Psychologist and author of Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships, Dr. Lisa Firestone answers some fundamental questions about relationship compatibility.
How would you define relationship compatibility?
Relationship compatibility exists, first and foremost, when a couple relates with equality and respect. It’s important for couples to have fun together and really enjoy the time they spend together. Relationships thrive when two people share companionship and activities. However, a couple doesn’t have to have every interest in common.
People often make the mistake of assuming there is only one person or “soul mate” out there for them, and they believe that that person will complement them in every way. The problem is they may use this idea to reject potential partners who don’t fit the image of the person they think they should be with.
Even when you find the ideal choice for you, that person will not share all of your interests or meet all of your needs. It is also important to have friendships, a broader base of support and companionship, so you can fulfill all aspects of yourself.
Issues are bound to arise in any relationship; no one is perfect. However there are many potential partners you may be compatible with and with whom you could develop your ability to be a loving person.
Why is relationship compatibility important?
People are simply not happy when they’re with someone they’re not compatible with. Unfortunately, we don’t always pick partners for the right reasons. We might be drawn to someone for unconscious reasons based on adaptations from our childhood. The psychological defenses we formed in our early lives were adaptive to the interpersonal environment we grew up in, however they may limit us in our adult relationships.
We tend to chose partners who treat us like we were treated in our family, so our adaptations fit. On an unconscious level, we are often looking for people who are not ideal for us. For example, if you’re quiet, and you pick a partner who is loud, you may fail to ever challenge yourself to speak up. You may yield to your partner’s decisions and let him or her dominate the relationship, not really voicing your opinion or getting what you want.
At first, this pattern may seem comfortable and familiar based on the position we adopted in our families. But later on partners often become resentful and angry about the traits of their mate that at first seemed so alluring.
When we connect based on unhealthy traits that fit together, the reasons we are drawn to a person eventually become the reason we are repelled by that person. Someone we saw as having “good values” could start to seem “judgmental.” Someone we chose for being “stable” may eventually seem “dull.” Someone we found very “charismatic” may soon strike us as “narcissistic.”
To avoid choosing partners for the wrong reasons, our quest for a compatible relationship should never be a search for our “missing piece.” When we seek out someone who “completes” us, we might limit ourselves and our personal growth. Instead, we should pick people who challenge us and help us evolve. We can even take chances with people who, at first, may make us uncomfortable, because they show more interest in and care for us than we are familiar or comfortable with.
How do you find a partner with relationship compatibility?
Ironically, achieving relationship compatibility often means thinking outside your comfort zone. The most important thing to consider in your decision is to choose someone you really like being around. Don’t place unnecessary restrictions on your choices – excessively limiting your choices by age, job, income level, etc. Even when we get hurt, it’s better to be open-minded instead of following an instinct to become pickier or to form more complicated criteria for a compatible partner.
It’s so valuable to also really explore and think about your dating patterns in the past that didn’t work for you in the long term. What inner dynamics were at play that hurt your interpersonal relationships? Do you have the tendency to be too critical? Do you try and control the course of the relationship? Do you have a tendency to defer to your partner? By identifying your own defenses and critical inner voices, you can separate the real you from those unhealthy adaptations you’ve formed from hurtful past experiences.
Do you think astrology or numerology affects relationship compatibility?
I don’t know very much about either of these and their impact on relationship compatibility. However, I think they can be used positively when they encourage people to take chances on relationships or to be open to love. However, on the flip side, people can use any input to limit themselves, to think negatively about themselves or potential partners.
Whatever your belief system, it’s important to believe in yourself and your power to change. Whatever “natural temperament” you have (be it genetic or astrological), you have the power to shape who you are and to change qualities you don’t like or that keep you from getting close to someone.
Is it important to find a partner who you are compatible with in every aspect of life? Or are there certain issues where it is more important to be compatible with your relationship partner than others?
There is no single person on the planet you will be compatible with in every way. What you can look for when hoping to find relationship compatibility is someone who is open to trying new things, to hearing feedback and to evolving themselves. If you look for just one person to meet all your needs, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. Shared beliefs can be valuable to achieving relationship compatibility, but separate interests are also to be expected. Couples should encourage each other to enjoy their interests and share them with others. They should also be open to engaging in each other’s interests and giving things a try. Don’t see yourself or your partner in a box. You should always aim to show acts of love in a way that an outside observer would perceive as loving. When it comes to relationship compatibility, it’s so important to simply care for each other – to consistently like, respect and support each other as autonomous individuals.