Compatibility is so much more than just agreeing that you are both morning people and that you both enjoy the same style of lattes. Compatibility is a deep and twisted dynamic involving a combination of belief systems, personality traits, hopes and dreams, psychological needs, cycles and patterns, and mutual magnetism. There are pieces of the compatibility puzzle that we can logically fix, alter, change, and manipulate, but there are other pieces that we cannot affect on a conscious level. For example, raw passion and physical attraction for each other, you can love a person’s mind and spirit but simply not be sexually attracted to them. It’s like leading a horse to water, you can’t make him drink. Sometimes no matter how much we want to like someone on a more intimate level, it just isn’t there. Other things, like philosophies of parenting can be negotiated and worked on to find common ground that works for both of you.
There are many areas of compatibility to consider before committing yourself to a life together. Most people absolutely believe in their heart of hearts when they make those marriage vows that the love they feel for the other person will override the daily ups and downs of sharing a life together. Unfortunately, life can quite easily throw a wet blanket over the fires of your love and reduce it to quiet smoldering embers and even to die out completely. Here is a list of important compatibility factors to consider before getting married. It is not in any special order of importance, as everyone weights the various components and their importance differently. Some people really don’t care about religion and spirituality while others feel that it of utmost importance. They all need to be looked at, contemplated, discussed, and evaluated openly and honestly before you make your vows rather than later in couple’s counseling.
- Personality Types – It’s often difficult to mix an extreme extrovert with an extreme introvert. A loud boisterous comedian won’t mix well with a quiet reserved intellectual. Opposites attracting can seem cool at first, but eventually what seemed charming and cute later ends up grating on your nerves. It’s a sad fact, but at least one of you will end up feeling as if you have to be something that you are not in order to please the other. If the core of your basic personalities is not compatible, then you will have a really difficult time seeing eye to eye on a lot of other things.
- Monetary Needs and Goals – If one of you has very simple needs and wants to live in a modest home without a lot of debt and the other wants to live a glamorous wealthy lifestyle and is willing to run up a lot of debt to do so, then you are likely to have some serious problems. Who will earn the money? How will you spend it? How much do you need? Money problems are historically the number one topic of argument between couples. Financial compatibility is one of those areas where you can both compromise and make a special effort to see the other person’s viewpoint. If your views are not too extremely different and rooted in some sort of psychologically driven need, it is possible to come to an agreement.
- Communications Styles – There are many different forms of communication styles. Some people are verbal in their ability to express their love, others are more touch-oriented in how they communicate, and some like to show their love through actions and deeds. Incompatibility in this area will eventually cause you to feel alienated within the partnership. Quite often in couple’s counseling, it is the communication methods that end up being worked on. It is not too difficult to take the time to really study and understand your partner, get to know how they personally need to receive the love and appreciation message from you, and then make a special effort to deliver the information to them in that manner. So often, we give to others what we personally would like to receive and unless you both have the exact same types of communication needs, that isn’t going to work.
- Extended Family – Many beautiful relationships were destroyed by annoying interfering relatives and close friends. Romeo and Juliet is a classic story of just such an example. As much as they loved each other, their families refused to get along. Compatibility in this area is not about finding someone with a perfect family, but finding someone who shares a similar belief about how much outside friends and family will be allowed to influence your time together. If one of you enjoys being part of a large family with a lot of interaction and the other prefers to have limited contact with extended family, then you could have some serious problems. Neither of you should ever have to turn your backs on your family and close friends because your spouse just doesn’t want them around, but also if you really dislike a lot of people coming and going all of the time, you shouldn’t have to be forced to live within a lot of commotion and interference either. This is a tough area to navigate, but it can be worked out if you are both really sensitive to the deeper needs of the other.
- Lifestyle – For the sake of simplification, we’ll keep lifestyle down to just the day to day patterns of life. Some are morning people and some are not. Some are really into sports and outdoors activities and others would rather sit indoors and discuss philosophies of life. Some are very go-go-go action-oriented and others are quite laid back and relaxed. Some like to have lots of friends over and back yard barbeques while others prefer that their home be a quiet place of contemplation an oasis away from the daily grind. If the two of you are not too different, then this is an area of compatibility that can be worked on and common ground can be found.
