1. Builder and Director
This was the most popular combination (25 percent of the couples in our sample), which is interesting because each type brings such different qualities to the relationship. Both share a loyalty to home and family, so the Builder is likely to admire the Director's ingenuity, competence, and workaholism. And the Director, who is less socially skilled, may be particularly drawn to the Builder's charm and ability to provide a social life. In addition, the Director may find the Builder's need to uphold traditions comforting, while the Builder values the Director's decisiveness.
Any friction in this couple is likely to occur around relating to others. Because Directors tend to shy away from routine social commitments, they may feel annoyed by the Builder's drive to nurture extensive networks of companions and colleagues. Conversely, Builders probably find the Director's aloofness frustrating at times. In fact, according to our survey, Builders in these couples were more likely to say their partners "never" or "rarely" satisfied their "deepest psychological needs" (23 percent versus 10 percent for Directors). Diverging interests in sex might also be an issue for this couple. When asked, "Is sex an important part of your marriage?" the Director was more than twice as likely to say "always" (36 percent) as the Builder (15 percent). This isn't surprising considering that Directors express more testosterone, which is associated with sexuality for both genders, and Builders' high levels of serotonin can dampen the sex drive. Even so, when it comes to feeling "in love" with their spouse, Directors are far more likely to say they do (44 percent) than Builders (28 percent); Directors are also the ones to agree, "If I could marry again, I'd marry the same person" (45 percent versus 32 percent). Bottom line, this is a strong pair for raising good citizens of tomorrow.
2. Builder and Negotiator
This is another promising and popular combination. The Builder's dedication to home and family life is shared by the Negotiator, who—unlike the Director—is socially skilled and inclined to connect with others. Both are naturally quite nurturing, loyal, and dependable. They each also have a proclivity for religious faith or spirituality, a need to help others, and a deep belief in moral behavior. As for their differences, they can complement each other nicely: The Builder is most likely drawn to the Negotiator's enthusiasm, creativity, and flexibility, and the Negotiator is grounded by the Builder's orderliness and ability to meet deadlines.
There are downsides. Builders are likely to become irritated by what they consider their partner's self-absorption and idealism. Meanwhile the Negotiator can long for more depth and meaning in the relationship and come to find the Builder's lack of passion and romance disappointing. When asked, "Does your partner satisfy your deepest psychological needs?" significantly fewer Negotiators said "always" or "often" (55 percent) than Builders (75 percent). Also, not surprisingly, the tenderhearted Negotiator has a lot more respect for the way the frugal Builder partner "handles money" than the Builder has for the Negotiator's more casual financial style (51 percent versus 30 percent).
3. Director and Director
Although a rare match (only 7 percent of our couples), these mates no doubt see eye-to-eye—and each lets the other pursue his or her goals. Two Directors are likely to enjoy their time together immensely, talking earnestly and in great detail about their interests. They are both logical, focused, exacting, critical, and competitive, and neither is terribly interested in casual social engagements. Moreover, they probably share a deep trust in and respect for each other.
The pitfall is likely to be time. Both are workaholics. And neither is socially skilled. So they can fall into a pattern of barely spending time together and misunderstanding each other when they do. I hadn't predicted this, but male Directors seem to have some dissatisfaction when it comes to sex: Only 24 percent of them say their partners are sensitive to their sexual needs, while over half the females (51.5 percent) say that's the case.
4. Builder and Builder
As the exception to the rule that people are drawn to genetic types different from their own, this couple has great strength, precisely because Builders are enormously interested in family stability. In fact, this is such a fine match for raising children, I suspect Mother Evolution gave Builders a trait to overcome their potential boredom with one another: They thrive on predictability.
Women in these marriages seem particularly content. The female Builder is more likely than the male to say her spouse is sensitive to her sexual needs (38 percent compared to 19 percent) and respects her (57 percent versus 35 percent); she's also more likely to admire the way her husband handles money than vice versa (44 percent versus 28 percent). The main downside of the couple is that while Builders make a powerful team when they agree, they can lock horns if they don't. Still, I would guess that this combination is the least likely of all marriages to part company.
5. Builder and Explorer
Only a small number (6 percent) of our respondents were this kind of couple. Almost polar opposites, the responsible, family-focused Builder may feed off the Explorer's energy and sense of adventure and fun; and alternately, Explorers undoubtedly benefit from their partner's calm, cautious nature, their pragmatism, security, and sexual fidelity. Moreover, Builders have an opportunity to care for someone, while Explorers get a chance to amuse and charm, to make their partner laugh and shed life's burdens.
But each will likely have complaints. The financially practical Builder may sense that the far less frugal Explorer is trying to undermine his or her drive to behave sensibly. Meanwhile, the Explorer may feel stifled by all the rules and schedules that the Builder constructs—wanting to push off and do new things while the Builder prefers to see old friends or follow traditions. When asked, "How often do you feel bored in your relationship?" the Explorer was more than twice as likely to say "sometimes" than the Builder (41 percent versus 17 percent). Fortunately, with the Explorer's easygoing tolerance and the Builder's determination, this match can work.
