When you’re in a new relationship, and especially if your chemistry is very strong, you might feel like they’re the one all the time. That you can see a future together, forever.
Then months later you’ll find yourself realizing that you were simply blinded by sweet infatuation.
“What was I thinking?” you’d ask yourself.
But of course, you weren’t thinking at all! Love is about diving in with all your heart, not picking it apart with logic and reason. Falling in love is such a beautiful phenomenon, isn’t it? But it’s dangerous, too.
And now that you’re settled in your relationship, you may find that you still do love them but, unlike before, you can now see your incompatibilities…your so many, many incompatibilities. Many of the things you once thought were cute are now annoying or frustrating.
“Opposites attract”, so they say. But can love really conquer everything, even incompatibility?
Here’s our guide on what to do if your feelings are strong yet you realize you just aren’t that compatible.
What is compatibility?
To define compatibility, we must first define chemistry because they’re often used interchangeably.
Chemistry is the emotional and physical connection you have with another person. It’s something we sometimes have little control over.
Strong chemistry is when we say “When you know, you know.”
Weak chemistry is when we say “They’re cute, smart, nice…but there’s just no spark.”
It’s a mystery how it happens, really. It’s something you either have with someone or you just don’t. You can try to be open, to be more attentive…but if you don’t have it, you don’t have it.
That’s why in online dating, it’s advisable to meet someone right away instead of talking with them for months, falling in love, only to find out that you don’t have chemistry in real life. That would suck. But yes, that’s chemistry. It’s something you discover by being together PHYSICALLY.
Chemistry is sort of a dance of two souls and you’ll only know you’re good together when you actually do the dance.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the main thing we’re discussing in this article—compatibility.
Compatibility is the long-term potential of two people to have a successful smooth-sailing, long-term relationship.
It’s not attraction, it’s not chemistry. It’s when your values, lifestyle, and goals in life align. It’s when life is easy when you’re together and it just feels like you’re a good team.
Compatibility, unlike chemistry, is more tangible and measurable. You don’t have to be physically together to find out if you’re compatible so long as everyone is honest.
And if you already know what you want in a relationship and what you don’t, then you don’t really have to spend too long with someone to see whether or not you two are compatible.
To determine compatibility, dating sites have those addictive questions you can answer so you can find good matches.
Questions like “Do you believe in god?” or “Do you want kids?” may seem too serious to ask on a first date but they actually save you from potential heartbreak in the future. They will give you clues if you’re compatible or not.
On a superficial level, you’re compatible if you agree on the things you want and on the things you don’t want, whether it be in simple tastes or in what you expect of your relationship.
You’re compatible if, say, you both like vanilla flavoured ice cream, and not if you love vanilla but they hate it with a passion. These small similarities and conflicts can seem cute and even trigger chemistry when there’s enough of them.
A more serious example is that you would be compatible if you both want to live a minimalist lifestyle. You are not compatible if you want to live by a minimalistic creed and they’re a serial shopaholic.
Now that we have that out of the way, you might then start asking questions, like…
Do you have to be 100% compatible?
And the answer is no!
That would be boring. Besides, 100% compatibility is a myth. Unless you clone yourself (and why would you want that?) there really is just no way you can attain 100% compatibility.
We are all unique individuals with unique traits. Each one of us has our unique opinions and traits and flaws. And it’s those differences that make living special.
The key to living with imperfect compatibility — which is, again, guaranteed — is to know what flaws you are willing to live with. It’s actually cute to be very different, as long as you agree on the most important things. It makes your relationship more interesting and fulfilling.
Otherwise, you’ll both just stagnate.
The five most important areas of compatibility for a happy togetherness
Centuries ago, our ancestors didn’t have that many boxes to tick when it comes to compatibility. Some were even forced into marriage but did well despite that.
Finding the perfect match is a modern-day obsession and an admittedly unhealthy one.
But while it’s kinda foolish to try and measure everyone to a checklist thousands of entries long before we settle down, it’s also a bad idea to just go in blindly and see how it goes because you think you’re getting way too old to be choosy.
Besides, people change.
So instead of going crazy ticking all the boxes, let’s just trim it down to the most essential ones.
1) Life goals
If you want to be the next Barack Obama, find your Michelle.
If you want to live a nomadic life, find someone who’s into that or at least someone who’d complain a lot when you’re camping.
If you want to be a billionaire by 40, find someone who’s already on their way up or who’s willing to do the hard work.
If you want ten children, find someone who’s not only happy to have children but also has the skills and money to have kids.
I have a friend who wants to move to New York so she can pursue her dream as an actress. Her boyfriend’s dream, on the other hand, is to go sailing and live a nomadic life.
My friend also wants two kids and a nice apartment. Her boyfriend? None of those things!
Now imagine their venn diagram. Their circles would be so apart that what they probably have in common is their love for each other. And this is a recipe for disaster. The more things you have aligned, the more things you have in common, the better your relationship will be.