- Romance – This is a mixed area. On the one hand you shared some level of romance during the courtship, but on the other hand how you continue the romance after you are married can change drastically. Some folks love cute little nicknames like sweetie pie and sugar dumpling while others hate it and think that it’s annoyingly sappy. Some like lots of hugs and kisses while others prefer the words ‘I love you’ or ‘I appreciate all that you do for me’ instead. This is a lot like the communications area and you can definitely feel unloved and like the spark has gone out of your relationship when you are not compatible in this area. Again, we often give that which we would like to receive instead of learning what the other person needs to receive from us.
- Children and Parenting – The desire to have children is extremely powerful in some people and completely missing in others. This is not an area of compatibility that can be compromised on. You either have children or you don’t. Plenty of couples have broken up over this issue. You cannot go into a marriage assuming that you’ll change the other person’s mind. It’s rare that someone successfully changes someone else’s mind about having children. Even after agreeing to have children, couples disagree about how many they want to have and how they want to raise them. A lot of couples do not have compatible views about parenting. One may feel that the other is too strict, too controlling, or too demanding while the other feels that their partner is too accommodating, not involved enough, or too relaxed with the rules. However, parenting styles is an area that can be negotiated and worked on.
- Leisure Activities – All too often, first dates are dinner and a movie, going out dancing, or a romantic stroll on the beach. These are perfectly lovely first dates, but they often center around the courtship rituals instead of what the couple will really do together when they are married. While some love to camp, hike, and go beach combing others prefer wine tasting, coffee houses, and Broadway plays. With an open mind and a loving heart, this is definitely an area where compatibility can be created.
- Sense of Humor – Laughter is the best medicine. Laughter is one of the best ways to end conflict and tension. A couple that laughs together and finds themselves easily smiling within each other’s company has a far greater chance of staying together ‘until death do us part.’ If one finds burping and farting to be extremely funny while the other thinks it’s tacky and disgusting, then you are going to have problems. Some love a dry intellectual wit, others prefer practical jokes that involving a lot of humiliation and embarrassment. This is a difficult area to change because it’s a lot like sexuality, it works for you or it doesn’t. What one person finds funny isn’t necessarily something you can fix or manipulate into matching what another person enjoys. ‘A Good Sense of Humor’ is one of the top things on everyone’s list of ideal partners. Defining what that means to each of you is the key.
- Work Ethic – This is an obvious one. If someone is lazy and someone else is a workaholic, then there will be compatibility issues. It is something that can be worked on together, but if one of you really wants to live the pampered life and the other disagrees, then there isn’t a lot you can do about it. It will eat at the relationship causing anger and resentment.
- Ability to Compromise – You would be amazed at how many people find it sexy that someone always sticks to their guns. On the other hand, others really value the ability to work as a team member and to be able to make decisions from a joint perspective. It’s going to depend on leadership skills, whether or not one or both of you believes in dominance and submission, self-esteem, and other dynamics. This is a hard area to change. If you are both really at peace with the idea that one of you will make all of the decisions and will control everything, then you are compatible in this area. However, if one of you wants to have that situation but the other seriously wants to be equals making joint decisions and no one person being more right or more wrong then the other, than you are not going to be very compatible in this aspect. If both of you agree that one should dominate the relationship, however you cannot agree as to who is in charge, then your inability to compromise will be a disaster. If you are not compatible in your ability to compromise, then you really can’t fix the other disagreements can you?
- Sexuality and Fidelity – Most people agree that part of the marriage vows is a pledge of fidelity. This is an obvious area of importance that you must agree on. You will sleep with other people or you won’t. More importantly in this area is the general idea of sexual compatibility. There are a lot of deep psychological buttons that get pushed and triggers that go off when we are in a sexual relationship with someone. Some of them can be positive and some can be negative. Some can be consciously altered and others are buried deep within the subconscious and will be next to impossible to change. Without going into a huge discussion at this time, suffice it to say that you are either turned on by someone or you are not. Sexual compatibility is extremely important and very difficult to change. This isn’t the same as technique and style. That can be learned and mutually explored. There is only so much you can force yourself to do for their sake before your own desires shut down.
- Ability to Share – Some people are simply selfish and greedy. Others enjoy sharing everything. It doesn’t take long to see that the ‘mine vs ours’ debate is extremely destructive to a long-term relationship. You need to agree on division of property or agree to share. The ability to share will actually hint at the core of the me/we dynamic in a relationship. Are you roommates who sleep together or are you two halves of a single unit? This is a weird area of compatibility that people often overlook but it will hint at things to come in your marriage. This is the area that causes such statements, like “I let you have children didn’t I? I care for your children don’t I? I let you have a new car didn’t I? Why do you have to keep attacking me for more money?” Incompatibility in this area will bleed into many other areas of your life and it’s extremely difficult to change someone else’s views about such things.
