Ask someone who their “type” is and you’ll get responses ranging from an itemized shopping list full of physical, behavioral, cultural and occupational details to a laissez-faire, carpe-diem approach of “whoever shows up in my life.” When it comes to relationship longevity and happiness, however, the best “type” for anyone, regardless of age, race, gender or creed, is one who shares compatible core values that are rooted in the deepest levels of personality.
But what does “Compatible” mean?
The word “compatible” is thrown around a lot these days in everything from computer programs to finding true love. Indeed, without compatibility in our lives, things just don’t work as well as they could—including romantic relationships. Simply put, being compatible with a partner means that you share enough core traits, core values and relationship skills. Not having enough of these shared aspects is a strong indication that there will be problems down the road, no matter how much physical attraction and chemistry exists in the beginning and throughout the relationship.
Chemistry and compatibility
In the beginning of any romance—whether compatible or not—the sweet scent of love and lust hangs in the air like the most intoxicating perfume. The object of your desire floats in and out of your thoughts and brings a smile to your face and hopes into your heart of what’s to come. And that’s what makes love great and keeps us coming back for more—the promise of what’s to come. It is this kind of love that is idealized in TV and movies, and books and songs—the kind that starts fast and lasts forever; or so it seems. Yet in the initial stages of getting to know someone without the benefit of being matched for compatibility in advance, the attraction is based largely on five traits only: appearance, chemistry, front-end personality (chatter), status and sense of humor. In the long run, with no other shared compatibilities, the relationship will one day come to a halt just as fast as it began. So stop buying into generalizations like “all men are like this . . . ” and “all women are like this . . .” and stop punishing yourself with those self-deprecating books like He’s Just Not That Into You, and educate yourself on what makes for good compatibility so you’ll know when it’s there—and when it’s not—up front.
What does compatibility look like?
In truly compatible relationships, love deepens further between partners through cycles of self-discovery and then rediscovery of each other. Over and over again, they fall in love in slightly different ways, reaffirming their shared commitment toward the relationship they share. Despite beginning in the same euphoric way as compatible relationships, incompatible relationships by contrast have a much different outcome as time marches on. Instead of falling in love more deeply over time with one another, each partner falls into emotionally separating periods of resentment that mount until the pain and frustration of tolerating the other’s idiosyncrasies outweighs the desire to keep the relationship going.
When things go from bad to worse in a relationship over and over again, the desire to see what’s to come can be a scary prospect! The oh-so-good feelings during the “honeymoon period” will have less than happy endings several months—even weeks—later, depending on the motivations and compatibilities that both partners share. So whether on a first pass you prefer the strong brunette or the gentle blonde, the intellectual or the artist, or the fashonista vs. the girl or boy next door, one thing’s for certain: if you’re looking for a long-term, satisfying relationship that spans beyond the usual six to eight months of honeymoon period, you’re going to need shared core traits and values, as well as similar relationship skills like communication and conflict management styles. That’s why chemistry alone is not enough to keep the spark going past the 6- to 8-month mark.
Compatibility is the difference between a relationship that starts and lasts, deepening as it goes and redefining your view on love, and a relationship that starts and fails, ending in bitter disappointment and varying degrees of emotional distress. A few rounds of those kind of relationships and it’s no wonder hope about finding someone who really fits you and you fit them starts to diminish. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
How can I tell who my type is?
Knowing how to spot your type is a two-part process. First, you must know your own traits, values and relationship skills that you bring to the table—good ones and areas where you could possibly improve. Then from there you’ll be able to recognize the traits in others that go well with yours, and that’s when the magic really starts to happen. You’ll start getting to know people and experiencing the great euphoria of love’s beginning, but it will keep getting better and better. It’s okay to have some dissimilarity between you and a love interest, so long as these
differences are not one of the core values, traits or relationship skills that are so vital to relationship longevity and happiness. At first opposites may attract, but over time those necessities initially overlooked become real problems later on in the relationship. It’s not a big deal if your partner likes country, and you are more into rock n’ roll, or if your partner likes reality TV and you like watching sports. It would matter more, however, if you approach most things with spontaneity and your partner is a “planner,” or if you are more of a socialite and your partner is a homebody.
The next time you find yourself making excuses for incompatibilities for the sake of new-romance euphoria, gently remind yourself that avoidance now will lead to stress later—and who needs that? Remember that who’s around you at the moment isn’t the only thing available to you. Compatible love is everywhere, if you know how to look.
The Compatible Seven
Commit these Compatible Seven to memory and keep them in mind when getting to know someone, both online and during the first few dates you go on. They can also be used to review shared compatibilities in existing relationships.
- Spiritual harmony—for some shared religious affiliation is an absolute must. For others, affiliation is not as important as a shared level of spirituality. Find out where you are, and make sure you’re on the same relative level.
- Desire for verbal intimacy and ability to be intimate—men may be from Mars and women from Venus when it comes to communication, but even so there is a general level of verbal intimacy skills that must be shared. The ability to be honest about thoughts and feelings is a great indicator.
- Energy level—if you enjoy more low-key activities but a potential partner is all about extreme outdoor sports, you may want to rethink getting together with them in a serious way. As exciting as people who are different from us appear, remember the tried-and-true axiom: Opposites attract, then attack.
- Ambition level—if you want to take over the world and all its earthly spoils but your date wants to save the world from people like you, heed caution.
- Role expectations—if a female desires to one day be a traditional, stay-at-home mom, but her potential partner believes that women should be more independent, Houston, we have a problem.
- Interests—while some dissimilarity in interests is okay and even educational for both partners, it’s how much investment a partner has in them that will tell you whether you’ll be able to enjoy sharing that time with them. It’s not enough to “put up with” many dissimilar interests—it’s your time, too, so make sure you can enjoy them as well, and likewise, they can and are willing to enjoy yours as well.
- Personal habits—good hygiene is pretty much essential across the board, but other personal habits like drinking, eating and acceptable levels of order and cleanliness are details that seem able to be overlooked at first, but can be real sources of aggravation later. Try to be on the same page as much as possible.
Putting it all together
Since attraction alone is not enough to overcome core incompatibilities that lead to relationship stress and difficulties, the sooner you discover your own core values, traits and relationship skills, the sooner you’ll be able to recognize them in someone else who is compatible with you. Instead of dating whomever shows up in your life—or not dating at all—you’ll be able to experience the kind of happy relationship that you may have always dreamed about or have recently realized that your life is missing.
Happy relationships teach us about ourselves and others, and the world around us, while the consequences of unhappy relationships are frustration, annoyance and pain. People fall in love with the complete package—it is the sum of compatibility and shared inner core values plus attraction and chemistry that makes for a successful long-term union. The more similarities you share with a potential partner, the less need there will be to negotiate differences. The choice is yours. Happy searching!