6. Negotiator and Explorer
This is the only type of marriage for whom no particular problems came up in our survey. But there were so few of these couples (only 4 percent), the data might be misleading. I'd venture to say that the Negotiator's traits—enthusiasm, morality, empathy, insight, and imagination—all appeal to the Explorer, who probably also values his or her win-win attitude and interest in the big picture. But the Explorer could easily become impatient with, even cynical about, the Negotiator's spiritual quests and constant desire to delve into the psychological underpinnings of the relationship. And although Negotiators are captivated by the Explorer's impromptu adventures and romantic drama, they may never fully accept their partner's genuine need for autonomy and freedom. In fact, the Negotiator is likely to long for more intimacy. As to how these two might overcome their differences, I can only guess that the Negotiator's deep need for harmony and the Explorer's tolerance—along with their shared flexibility and mutual craving for romance—enable both to sustain their positive illusions about each other.
7. Negotiator and Director
This was the second most common combination in our sample (18 percent of couples), and I can see why. Although Negotiators and Directors are extremely different, they think alike. Both are abstract and creative, and turned on by books and ideas. Both like to talk at length and in detail about their insights. And they bring complementary skills to their conversations as well as to other parts of their lives. While the Negotiator tends to see the large picture, the Director focuses on a smaller piece of the world. Also, because Negotiators live in a complex inner world full of options and ethical knots, they appreciate the Director's directness and decisiveness, not to mention technical prowess and ability to provide. On the flip side, the Director is drawn to the Negotiator's warmth and insight into people.
The problems arise when the Negotiator begins to construe the Director's aloofness and any preoccupation with work as being thoughtless and indifferent. And when accused of not caring, the self-contained Director can feel misunderstood. Sex could be an issue for this couple, too: Directors in our survey were significantly more likely to feel sex is important to the relationship than were Negotiators—29 percent versus 16 percent. Also, when asked about money, four times as many Directors said they "never" or "rarely" have respect for the way their partner handles it, compared with the other way around. No surprise here. Directors are typically far more skilled at making money than the idealistic Negotiator. But these differences may not matter so much to the Director. In answer to the question, "How often do you think: If I could marry again, I'd marry the same person," Directors were much more likely—33 percent versus 15 percent—to say "often." Overall, this is likely to be a happy match.
8. Negotiator and Negotiator
Superb at communication, and deeply introspective, these like-minded souls can talk for hours, indeed years, about ideas, family relations, and spiritual beliefs. Both value morality, are concerned about community, and appreciate the flexible, giving spirit in the other, and both are highly romantic. Negotiators bond deeply.
But I suspect these lovers can wear each other out with their constant analyzing. They are likely to give each other too little privacy as well. And both can be anxious and prone to depression. Most important, Negotiators tend to put a high premium on having a profound, meaningful relationship for all eternity. And because they look for the perfect mate, they can easily become disillusioned and eventually part. Perhaps this is why only 4 percent of the marriages in our sample were of this type. The survey picked up one notable discrepancy between two Negotiators: Only 45 percent of the males in these couples reported that their partners were "always" or "often" sensitive to their sexual needs, whereas 80 percent of the female Negotiators said that their husbands were responsive in this way.
9. Director and Explorer
This is a curious match. A Director and Explorer can be highly compatible lovers, because both dopamine and testosterone stimulate sex drive. And they share the ability to be creative, even ingenious. The Explorer is likely to respect the Director's focus on work, logical inventiveness, irreverence, and pragmatism. And the Director probably enjoys the Explorer's daring and curiosity. But Explorers may have difficulty dealing with Directors' frank and doubting natures, as well as their dedication to deep knowledge on esoteric topics, competitiveness, and serious approach to life. And the Director may feel that the Explorer is, at times, unfocused and out of control. When asked, "Do you and your partner have the same goals," only 38 percent of Directors said "often," compared with 65 percent of their Explorer spouses.
10. Explorer and Explorer
As for Explorers marrying Explorers, there were so few—only five couples—it wasn't possible to do any real analysis. But I suspect I know a few of their pleasures and their problems, in part because I'm an Explorer who's gone out with another Explorer for some nine years. This pair has a huge amount of fun together. Both are independent, resourceful, impulsive, creative, high energy, adventurous, and interested in sex. So for a while, two Explorers are likely to feel as if they have slipped into Nirvana; each has found someone who will play as hard and fast as they do. But Explorers are so independent that they have difficulty working as a team or discussing the problems in the relationship. Interestingly, in our sample, Builder-Builder couples had many more children than did Explorer pairs. Natural selection is at work before our eyes: The steady, dependable, family- and community-oriented Builders are sending more of their DNA toward eternity.