How to choose my partner?
Compatibility & Lasting Relationships
by Carolina Estevez, Psy.D.
When you think of compatibility in relationships, concepts such as “liking the same things,” “getting along,” or “thinking alike” might come to mind. Compatible couples do share these similarities, but there is more to true compatibility. There are aspects of compatibility that cannot be described, defined, or put into words. The ever-popular term, “Chemistry,” is compatibility that is felt between two people. It is an energy that is experienced throughout the relationship, both in the beginning and in later stages. This is why some aspects of compatibility can be observed by an intuitive outsider or “expert,” but can only truly be determined and felt by the two people who do (or do not) share it. Compatibility will fluctuate throughout a relationship. It is expected and normal. When couples evaluate their compatibility, they should aim for moderate to moderately high levels of compatibility most of the time. One hundred percent compatibility is not only unrealistic, but also nonexistent, because no individual or relationship is perfect. This imperfection allows couples to grow and learn through times of change, stress, and conflict, or understand that they are incompatible and should move on.
There are several compatibility factors (or compatibility values) that when put together, determine the degree of a couple's overall compatibility. Some of the compatibility values are very direct, cut-and-dry, yes-or-no type of values. They are easily described and defined and are typically easier for couples to rate. Other compatibility values touch upon the “chemistry” aspect of compatibility, which exists in the feelings and energy between two people. The compatibility factors highlighted below are unique because each, in their own way, are predictors for not only relationship longevity, but individual happiness and satisfaction in the relationship.
Couples who share basic values not only tend to score higher on other compatibility factors, but also tend to have lasting relationships characterized by less overall conflict. Basic values is an umbrella term used to describe an individual's overall personal, emotional, and social belief system. There are several sub-factors that fall under basic values, such as moral values, religious beliefs, opinions on managing career and finances, and family values. Since basic values cover a broad range of issues that are central to a person's life, it makes sense that this compatibility factor is very important in determining whether a relationship will endure beyond just the early stages.
Couples Who Complement Each Other
Coupes who complement each other can differ in many ways, but they are similar in that they work as a team by encouraging and supporting one another. They effectively utilize and benefit from each individual’s personal strengths and compensate for each individual's areas of weakness. The skills that one partner does not have, the other provides, and vice versa. When couples complement each other, a give-and-take environment exists, which is so important in lasting and satisfying relationships.
It is important for couples to spend some of their leisure time participating in activities they enjoy together. Sharing interests is not just important in the early stages of a relationship, where couples can get to know each other through participating in hobbies and activities, but in all stages of a healthy relationship. Just like enjoying hobbies and interests helps individuals combat stress, which benefits overall health, sharing interests allows couples to focus on positive things and enjoy time together. Having at least one common interest is an important compatibility factor and contributes to a lasting relationship.
How Couples Relate
When two people relate to each other in a healthy manner, their relationship is based on trust, honesty, and authenticity. They feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with one another. How couples relate to one another is both a verbal and nonverbal exchange that facilitates healthy communication.
Temperament refers to an individual’s level of emotional intensity and is an indicator of personality. When couples have compatible temperaments, their manner of handling stress and conflict is healthier and more effective. Compatibility of temperament is similar to the give-and-take in other compatibility factors mentioned above: What one partner lacks, the other compensates for, and vice versa. During arguments, conflict, or stressful situations, if both partners become very angry or lose control, this would quickly put a strain on the relationship. Couples who have compatible temperaments are able to work through conflict in a rational and healthy manner.
The value of communication in relationships is the most popularized of all compatibility factors. Most, if not all, sources on relationships and compatibility emphasize the importance of healthy communication in a relationship. Couples who tend to verbalize their thoughts, feelings, likes, and dislikes tend to harbor less stress and overall feel less isolated and frustrated. Healthy communication can be viewed almost as preventive in combatting unhealthy resentments that can negatively affect a relationship. Communication is considered healthy depending on the degree in which it is expressed. Too much or not enough communication can put a strain on the relationship. When communication is in balance, a lasting and satisfying relationship will grow and strengthen.
Attraction is part of the chemistry between two people. It is an unspoken draw and connection that a couple has with one another. Different forms of attraction are felt more readily during the beginning stages of a relationship; however, if the attraction is real and deeply felt by both, it will endure throughout the relationship.
Similarity in age between a couple is an area of frequent disagreement, with many claiming that “age is just a number,” while others believing that a vast difference in age between a couple is socially inappropriate or even offensive. When a couple are of similar age, the tendency is for there to be more areas of common interest; however, there are many other compatibility values that must be in place for the relationship to last. Overall, the value of age as a compatibility factor depends upon the importance it has to each individual couple.
Physical proximity, or how close the couple live to each other, is another compatibility factor that varies in importance depending on the couple. Numerous couples are able to have healthy long distance relationships, while others do not stand against the strain of not seeing each other and spending time together. Typically, long distance relationships can work if the couple plan, in the near future, to unite or reunite after the time apart. However, when the prospect of reuniting is not on the horizon, the relationship can be strained.
Couples of similar backgrounds include similarities in age, race, religion, ethnicity, education, economic level, or family of origin. An individual's background includes the past and current events, experiences, and relationships that have molded them into who they are. Some individuals place importance on finding a partner of similar background and this similarity could minimize areas of common conflict in relationships. However, couples who are of similar backgrounds are not necessarily compatible and several other compatibility factors must be present for the relationship to work.