Similarity is often assumed to be critical to a long-term relationship. In the movies of the 1940s and 1950s, good, solid relationships were often based on shared upbringing (usually in a small town) and common values and backgrounds. The typical couple had been “childhood sweethearts” or even the girl or boy “next door.” Certainly, the prototypic couple consisted of two people from the same racial background. Mixed marriages were obviously not going to work. Members of the successful couple also came from the same socio-economic class and usually the same religion. Many tragic movies concerned young men and women who fell in love with someone above or below their class (the prince and the showgirl, the princess and the valet). While some of these movies told the message that “love conquers all” and that ultimately socio-economic class is unimportant (at least in a free society), they inevitably described a difficult courtship in which many barriers both internal to the couple and externally-imposed made for a difficult (though usually very passionate and dramatically appealing) relationship.
The Third Myth
The third myth in 21st Century relationships concerns compatibility between the two members of a couple. The reality concerning compatibility seems to be quite different from that conveyed in the movies. First of all, most men and women describe themselves as being more different than similar to their mates. Those similarities that are reported by couples generally refer not to current or enduring personality characteristics, but rather to shared goals and aspirations. Furthermore, there are shifts over time with regard to similarities and differences. Partners in an enduring successful relationship are likely to be different from each other early in their relationship, having fallen in love, in essence, with their opposite (what Jung calls the “shadow”) or with the cross-gender image or “archetype” (identified as the male “animus” and female “animal, by Jung) that resides within themselves.