Relationship Compatibility

Relationship Compatibility

You have met someone and have been dating for a couple of months.  Both of you would like to advance the relationship to the next level so you are talking about moving in together.  Part of you is excited at the thought of sharing a home with this wonderful guy.  And part of you wants to make sure that you two are compatible so you can continue to enjoy a happy relationship once you are under the same roof.  What are some of the ways you can judge your relationship compatibility?

What do we mean when we talk about compatibility?

Compatibility is not black or white.  “We love all the same things!” does not necessarily mean that you and your partner are meant for each other.  To the contrary, happy couples report that they enjoy diversity in their separate hobbies, tastes and professional pursuits.   So when we say it is important for a couple to be compatible, what we mean is that they should share several compatible points on the compatibility spectrum.

Basic core values are some of these points

Basic core values are values that have been instilled in you since you were young.  They are moral and ethical codes for living.  Core values are influenced by your social and economic background, your birth culture as well as the culture where you grew up if you did not grow up in your birth culture.  They can also be influenced by your peer group as you move through young adolescence into early adulthood.  By the time you are in your early twenties, your core values have stabilized and are not likely to change.   This is important to remember if you find that you and your partner do not share core values, but you are hoping he will change once you start living together.  (He won’t.)

Some basic core values can include:

  • How you view monogamy in a relationship
  • How you view the use of substances such as alcohol or marijuana
  • The role of religion in one’s personal life and in society
  • Gun control, gun usage
  • Politics, the role of government in a society
  • Money and how it should be saved/spent
  • Gender roles in the home and in the workplace

There are hundreds of other points that can be examined when trying to identify common areas of compatibility in couples, with many online companies offering tests you can take for a fee.  

What you want to be looking for is not 100% compatibility on all points, but on the values that you both consider to be non-negotiable.  If you are a person who abstains from alcohol and your partner’s idea of a great Friday evening is to down a couple of six packs, this is a clear example of incompatibility, no matter how great your partner is in all other aspects of his life.  If you were to move forward with the relationship, you can be assured that things will eventually unravel, because not drinking is one of your important core values. You need to be with someone who shares this core value as well.

It’s a good exercise for you to each write down your own list of core values.  Do this separately so you don’t influence each other, then sit down and share your lists.  Points can range from the general to the specific.  Here’s an example of a list from the woman in the relationship:

  • I want to get married before I am 30.
  • I would like 2 children after I am married.
  • I use and support the use of birth control.
  • I will continue to work fulltime after we have children.
  • I am a strong supporter of public schools and want to live in a good school district so my children can attend a public school
  • I am pro-gun control and do not want guns in the house.

Write down your core values

Let’s imagine that the man in the relationship has a list that includes the following points:

  • I don’t want to ever get married.  I’m fine with living together, though
  • I’d like children but want to have them later in life.  
  • I support birth control, but it’s the woman’s responsibility
  • Both partners should work
  • The children’s education is the woman’s decision
  • I believe in guns and want them in the house for self-defense purposes.

You can see in these two lists that this couple shares almost no points of compatibility.  No matter how much attraction they feel towards each other now, they would be ill-advised to move in together as their core values are not overlapping.

What about the less specific areas of compatibility?

We’ve examined some concrete points of compatibility.  Let’s talk about the more personality-based points that can indicate whether or not you have relationship compatibility.

Before moving in together, you and your partner will want talk through some of the following points to judge your chances of a maintaining a happy relationship when you move in together:

  • Is one of you an early riser, and one of you someone who has difficulty getting up, hitting the snooze button five times before getting out of bed?
  • What are your bedtime habits?  Lights off at 11:00 pm, or read/play games on your cell phone in bed until you fall asleep?
  • What constitutes a great weekend for you?  Doing nothing but staying in your pajamas, binge watching the latest series on Netflix?  Socializing with your friends?  Hiking, traveling, shopping?
  • Are you more of a cook-at-home person, or do you prefer to order in?  How important is eating healthfully to you?
  • Are you a spender or a saver?  What are your long term goals in the areas of homeownership, saving for the children’s college fund, retirement savings?
  • Conflict resolution: what are you problem-solving techniques?
  • Are you and your partner on equal footing intellectually?  Financially?  Professionally?
  • Are you attracted to your partner, both physically and mentally?

As you can see, love is not enough to guarantee a lifetime of happiness together.  Take some time to define, examine and discuss your mutual values so that you see what degree of relationship compatibility you both have.  It is an important exercise to do so that if you do move your relationship to the next step, you do it with the best chances of ensuring that your future together will be a happy one.