The Importance of Relationship Compatibility

The Importance of Relationship CompatibilityPeople generally tend to misunderstand the purpose of dating in the concept of compatibility in a relationship. Even having a breakup during such a period should not necessarily be considered a bad thing. In most cases, it’s just an indication of incompatibility.The purpose of the dating process is essentially for lovers to practice and experiment. It provides an opportunity for lovers to decide, sooner or later, whether their partner is truly compatible for marriage.In essence, dating is an avenue to find out what kind of person we complement and with whom we are compatible. Thus, in its most basic function, dating serves as a training ground for marriage.However, there is a very important distinction to note during this dating period. Most lovers experience quite a lot of chemistry when dating and many confuse this chemistry for compatibility.Yet, it’s crucial to realize that compatibility and chemistry do not necessarily always occur together. But this is a discussion for another day, just thought I throw it in.

A Basic Chemistry of Dating

Suffice it to say for now that increase in particular brain chemicals generally drive the romantic attraction during the dating period. This entails the increase of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine and the reduction in the levels of serotonin.These chemicals are what cause the feelings of intense physical attraction which largely characterizes this period. It is also a period of immense emotional fluctuations. The emotions can swing from elation to despair, and also from calm to anxiety. And this all depends on whether there is a reciprocation of love or not from the other partner.The novelty of the excitement of getting to know each other often prompts a lot of questions during the early dating period. Both lovers are generally curious about getting to know each other better thus constantly asking questions of themselves and each other.Throughout most of this period, each lover is either consciously or unconsciously sizing up the other to see how much they fit each other.When the lovers believe that they share some similar traits and general opinions, they often want to take things further and attempt to “formalize” the relationship.However, after a while, the overall thrill experienced in the earlier dopamine dating phase soon diminishes. The once fascinating quirks soon become boring if not irritating to some degree.Soon, the lovers start noticing their partner’s flaws, obsessions, and differences in opinions. Gradually, they start seeing the imperfections in their erstwhile supposed perfect partners.

Role of Dating in Compatibility

However, it is important to realize that this first phase of attraction is very necessary in all new love relationships. It is what the lovers are able to garner during this period that often determines what happens in the relationship going forward.But the fact is that during the romantic stage of love, it is pretty difficult to see incompatibility due to the chemicals at play. During this phase, lovers normally experience the “halo effect.” This usually make them see their partners through rose-colored glasses.Yet, the most important information the dating process should provide lovers is the degree of their compatibility with each other. This information is very critical to their success as future lovers.

What is Relationship Compatibility?

Couple smiling at each other at seaside
Compatibility means that partners share similar core values and lifestyle choices. Compatible partners understand and accept their different personalities. Also, they agree on several core values that influence how they want to live their lives together.One thing compatibility does is to provide an avenue by which partners can receive stimulation in ways they could never do on their own.And it is for this reason that it is important to a choose a partner who provides you a lot more than just momentary physical arousal. Your focus should rather be on choosing a partner with whom you are compatible on an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual level.You should also realize that choosing a partner with whom you share virtually the same sentiments, opinions, or views might not always be practical. One important thing to realize about compatibility is that we are not looking for our clones.It’s good you can complete your partner’s lines, but with time, that kind of becomes boring. The love and satisfaction in most relationships start deteriorating when lovers can easily predict everything their partner will do or say in a given situation.In essence, this implies that both of you “loving all the same things” doesn’t always translate to true compatibility.Thus, relationship compatibility is not a black-or-white situation. This is because not all compatibility factors have equal importance.

Between Compatibility and Similarity

In fact, several studies indicate that similarity is not a useful metric for evaluating potential partners due to the fact that people change. So even preferences that seem very stable such as your weekend hobbies, favorite ice cream flavor, or shows on Netflix can all change with time.Yet, some core compatibility factors are unlikely to completely change, if at all. Core factors such as one’s money handling preferences, religious view, life philosophy, and desire for children are likely to remain unchanged.Yet, many people keep believing in the power of similarity. They feel that if they share things in common with their partner, then they won’t have problems. But several studies show that similarities are not that useful in predicting relationship satisfaction.In his book, A Book About Love, Jonah Lehrer shares some studies which show that similarity doesn’t actually matter. Below is an excerpt:

Another recent paper summarized the results of 313 separate studies, concluding that the similarity of personality and preferences—such as, the scientists say, “matching people who prefer Judd Apatow’s movies to Woody Allen’s with people who feel the same way”— had no effect on relationship well-being. Meanwhile, a 2010 study of twenty-three thousand married couples found that the similarity of spouses accounted for less than 0.5 percent of spousal satisfaction. In short, what we think we want in a spouse—someone who is just like us and likes all the same things—and what we want in real life are fundamentally mismatched.

