Rethinking Romantic Compatibility

Note: Large portions of this piece were written by Nina Singhapakdi.

Popular online dating website, eHarmony, brags that “every day, an average of 438 singles marry a match they met” on the website. The source of the site’s matchmaking success, it claims, is the questions that members must fill out in order to be matched with compatible partners. However, this philosophy is not groundbreaking in the least. Simply type “compatibility” into Google and your browser will be faced with thousands of websites boasting the most accurate relationship compatibility matching survey on the Internet.

Society believes that compatibility is the indicator of a relationship’s lasting power. After all, just look at all of the divorce papers citing “irreconcilable differences.” However, I understand relational compatibility much differently.

Most of the things that we deem as compatibility markers are shallow and fluid. Your partner may love the same movies, books, and sports teams that you do, but people’s tastes change. You may both harbor a lifelong dream to go to Bali, but when you finally take that trip together, what happens then?

I’m not necessarily trying to say that compatibility isn’t important. I believe it is and that’s something I look for in potential girlfriends, but I also think we’ve been understanding the concept incorrectly.

There are many couples who seem to have really solid marriages in spite of not being “technically” compatible.

The kind of compatibility that’s most important is about sharing your most important Chrisitan values (i.e. being equally yoked in the desire to build your marriage around serving the Kingdom) and having a sincere appreciation and respect for the kind of person your spouse is.

Whether your spouse is similar to you matters very little in light of your actions towards them.

Ben Young and Samuel Adams wrote, “It is not necessary or even healthy to find someone with the same personality traits. The issue has to do with your ability to accept and adapt to your partner’s personality style, assuming it will not change.”

You know those couples citing irreconcilable differences? They seemed to be “compatible” on their wedding day and their personalities haven’t changed.  What changed was most likely their treatment of one another.

I’m convinced that a couple who seems incompatible on paper yet prioritizes kindness, healthy communication, and a shared walk with God will be mighty compatible in all the important ways.

This becomes even more apparent when their relationship is held up next to the compatible-on-paper couple who’ve allowed disrespect, unhealthy communication, and emotional or physical abuse to become acceptable parts of their relationship.

Too many of us hear how important compatibility is and then enter into a narcissistic quest to find a partner who is just like us.

The truth is that people are complex and fluid. Someone who appears to be a lot like us can suddenly feel like our complete opposite on other days. I can find myself really butting heads with someone who’s really compatible with me on paper but end up having a loving, God-honoring relationship with a girl no one would have guessed I’d end up with.

Here’s my challenge to you (and to myself): Take your focus away from trying to find someone who reminds you of yourself and instead place the focus on yourself and the kind of romantic partner you want to be to them.

Work on your own emotional health. Work on how you respond to conflict, how you treat other people, and how you support others in hard times. Work on being more selfless, more loving, and more compassionate. THIS is how you TRULY find someone you’re “compatible” with, and in all of the most important ways.

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