Compatibility is a funny thing — we are all aware of its relevance in accordance to our romantic endeavours, but we all likely attach a different definition to it. Quite frankly, compatibility is complicated, and so are we.
Personally, I’ve dated men who I felt I was incredibly compatible with, but our connection lacked the natural chemistry it needed to offer any romantic longevity. It was logical, sure, but it wasn’t love. On the other hand, I’ve also dated men who I had an intense feelings for on an intimate, emotional and/or physical level, but we were simply not compatible when it came to how we lived our lives, what we valued and where we were likely to end up.
Love becomes an especially complicated human experience because it requires equal parts reason, lust, compromise, trust and genuine emotion. We have to marry the part of ourselves that craves sensibility and safety with the part that craves something far more inexplicable and emotionally driven, and we have to find the balance between those two instincts. And as I’m sure most of us can contest, this is sometimes easier said than done.
Ultimately, love and compatibility are not the same thing — feeling strongly about someone does not necessarily mean you will end up together and, likewise, being compatible on paper doesn’t guarantee you will ‘click’ romantically.
The only thing that is for certain in this equation is that love and compatibility are far from a perfect science. But that doesn’t mean compatibility isn’t an important consideration. Modern dating has, in particular, become a relatively convoluted pursuit. Whether we meet our potential suitors within an app, in the DM or organically in person, it feels (for many of us) more difficult than ever to find the right match. So, what makes us compatible, especially today? What does compatibility mean if it’s not truly a tangible concept within the dynamic nature of relationships? How can we better navigate the dating realm with prospective partners that fit into our lives?
1. Understand the Difference Between ‘Like’ and ‘Love’
It’s not just about being in love with someone — It’s also about being ‘in like’ with them. By this I mean that you have to both (truly) want the relationship and be willing to do what it takes to see it through, regardless of hardships, and be willing to try and understand each other. You might love your partner, but there will be times you definitely don’t like them (because we are human and all have the capacity to be difficult, stubborn creatures) — So, are you willing to work on liking them regardless of those differences?
Loving someone is fuelled by emotion and chemistry, liking someone is fuelled by the willingness to find compromise and manage your differences in a way that works for both of you. In this sense, compatibility isn’t as much found as it is created. So the question becomes, when the honeymoon phase comes to an end, are you willing to continuously create compatibility with that person?
2. Forget the Rest — Are Your Lives Compatible?
Compatibility doesn’t require two very ‘like’ people to get together. In many cases, two people who operate differently in many respects will actually compliment each other whilst inspiring mutual growth and providing new perspectives. However, if there is one facet of likeness I’ve found to be paramount in the dating realm, it’s lifestyle.
We could be entirely different people and enjoy that romantic variance and dynamic, but if we do not adhere to similar lifestyles, how will we find common ground? We don’t have to directly mirror each other in terms of career path, interests, or even love language necessarily — but we do have to lead similar lifestyles and have schedules that can, in some way, align and compliment each other.
Simply because I work as a trainer doesn’t mean that I need to date another trainer for that relationship to have potential. Just as I don’t need to date another writer to find creative reward in a relationship. However, it’s unlikely I could (successfully) date someone who valued the ‘party scene’ in the space where I value downtime and connection, training, nutrition and sleep. How will we see each other at the end of the day? How will we continuously connect in the grand scheme of things? That’s not to say one lifestyle is decidedly better than the other — we all have our reasons to live the way that we live — but when it comes to relationships, we have to be able to meet in the middle and find a working balance. In some cases, if the contrast in living style is too stark, that may simply not be feasible.
3. There’s Truth in Interactions
Much like any reality TV dating show (cough cough, The Bachelor) it’s easy to envision seamless compatibility within the rose-coloured environment of date nights and weekend getaways that are rife with the appeal of new, unattached romance. It’s the interactions outside of those moments in which you can truly provide an idea of a potential partner’s personality and disposition. Could you live together? Could you take care of each other when you’re sick or circumstances are far from ideal? What are they like with their friends? Who do they spend their time with, and how do they interact with others? How do they communicate, especially when under pressure or influenced by emotion?
It’s within repeated interactions, tested by the natural, fluctuating trials of day-to-day, that you can determine if you can truly tolerate, love and support, each other.
4. Have You Done the Work?
It’s hard to identify a potentially compatible partnership if you don’t even have a solid sense of who you are and what you want, first… don’t you think? Outwardly seeking a relationship before you’ve come to terms with your relationship with yourself isn’t much different than trying to run before you can walk, or trying to build a house before laying the foundation. And this may be an age-old sentiment, but considering so many of us still seem to fall into this trap, it’s worth repeating.
Wanting a relationship doesn’t mean you’re automatically ready for one — it means you’ve bought into the idea of love and companionship. But attracting that love and being in a (successful) relationship requires you to do some serious work on yourself, before you ever try to invite someone else into that picture.
5. Can You Find the Balance Between Independence and Partnership?
Millennial dating has evolved a long way from those partnerships experienced by previous generations. Where our parents (and/or their parents) often got together at a younger age with marriage, kids etc. following suit shortly thereafter, we now preach the importance of independence and a more relaxed romantic timeline. Most of us shape our twenties and thirties around education, careers and travel long before we settle into the mindset for a longterm relationship. This is great, in theory, but it can be a double-edged sword.
Establishing a long-term partnership, today, requires finding the balance between the independent lives and behaviours we’ve created and firmly attached our identity to, and that which we can share with a potential partner. Joining together two very complete lives won’t (ever) be a perfect match — at some point, things will get tough, the relationship will be tested and compromises will have to be made. But with the increasing influence of dating apps and ‘the paradox of choice’, it often becomes easy for us to navigate relationships with one foot out the door, so to speak. If the newness has worn off and sh*t’s gotten real, we have our own lives to fall back on, right? And we could (technically) be on another date, in someone else’s bed or at least entertaining someone else’s intimate attention in moments with the quick download of Tinder or Bumble. We essentially always have access to an exit strategy that, even if it shouldn’t be executed, can feed into the ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ mindset in a dangerous way.
Independence is incredibly important — it’s something I preach endlessly, in fact. But be wary of how easy it has become to press ‘Stop’ on a relationship at the first sign of disconnect, simply because we’re so used to doing things our way (or logging onto an app as an easy bandaid for romantic attention). Rather than being interpreted as a threat to our independence; relationships – the right ones – should help us evolve into better partners and, ultimately, better people.
So, ask yourself — can you find the balance between your independent life, needs and expectations and the life which you hope to create with another human, whom you just might have the potential to love?