Conversely, several reports from happy couples in long-term relationships reveal that they enjoy the diversity in their separate tastes, interests, and careers.

Understanding Your Core Values

Couple smiling at each other at seaside
There are many ways in which partners can be similar and share compatibility. Yet, one aspect is absolutely necessary – similarity in core values. An alignment of values is precisely what you should look for if you want a thriving long-term relationship.Our core values make us the person we are and often determines the outcome and decisions in our lives. Essentially, they form the foundation on which we live and conduct ourselves.Finding a partner who has similar values or who respects these values is thus important in determining whether we are compatible with such a partner or not.Thus, one basic but good description of relationship compatibility would be an environment where partners share similar core values.Yet, partners don’t need to share 100 percent compatibility in all areas of compatibility. The important thing is for them to compatibility in their non-negotiable core values.This is vital as value differences are often at the heart of many relationship problems. Thus, it’s much better to know them in advance before committing to a relationship.Similarity in core values provide a form of inoculation against fighting and arguing. This similarity should cover values around children, money, and religion. And of course, whatever else is important to you.

What Are These Core Values?

Generally, these are values that have been instilled in us right from childhood. These core values are what guide the way we live our lives.They are values that have been formed through the “nest” we grew up in. Our social and economic backgrounds also have influence on the formation of these values over time.These core values were also influenced by our peer groups while growing up as young adults. The unfortunate thing is that by our early twenties, these core values are already set and are unlikely to change.Thus, we want to find someone with whom we share core values which we both consider to be non-negotiable.Some areas to view as core values when talking about compatibility include the following:
  • Do both of you believe the same things in life are important?
  • What value do you and your partner place on family and do you want children in the relationship? Also, are your child-rearing philosophies congruent with each other?
  • If religion is important to you, do both of you share similar religious or spiritual beliefs?
  • Do you share similar views about the role of work in life and the amount of value both of you place on it?
  • What value do both of you place on the expenditure and investment of money?
The fact you need to come to terms with is that if you marry someone with values very different from yours, you are much more likely to face complex challenges in your relationship.So, shared values and outlook on life go a long way to promote both the quality and stability of a relationship.

Types of Relationship Compatibility

Relationship Compatibility - Happy older couple relaxing on sofa
Another way of looking at the basic core values is breaking them into some sort of constituent parts that are necessary for the success of any long-term relationship. Listed below are five indispensable compatibility factors you should take into consideration when thinking of committing to a relationship.

Physical Compatibility

This is perhaps the foundation for other factors of compatibility. If you aren’t physically attracted to each other at all, then there’s no sensible compatibility issue to discuss whatsoever.Physical compatibility is very important in practically all love relationships. However, there are those few couples where the physical aspect of their relationship might not be of utmost importance to them.Physical compatibility encompasses other things besides the sexual compatibility aspect. This might cover issues such as overall health and level of activity, love for adventure and excitement, romance or public display of affection, and even involve a partner’s physical carriage and appearance.However, the most important has to do with the sexual compatibility of the partners. This is a very important aspect especially to men. In general, men need physical connection to express themselves while women need more of emotional intimacy and communication.Yet, this does not mean that women do not enjoy sex as much as men. It is just the way men and women naturally behave in relationships. In most cases, the physical aspect will usually take care of itself if the relationship is healthy.When it comes to sexual compatibility, you might want to discuss whatever boundaries you may have. Being sexually compatible with your partner does not mean you have to like everything they like. However, you must be able to satisfy each other physically which might occasionally require some compromise.

Emotional Compatibility

When in a relationship, you often don’t just want your partner to understand but also to accept your desires and emotions. Having deep mutual emotional understanding allows partners in a relationship to develop deeper trust for one another.In his book, Jonah Lehrer refers to a study by Dr. John Gottman that underscores the importance of emotional compatibility. Dr. Gottman talks about a term called Meta-Emotions.It is simply a term referring to how you feel about your feelings. Based on Dr. Gottman’s findings, to have a successful long-term relationship with someone, you need them to handle emotions the same way you do.This is what Jonah reports in his book:

John Gottman at the University of Washington has amassed a persuasive body of evidence that meta-emotions are the real signal variable in terms of predicting whether or not a marriage will last. Do you believe you should express anger? Or do you believe in holding it in and waiting for it to fizzle out? Do you think happiness should be shared but anger should be suppressed? Sharing your meta-emotional style gives you a common emotional template, a common language.

Also, Jonah reports that:

Gottman discovered that meta-emotional compatibility — whether we share a temperament with our partner — is a crucial predictor of marital satisfaction, able to forecast “divorce with 80 percent accuracy.

