There’s no other way of saying it – compatibility is a myth. The idea that being compatible is required, if not necessary for a happy relationship, is a gross exaggeration in itself.
Love creates compatibility.It is what keeps couples together. In therapy sessions, the first question that I always ask is, “Do you love your partner?”. Where there is fondness and love, there is hope. This has always been my marital counselling philosophy and experience
Every time we talk about couples, we talk
about how they have things in common. Dating apps, Facebook and even your over-interfering aunt is convinced that compatibility and having things in common is essential for a happy relationship.
Social media makes this worse, with prospective couples being handed out a list of things in common. Does she like the same music? You like Chinese food but he can’t stand the smell?
Here’s the thing – there is no evidence to suggest that this is true! In fact it might be a better idea altogether to avoid such constructs. Most scientific evidence, in fact, shows that the idea of ‘having things in common’ – is something that most people still dating would be better off ignoring.
Many will have you believe that compatibility is the Holy Grail of all romantic stories that end happily ever after. Dating sites will match your personality and questionnaires and complex algorithms will work ceaselessly to find your perfect partner.
But there’s little evidence that sharing a lot of interests or traits with someone makes a successful relationship more likely. And this is not to say that ‘opposites attract’. In fact it’s simply that it’s not very important whether or not your interests and traits match a prospective partner’s.
What the ‘happily ever after’ story fails to take into account is that people change. I have seen this time and again, over the years as a therapist. People change, compatibility goes to hell. I loved dancing but now I prefer to sleep. My husband still loves dancing. Oops.
It might seem paradoxical, but in order for a couple to be truly compatible – individuals need to tolerate being incompatible occasionally. Disagreements about small things are inevitable when two distinct individuals attempt to forge a life together. Some issues could be small – what to have for dinner, others could be much bigger – like the basis of one’s parental philosophy.
So then, if compatibility is the yardstick for happiness, no couple can be happy and all long-term relationships are inherently flawed. Incompatibilities and disagreements will take place. But individuals need not make more of this. The idea that in a relationship, both individuals need to become one raises the question – if you two become one, then who do you end up becoming?
Its not compatibility that keeps couples together, its friendship trust and commitment.
According to Gottman, the man behind the famous ‘Love Lab’ ,relationships are built on trust, commitment and a deep friendly, not similar interests. It is possible for a couple to have similar interests and personalities but land up in trouble because of their conflict and communication style.
Happy relationships are possible. If you feel you have the commitment to make your relationship work, communicate with your partner ,work on resolving conflict more effectively and accept your partner for who they are. It is advisable to seek couples counselling if you feel you have hit a rough patch in your relationship