dishes. You take out the trash. Before you feel guilty, look at the big picture. You also fix things around the house, oversee contractors and run the broken cars to the shop. Are you both happy with this arrangement? Talk about it.
If there is an imbalance, real or perceived, someone is going to feel resentful. Bring those feelings out in the open.
5. Don't try to change your partner.
It's a mistake, Gogin says, to assume you share values with your partner if they've never been expressed. It is also unwise to hold out hope for a miraculous change in your significant other. If he's a heavy drinker who stays out late, don't expect his behavior to change after you marry.
Negotiation is the alternative to change, says Kaplan. Your partner can learn to wash every dish he uses, even if deep down he'd rather let them pile up in the sink. That's called a concession, not a change.
In the end, you may appreciate those quirky personality differences. The neatnik may need to loosen up, and the slob may need to straighten up. If you form a well-balanced ticket, you will always have something to learn from each other.