Which would you prefer: a meaningful personal relationship or a meaningless impersonal relationship?
If you wish the first, you would do well to choose someone with whom you have a lot in common. If the latter, you will more likely choose someone with whom you feel an instant attraction but little in common.
Familiarity produces an initial feeling of comfort. You are comfortable in a person’s presence when you are both playing the same game by the same rules. When you know what to do and what the other person’s gestures mean, you will feel like you are in the presence of a friend.
While this does not produce immediate sexual stimulation, it is essential to a sustained relationship. You will usually have a much harder time sharing your life with someone who feels like a stranger. And people feel like strangers when they are, culturally speaking, strangers. All of the world's feeling-sharing is not going to overcome the divide that exists between people who come from completely different cultural worlds.
When you meet someone with whom you have very little in common, you will feel somewhat in danger. The feeling of being threatened seems to produce an adrenaline rush that is stimulating and exciting. Apparently, it also produces feelings that seem to denote sexual arousal.
After all, when you have no other way of communicating effectively, you are more likely to fall back on the default position and connect using the universal language of sex: you will hook up.
In the long term, you will have a great difficulty sustaining your attraction to danger. It is simply too tiring. If you fail to establish a social connection your sexual attraction will eventually disappear.
Or, so it seems.
Speaking of personality traits, Christorpher Beam reports: “Someone who at first seemed spontaneous begins to seem irresponsible and flaky. That quiet and mysterious person appears brooding and isolated. What was once gregariousness becomes never shutting up.” Link here.
Beam explains that common interests are the basis for a durable relationship: “It's an established tenet of social psychology that similarities rather than differences—whether in attitude, personality, age, income, race, or religion—produce a lasting relationship…. People from different religious backgrounds might want to raise children in different traditions, or those from disparate economic backgrounds might clash on the importance of education. Agreement, meanwhile—whether on movies, restaurants, religion, or favorite romantic comedies—produces positive emotions and more fruitful relationships.”
He continues: “When couples begin with a great deal in common, they tend to work to have more in common: “Not only is like attracted to like, like becomes more like like over time. In other words, similar people become more similar once they enter a relationship…. When two people start dating, they start to see similarities in each other—even if those similarities don't exist. For example, if you think of yourself as intelligent, you're likely to start seeing your partner as intelligent, too. People want to make relationships work, after all, so they look for common ground.”
Of course, belong to different cultures is not the same as belonging to different genders.
Belonging to a different culture makes you a stranger. Belonging to a different gender does not, except in the sense that you belong to a different family.
Different families from the same neighborhood are not as different as different families from different parts of the world.
In all cases, our task is to bridge cultural divides. It is not enough to learn, in a multicultural way, to respect those who have different customs, manners, and values. If we are going to get along, we need to establish a common cultural ground.
Cultural differences can only be bridged by having each party adopt a single set of customs, manners, and values. Normally, those are going to be the mores that define the dominant culture.
In our modern world, where many of us live in great cosmopolitan metropolises, we are constantly being called upon to accommodate people from different cultures. It takes time to adapt, and we are generally sympathetic to those who are working to do so.
And yet, relationship studies suggest that there is a limit to how much people are able to adapt. Diversity is inevitable in the modern workplace and in a world defined by free trade and global communications.
But, when it comes to romance and marriage, to long term relationships, one does best to find a partner with whom one has more, not less, in common.
Familiarity does not breed contempt. It helps to sustain family ties. It’s not an accident that the words are etymologically connected.