Compatibility Under Fire

In the online dating arena and in the offline dating arena there is a buzzword evolving that is beginning to annoy me because it is so vague as to be meaningless, but it is also becoming overused.  This word is “compatible”.  Another variation of it is “compatibility”.  People talk about compatibility like it is the end all and be all, the one single ingredient to a successful, lasting relationship or at least one of the top five.  The problem, for me, is not that compatibility isn’t important, it is that it is so difficult to nail down.  Just exactly what does it mean to be compatible?  

Does compatibility mean sharing the same interests?  If so, then I know plenty of people with whom I share the same interests, but we would never make good partners for a romantic involvement.  They are either too young, too old, the wrong sex, already married…but we are compatible if compatibility simply means sharing the same interests.  On the other hand, I also know plenty of people with whom I have no common interests as far as activities or hobbies are concerned, but I really connect with these people on some level other than mere interests or hobbies. In fact, some of these people share none of my interests, but we still get along fabulously and have been able to find things to do or places to go spend time together that we both like.  Compatibility cannot be simply reduced to being able to share the same interests or hobbies.  It can never simply be evaluated based on how many things we like to do together. 

Does compatibility mean we get along well together?  And what does get along well together mean?  Does it mean we never argure, never disagree?  Does it mean we can work well together?  Does it mean we resolve conflicts effectively when they do arise?  Does it mean we just don’t care what the other peson does so they never get under our skin?  Hmmmm, that sounds problematic to me.  I don’t think compatibility can be limited to merely getting along peacefully either.

Paul Reiser, in his book Couplehood, 1994, Bantam Books, offers this explanation instead:

Because the way I figure, there are two types of people: those who get it and those who don’t.  If they get it, there’s nothing to explain, and if they don’t, there’s no point in trying to explain.  They don’t get it.  Move on.    But I remember thinking that if you’re going to be with someone, you should find someone who gets it.  And someone who fits.

Simplistic as it might seem, I agree with this assessment.  I’ve done my share of agonizing over the online profile.  I’ve wondered how to nail down exactly what I’m looking for when it can’t be nailed down other than to say that when I meet him I’ll know it.  He’ll get it.  We’ll be a fit for each other. There is no need to agonize over the descriptors because the descriptors can take a million different forms and they can all fit or none of them fit. 

The key is knowing when it is a fit or when it is not and moving on and staying committed to the process.  The bigger problem here is that we want to make what doesn’t fit…fit…because we are tired of the search and afraid the search will never end.  This is where fear creeps in and heartache is born. 

I never want to go that route again and I never want to use “compatibility” as my excuse for doing so and I dont’ have to agonize over what it will look like when it is right.  They’ll either get it or they won’t.   He’ll either get me or he won’t.  There is no better litmus test of compatibility than this.

One thought on “Compatibility Under Fire

  1. Like the question “best roadsign to describe you…” Yield! By our age we are all of varying experiences and strong convictions. “Getting it” means the ability to express your opinion, listen to the other point of view, and be willing to yield because it is just as or more important to the “mate.” The opposite is, despite whatever level of compatibility has been achieved, “inability to yield.” We have to compromise every day of our lives in work, family, play. Why not in relationships? What better way to build strength and trust than knowing you can be very differnet in your convictions, yet able to find middle ground by just swallowing your ego for once and “yielding”? But at the same time, in a relationship, you quickley figure out when the score is lopsided, don’t you? “Not getting it” = Inability to Yield.


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