It took them five years to break up. And it’s sad to look at the two of them because they still clearly love each other a lot but they really just can’t be together while staying true to themselves.
If you have similar life goals or you complement each other’s life goals (individual and combined), you’ll find that life is much easier.
What to do:
- If you’re both truly sure of the kind of lives you want, congratulations! Some people just go on living without knowing what they truly want. That means you’re both self-aware and passionate people and this is a big plus.
- Discuss what you’re truly willing to compromise.
- If you want three kids but they don’t want any. What about one kid? Will you both be happy with that?
- If you want to get married but they don’t, is it because they hate church weddings? What about a civil wedding, will they be okay with that? Will you be okay with that?
- Negotiate. If you’re really not happy with your incompatibilities with your life goals, offer suggestions. Come up with a way that’s not only fair for you both, but would actually make your togetherness more fulfilling.
- Make sure you follow through. You have to make sure that you’re both putting in the effort to make the necessary adjustments to have the life you both imagined after you came up with a compromise.
Money is one of the top reasons people get divorced. It’s not that rich people will be happier, it’s just that they’re less miserable. It’s one less thing to worry or fight about.
If you’re a saver and they’re a spender, it won’t be easy.
If you work to live and they live to work, it won’t be easy.
If you earn five times more than them and you’re exhausted all the time while they spend all day lounging and living the easy life, oh it’s definitely not going to be easy.
If you dream of becoming a CEO yet they’re sort of a bum… yeah, you get the idea.
Money isn’t just money. Money means comfort, security, power, and a thousand other things. So don’t think it’s superficial or petty. Money isn’t just money.
What to do:
- Be very open with your finances. Discuss how much you earn, your debts, the kind of lifestyle you both want now and in the future.
- If they’re earning more than you, ask if it matters to them that you earn more or if there are other ways you can contribute (i.e. if you have a child, you’ll be the primary caretaker).
- Discuss how you feel about money. Will it make you feel “used” if you earn more? Will it make you lose respect to them if they earn less? Do you feel bad if you won’t combine your finances? Again, money isn’t just money and this is a very important discussion to have.
You don’t have to know everything about world history and philosophy.
You don’t have to be a walking Wikipedia. You can be full of knowledge but still not intelligent. You can also be intelligent without knowing every detail of every single thing.
However, if your partner doesn’t have any interest or curiosity whatsoever on the things you’re passionate about or if you talk about something you think is basic knowledge and you just get a blank stare most of the time, then you are bound to feel sad or empty about your relationship to a degree.
You’d start to miss banter and never-ending conversations about everything under the sun rather than just sports or the latest celebrity gossip.
Some people can live without intellectual stimulation but if you’re not one of those people, you’ll start to get turned off by your S.O. This doesn’t mean that you’re an awful person, it just means that maybe you’re not a good match.
Even if they’re nice or kind or stable, if you can’t respect their mind to the point that you think they’re dumb, it’s bound to end. You will start to feel you’re settling and you might start looking for mental stimulation elsewhere.
What to do:
- Whatever happens, never give them any clue that you think they’re not smart. This is not the kind of thing you can solve by being honest.
- Assess if they’re truly dumb or if you just have different interests. Maybe you have very high standards or your interests are just that niche.
- Influence them. If it’s truly important to you that they know about certain topics, watch a documentary together, discuss, etc. It’s nice to teach an S.O. especially if they’re truly teachable.
- Stop and ask yourself if you are equally knowledgeable of the things they’re into. Let’s say they’re into pottery. It’s not intellectual but you can actually geek out about it together.
- If you really want to debate about certain things or you want intense mental stimulation, go to your friends or colleagues. Go to conferences. Your partner doesn’t have to be your everything. But bear in mind, those people don’t have what your S.O. has either.
If you visit Reddit’s /dead bedrooms, you’ll see a lot of sad souls airing out their frustration because their SOs refused or simply didn’t bother to be intimate with them after months or even years of being together.
This is like money. Sex isn’t just sex. For many women ( but also men!), sex is a form of intimacy. They need it to feel loved. It could very well be a hug. Some of us need hugs.
Speaking of hugs, you also have to do the lovey-dovey stuff. Do you still give each other gifts? Maybe you don’t need it but your S.O. needs it, like you need sex.
Sex, hugs and kisses, gifts, date nights…all of these are forms of intimacy and we can only get them from our partner. These are all part of relationship maintenance and are very important to keep the love alive.
If you’re a hugger and they hate hugs, well too bad for you. But if they also hate kisses and gifts and you want all of those things? Either you take them or leave them.
You can’t keep asking for those things because they lose their value when not given freely.
What to do:
- Figure out each other’s love language.
- Make it a part of your to-do list even if it becomes unromantic. Plan date nights, holidays, and yep, even sex. Long-term relationships are hard work. Don’t worry, you’ll still enjoy doing those cute things even if they’re planned.
- Be willing to do more. If there’s someone who has to love more, let it be you. And you’ll later see that they’ll give back the same level of affection. Don’t be scared to plant the seeds. If you truly love them, that’s how it should be done.
