How To Tell You’re Incompatible With Someone
We love the idea of falling in love. The butterflies in our stomach, the constant wondering if someone likes us as much as we like them, and the desire to stay up all night talking may bring a smile to our faces.
However, as most adults have experienced, feeling chemistry and falling in love is not synonymous with compatibility. Many relationships have ended due to the realization that there are incompatibilities, and the relationship is causing more stress than needed. Compatibility, at its core, means that we are able to maintain harmony in a relationship due to alignment of goals, values, and ways of seeing the world.
As therapists, we often see when relationships are going downhill because we can see the various obstacles that will arise, even as our clients continue to see things through rose-colored glasses. Of course, there are always exceptions, and we continue to be pleasantly surprised when a couple works harmoniously together despite their differences. However, most of the time, there are some common areas that create incompatibility for the average couple. Opposites may attract when it comes to attraction and lust, but opposites often repel when it comes to factors that create compatibility.
So how can we tell if we will be incompatible with someone, as attractive as you find them to be? Here are some factors to look out for from the very first days of getting to know them:
- How do you relate to others? You don’t have to be the exact same type of person, but compatible couples typically have a similar temperament and a similar way of relating in their interpersonal relationships. For example, if you have one person who distrusts others’ intentions frequently, and another person who gives freely and trusts freely, then there may be a point of conflict. In a relationship where both parties are healing and working on themselves, these differences may create a lovely balance, and they can both learn from each other. However, oftentimes there may be resentment and/or a sense of misinterpretation when two people in a relationship view the world so differently. This is one of those factors that requires more than just talking about it, but rather requires observation of how our partner interacts with the world.
- Do you want to have children? Whether you want to have biological/adoptive children can be a make or break for a relationship. This is such a highly personal choice, and it is unfair to request a romantic partner to change their stance unless they truly want to go towards a certain direction when it comes to children. Children change your life radically, and not everyone wants this change. If you are entering a relationship with someone who already has their own kids, then you may have to accept the entire package. Many people accept bonus kids with all the love in their hearts, but not everyone wants to enter this level of commitment and responsibility. Knowing this stance early on in a relationship can prevent months or years of conflict and heartbreak down the road.
- What is your lifestyle like? The lifestyle we choose is fluid, and can change with us as we age. Some people are physically active, some are sedentary. Some prefer cold weather, and some prefer tropical weather. What you may have enjoyed in your 20’s, you may no longer enjoy as much in your 30’s or 40’s. Someone who is getting ready for retirement will have a drastically different outlook from someone who is getting their career started. There are always couples who are harmonious in accepting some lifestyle differences, and making things work. Again, these are outliers and are typically people who have done their own healing and can accept their partner’s differences without trying to be controlling. For most couples, having vastly different lifestyles can place stress on the relationship when one or both parties feel they cannot live an authentic life.
- Do you feel like the relationship is balanced? Relationships are never perfectly 50/50, however we are usually in a constant state of balancing the needs and boundaries of a relationship. For example, if you are sick and your partner is not, then it is logical that they may take a larger share of housework while you recover. Similarly, if you are thinking of what to plan for a date and your partner’s favorite band is in town, then you may give priority to that show rather than going to your favorite restaurant which is always in the same location. The way we give and take in relationships is usually formed early on in our development. This can certainly be changed with lots of introspection and deliberate practice, however for most people, this type of dynamic is pretty tough to change. If you feel like you are in a position where you are giving too much and not receiving appreciation, then you may want to revisit the compatibility of the partnership.
This is not an exhaustive list, however it is a starting point! If you notice that despite the chemistry and attraction, there are some sizable differences in compatibility, it may be time to analyze the future of the relationship.