- Religion and Spirituality – You don’t have to have the same beliefs and you don’t have to practice the same religion. You do have to agree that you will or will not follow the same spiritual path. This is a mixed issue. For those who don’t really care one way or the other, you can compromise. For someone who is extremely religious, they will need to find someone who pretty much agrees with them or they’ll be miserable. Love alone cannot heal the spiritual compatibility challenges. There is nothing worse than feeling like you have to choose between your lover and your god. It will eat at you until you resolve it within yourself.
- Education and Intellect – Nobody likes to feel like they are stupid and nobody likes to feel that they are talking to a brick wall. Someone can be quite smart but not have a lot of formal education. Someone can have multiple college degrees but no common sense. Chances are that you are attracted to another person somewhat because they meet your minimum requirements for this area, but it does happen that people will get together for other reasons and completely overlook the importance of mental compatibility.
- Cultural Beliefs – You need to agree that you will both be white supremacists, or you will both hate gays, or you will both be activists, or you will both be freedom fighters, or you will both be couch potatoes, or you will both be coaches and mentors to our youth, etc. It’s not that you have to work hand-in-hand, but you really can’t match a Vegan with a Butcher Shop Owner and expect them to be compatible. They might love each other, but their belief systems in this area will be difficult for both. If neither of you really cares what other people do with their lives as long as they don’t meddle in yours, then you are more compatible than couple who are passionately committed to opposing social causes or cultural belief systems.
- Public Image – Some people don’t give a damn what others think of them. Some people care very much about their public image, especially if their career or their life purpose is somehow connected with the public at large. A politician and a stripper are going to have compatibility issues as a married couple thrown into the public eye every time the politician campaigns for office. That’s an extreme example of course, but incompatibility in this area can make or break careers, destroy one’s ability to reach their personal goals, and can make the one who doesn’t care what others think of them feel like their partner cares more about the public opinion than the marriage itself. For most people this isn’t a huge topic of concern, but if it will be for you, then you should make sure you have compatible views before you run for a high profile position.
- Reliability – Nothing destroys trust faster than a series of broken promises. Without trust, love will disappear. Some people get distracted and forget to show up to meetings or forget to pick up the list of groceries on the way home from work. Will that make you crazy or will it be completely fine with you? Does it matter to you that they keep their word or do you let things slide? What about little white lies? You had better both agree on what level of trust and reliability you will have between each other or the marriage is doomed from the start.
- Social Skills and Popularity – This is somewhat like the extended family and the basic personality portion of compatibility but there are a few differences. If you are the type of person who needs a lot of one-on-one time with your partner and need to feel that you are the number one center of their universe, then you may not want to marry someone who is a social butterfly with lots of friends and colleagues telephoning, dropping by, inviting them out to play, and dragging them off to group activities. On the other hand, if you are one who thrives on social activity and love your friends like they are all family, then you are going to feel tied down and caged by a lover who expects you to focus only on them day in and day out. This is an area where compromise can occur, but it’s not an easy area to change.
- Honesty and Integrity - How do you feel about someone cheating on their taxes? How do you feel about someone who does not give back the extra change they just received from a cashier? How do you feel about hidden pasts and skeletons in the closet? How do you feel about secrets and lies? This is another area of compatibility that people often don’t bother to think about until after it’s too late. It’s not the same as fidelity and loyalty, but it does affect your overall respect and trust of someone. How would they conduct themselves when you are not around?
- Depth of Connection Needed – Some folks are fine with a light superficial relationship and others need to be deeply connected soulmates. It’s important that you and your partner are compatible in this area because if one of you wants a deeply connected relationship and the other wants to keep things light, then there will be hurt feelings. The person who wants more is going to feel the relationship is empty and without substance. The person who doesn’t want to go that deep is going to feel like someone is trying to psychoanalyze their every thought, feeling, and action under a microscope.
Whether you are using an astrology compatibility report, a professional matchmaker, a book on compatibility, a matchmaking website with computer generated matches, your friends’ opinions and feedback, or just your gut instinct to help you find your best partner, you need to know that on most levels you and your lover are compatible as well as in love. Yes, the relationship absolutely must be a love match because love motivates you to want to fix the problems that come between you, but you also really need to be compatible so that the road you travel together has the fewest possible potholes, roadblocks, and fallen debris in your way. Falling in love is easy; staying in love is a whole other story.