Welcome to Relationship Views, a column all about the ins and outs of relationships from a Philadelphia-based relationships expert.
I’ve studied relationships for 8 years and am a licensed marriage and family therapist by trade. Born, raised, and now working in the Philly region, I know the residents of this city have many questions about relationships and how to connect with other people.
That’s where this column comes in to help. Each week, I will be answering one question chosen by Philadelphia voters through a social media poll. This week’s question was already selected by 18.9 percent of voters over the past week.
The question is … drum roll please …
What makes two people compatible?
When working with couples, compatibility is one of the most talked about topics.
Often I will hear, “I just do not think we are compatible,” or “We are too opposite to work.” Couples typically want to look to certain things to hold onto or to point toward when the relationship is not doing well.
Those things were usually points of compatibility.
The truth is that compatibility does not define happiness. I did some research on the topic of compatibility and a man named Dr. Ted Hudson ran a study out of the University of Texas around marriage and compatibility.
His research showed no difference in the compatibility between unhappy and happy married couples. When we think of compatibility, we think of certain virtues or values we have and whether they mesh with someone else.
Well, Dr. Hudson discovered in his study that the couples who were happy defined the major reasons why their marriage was satisfying was because they both worked on it together. Interestingly enough, the couples that were dissatisfied with their relationship cited a lack of compatibility as the culprit. So, when dating sites talk about compatibility, they are playing on the idea that in the past, you have been dissatisfied in your relationships.
So, how do we pick a mate if compatibility does not play a role in happiness?
Dr. John Gottman is one of the most instrumental researchers of modern day relationships and has created a way of quantifying the basics of relationships so that they can be studied and predicted. Yup, that’s right. Gottman can predict if a couple will stay together or not.
In reading through some of Gottman’s work, I found some research done around compatibility that actually lines up with my own opinion of what makes two people a good fit. According to Gottman, when couples focus their energy on building something together in their life, they tend to have the longest relationships. You do have to remember, though, that length of relationship does not always equate to happiness in a relationship.
Gottman believes that the single best predictor of a successful relationship between two people is how the couple interacts. Concepts like respect, admiration, and support are all things that Gottman believes are important in a person with whom you can have a successful relationship.
So that’s the research on the topic of compatibility. Now, I will add in my own two cents.
I have worked with families from many different walks of life and have counseled parents and couples throughout my career. In what I have observed, I believe you have to look for certain qualities that may be considered points of compatibility.
I believe your forever person should be in relatively the same place in life as you. I have seen couples where one graduated college and the other did not get through high school. I have seen couples where one partner wants to party and the other has to get up early the next morning for work.
Obviously, a lot of couples make it work, but from what I have observed, it is really difficult. If you are a career person, look for someone who is a career person too. The truth of the matter is resentment can creep in when you and your partner are not on the same level, whatever that level may be.
The second thing I think is something to look at when we think about compatibility is the future. What do you want for your life? Where do you see yourself in five years, ten years? Make sure your partner or future partner has a similar view.
Too often people get married and then realize that one never wanted kids or one wants to travel the world. Having differences regarding the future can be a pretty big red flag when it comes to decision-making and that can break a relationship apart.
Think about it … you are trying to create a road map for your life. You want someone to take the journey with you so, make sure your maps look similar.
The third thing that, in my opinion, needs to be thought about is respect, like Gottman talked about.
Respect is a multilayered, uncomfortable topic to think about, but it is absolutely crucial to the healthiness of a relationship. If you are single, take time to really think about what it means for you to feel respected in a relationship.
Think about the levels of everyday communication, fights, actions while out with friends, etc. The biggest lesson I have had to share with clients about relationships is that you teach someone how to respect you.
Granted, there are things we as humans consider respectful and not. But when in a relationship, sometimes people let things slip through because they’re in love.
Make sure you have a conversation with the person you are dating about what respect means to them so that you know where the lines are and you can understand the level of self-esteem the other person may have.
Self-esteem plays a huge role in the compatibility factors I have talked about so it’s always good to get a gage of where someone is.
Relationships are very complicated and while humans want connection, we are often mislead about how to make that connection happen. While compatibility may not predict happiness in relationships, it can certainly help in deciding who you want to be with for the long haul.
What do you think? Do you think my areas of compatibility seem fair? Would you have those conversations with potential life partners? Make sure to post your comments below or let us know what you think on social media.
If you have any questions or need more information on this week’s topic, please say so in the comments section. I’ll respond with answers in my next post.