5) Gender Roles
If you’re a feminist, you’ll be repulsed by the “harmless” misogynistic acts and remarks of your S.O.
If you’re not too concerned by this, then there’s no problem. That means you match!
But if you’re more aware of gender equality and you want equality when it comes to household chores, raising children, and decision-making, then you definitely have to find a partner who shares the same views. If they’re the “macho” type who believes that men should be the leaders of the household, you’ll be miserable.
If you’re a guy and you just want a kind and loving housewife whose main role is to take care of the home and children, then find yourself someone who’s totally happy with that setup.
If you’re a career woman and you want a man who doesn’t mind doing chores and taking care of babies while you attend conferences, find a man who’s 100% happy to do that.
What to do:
- If you think that your boyfriend is a closet misogynist, discuss it and make sure it’s clear to him that it greatly affects you. Try to educate him and be very patient.
- If your girlfriend doesn’t want to be a homemaker, respect that. Know that you will make her miserable if you force her to be one.
- If your boyfriend isn’t an “alpha male”, respect that. He doesn’t have to be one of those Mad Men types.
How to approach incompatibilities
What’s tricky about compatibility is that most of us don’t even know what we truly want. Not only that, people change! But this could also be a good thing because if we’re so fixed in what we want and don’t want, we might not have room for slight adjustments when someone good comes along.
If you’re still dating (0-6 months)
I know it’s so tempting to just fall freely but you’ve been there many times so it’s time to date smart.
You have to somehow know what you want before you even start dating. At the very least, you should at least know your deal-breakers. List down the traits you’d never ever accept even if they’re the cutest and sweetest person you’ve ever met.
Here’s a short list of some of the dealbreakers you should consider:
- Addiction (drugs, alcohol…any addiction)
- Exclusivity (if you want to be in a monogamous relationship)
- Unemployment (especially if financial independence means a lot to you)
You should also, of course, go right ahead and ask if you’re compatible or not. Here are some questions that are okay to ask during the first or second date:
- Do you want children? When? How many?
- Do you want to live in the suburbs or the city?
- Do you want to get married?
The good thing about dating is that you can just walk away without remorse. You don’t even have to give any explanation. If you think you can’t be with them long-term, try to leave. Don’t wait for things to get better. There are other options.
If you’re in a long-term relationship
If it took a while before your incompatibilities became apparent, the first thing you should do is discuss.
Open communication is key to long-term relationships!
Unlike when you’re dating, you have the responsibility to make the other person aware when you’re unhappy so both of you can make necessary changes to accommodate each others’ needs. You’re nurturing each other and that’s what you should do.
If you keep things to yourself to maintain peace, it will bite you in the ass later. You might lose your feelings for them and then wonder why. You might end up resenting them, even!
Overall, not good. So do your best to be open, and be gentle. But keep in mind that simply being open is not the be-all-end-all. You also need to be patient.
Change takes time.
If you’re not happy that you’re only having sex once a week, please say it out loud and be firm. Don’t attack them, of course. But make sure that you communicate it to them. Otherwise, they won’t even have the chance to make improvements and that’s just unfair!
If you’re married
This is almost the same as the long-term relationship except much harder!
If you’re at your wit’s end, if you are starting to regret marrying your S.O., go to marriage counselling instead of finding comfort elsewhere.
Work on your marriage. If they’ve changed a lot that you’re now too incompatible with, don’t give up too soon. It might just be a phase. I know it’s not easy but try to go back to the reasons why you married them. Try to look for the good while you’re trying to rebuild a new life with the same person. That’s what marriage is about — being committed to making things work.
What if you’ve fallen out of love already because of the incompatibilities?
Don’t try to “recover” from it fast. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. Give yourself time to assess your feelings. Once you’re quite clear of the reasons, tell your partner. Make sure you give them suggestions on how you want things to improve so you both have something to work on.
Give it time. You’ll be surprised that one day, your feelings will be back again. But don’t ever force yourself.
You can try things to fix your relationship or ignite the spark of your relationship.
If things don’t improve after a long while, it’s time to ask yourself if you should stay or go.
Some people who are incompatible to the core end up wasting a lot of time. They’re in love so they’re hopeful things will improve. They try to bend as far as they can until one day, they’ll break.
Some can endure any kind of incompatibility because they know how to compromise and they’re flexible without losing their principles and identity.
Try to be one of the latter…at least for a while. If the relationship is worth fighting for, give it all you’ve got before deciding to call it quits just because you’re incompatible.
You might be surprised how love — the active kind of love that’s loaded with understanding, patience, forgiveness, and commitment — can actually transform your relationship.
However, you should also have the ability to know when things are not really progressing. You have to know when your case is hopeless.
Usually, only time will help reveal this. If it’s been months or years and your incompatibilities still cause a lot of tension and unhappiness to your relationship, it probably won’t improve.
In that case, have the courage to walk away when you’re truly not happy anymore.
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