So, it is important to consider emotional compatibility based on both your natures and also on how both of you react when stressed or in a conflict situation. Thus, how you both react during disagreement is something you shouldn’t ignore.For instance, if one partner typically withdraws during times of conflict while the other has strong tendency to hash things out verbally, then both of them are not emotionally compatible.

Intellectual Compatibility

Having intellectual compatibility with your partner is more about having similar educational levels and interests. It has to do with how easily both of you understand each other. Also, it entails having genuine interest in things that your partner enjoy doing.The overall idea is to be able to relate to your partner in an interesting and understandable manner. Generally, a highly intelligent individual with a knack for details might find it very difficult to tolerate or live with someone having a subpar intelligence level.Given the important role effective communication plays in maintaining a long-term relationship, the intellectual compatibility of partners should be given serious consideration. It imperative that partners should be able to communicate on the same frequency most of the time.Intellectual compatibility entails respecting and valuing each other’s opinions and thoughts, as well as the sharing and stimulation of each other’s ideas or interests. Thus, you should be able to find each other’s conversation interesting.Furthermore, people have a natural inclination for “self-expansion“. As a result, people are generally happiest when their relationships encourage them to grow their knowledge base. Partners feel more connected and attracted to each other when they help one another to expand intellectually.So, whether you feel innately called to discover more about poetry, art, literature, music, nature, or even politics, you feel more connected when your partner can inspire your desire to expand your knowledge.

Spiritual Compatibility

Many people place a significant importance on the role God plays in their lives. As a result, they generally want a partner who shares the same perspective. Yet, there are others who feel strongly about their religious beliefs yet have no problem accepting those who do not share their perspectives.This is an important issue to discuss to avoid friction later if the partners want to have children in the relationship. In all, spiritual compatibility is a very touchy issue. And in most cases makes or breaks a relationship. This is one basic core value that is unlikely to completely change.

Financial Compatibility

Besides the above listed core compatibility factors, it is important to also consider the issue of financial compatibility. This is very vital as money issues often top the list of relationship problems.Financial compatibility doesn’t mean partners should have the same financial standing. Rather, it has more to do with the partners’ respective attitudes and habits towards money.Thus, a key component of financial compatibility is whether both of you share similar visions and goals about how to spend and invest money.In general, it helps more when both of partners are frugal. Issues often arise when one is partner is a saver and the other is a spender. Partners should always have frequent and honest communication about their financial issues.

About Soul Mates and Compatibility

Happy young African-American laughing on couch
Most people have the illusion that love requires “soul mates.” Their belief is that there is only one person or soul mate out there for them. They believe that this one person will be perfect for them and will complement them in every way.However, a strong belief in soul mate can decrease an individual’s chance of finding true love. Believing this idea can make such an individual to reject potential partners who do not fit the image of their idealized partner.There’s another problem with this ideology. Such an individual is likely to take it as proof that it wasn’t want to be whenever there is a hiccup in the relationship. But the reality of love is that the perfect lover does not exist. Also, you will never find someone who will share all your interests or meet all your needs.Thus, the sooner an individual gives up on the idea of looking for the him or her that is meant to be their soul mate, the sooner they can find someone who might actually make them happy.So, when searching for a potential partner, it is best to avoid searching with the ideology of finding someone who will be our “missing piece” or that will “complete” us. This is not only limiting but is a personal setup for disaster.The reality is that “we don’t want to love a copy of ourselves.” Rather, we should be searching for partners who will challenge us and help us to evolve. Our search should be for partners who are open to trying new things, hearing feedback, and willing to evolve themselves.

In Conclusion…

Similarities can at times help to create compatibility in some areas. And it is true that opposites may attract. But in general, opposites don’t usually make for great and lasting relationships.Yet, there are times when our differences can be very helpful in creating compatibility and healthy balance in a relationship. At times such differences are a great way to spice up a relationship.For instance, there can be good relationship compatibility when one partner is an introvert and the other is an extrovert. In like manner, someone who is orderly and an intense planner can have good compatibility with someone who is more spontaneous and unorganized.Despite such personality differences, the important thing is to ensure that both partners are compatible with their core values.While shared beliefs are great for achieving relationship compatibility, it is also necessary to have separate interests. Also, partners need to encourage each other to enjoy their interests and to engage in each other’s interests.At the same time, it’s important to realize that it’s not actually necessary to try solving all incompatibility problems in a relationship. While realizing they cannot solve all relationship problems, successful couples get good at handling them.We must accept the fact that relationships “must” have their particular challenges. Choosing a compatible partner simply helps us to reduce the amount and intensity of the problems.Then again, happy couples tend to habitually and intentionally focus more on developing the positive aspects of their relationship. The most important thing is to have the core compatibility factors discussed above in place and to also strengthen them.