Concepts of Compatibility…

Posted: August 14, 2008 in Concepts of Compatibility

What is this mysterious force that brings two people together? In all the vastness of the wide world we live in, all of the myriads of possible partners that we may encounter, why do we gravitate towards certain individuals, and why do we stick with them? With so many people that have different pasts and different value systems, what ends up being the glue that binds us together?

I always hear stories about couples that have all kinds of things in common; ice cream flavors, shoe brands, similar tastes in movies, bible verses, travel destinations. These commonalities, however, seem to reside on the surface level. I have encountered relationships where I have had plenty of these superficial things in common with a person and still it did not work out. So I must ask: How much of relationship compatibility is dependant upon how many things you have in common with the other person?

Sometimes opposites attract. You may encounter someone who is so shockingly different from what you are used to that you can’t help but be attracted to them. You are a dog person and they are a cat person. Your favorite food is peanut butter, which your partner happens to be allergic to. They may have quirks and idiosyncrasies that rub you the wrong way, but ultimately they have won you over. What is it that holds these people together?

It is rather easy to get along with someone who presents themselves as an easy match. Most people are on their “best behavior” when they first begin a romantic pursuit. Eventually, the proverbial honeymoon is over, and the novelties of superficial commonality fade and take the backseat to more substantial concepts of compatibility such as: Does he/she support my pursuit of happiness? Do they help to center me when I’m way out? These issues can only be proven through time and experience, so what determines if a person is worth sticking around for?

They always say that you’ll know it when it happens. When you meet that special someone, you’ll just know. Sparks will fly, angels will sing choruses from the heavens, and everything in life from that moment on will make sense. But what if that is all just a bunch of romantic twaddle? What if the rapid racing of your heart at the sound of your beloved’s voice is essentially the equivalent of eating too much spicy food before bedtime?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that lasting relationships should have a fair measure of passion, but can a healthy relationship be measured by its level of passion, and can such passion be sustained? I had a friend once who admonished me to never start a relationship at a 90% level of intensity, but rather to start somewhere in the 70% level. The effect would be more draining than uplifting in the long run. That way, she explained, you can eventually raise the level to a sustainable 80% over time. At first I thought her approach to relationships was a bit too mathematical and strategic (I always believed that both people should give 100%), but after thinking about it, she may have been on to something. No couple can reasonably operate at a 90% level of intensity. Both persons would eventually get burned out and lose energy. This example is synonymous with the idea of a flashbulb versus a long-life incandescent light bulb. The former burns bright and hot for a very short time, while the latter burns at a dimmer but more steady and long-lasting duration.

I have experienced feelings of deep infatuation and romantic empathy before in relationships, and all have ended, for various reasons, in failure. I wonder if the common thread was the fact that I relied too heavily on the “feeling” part. I felt like she was the “one.” I had a good feeling about the way I felt when we kissed, and so on. Was I dazzled by the flash of the bulb, the sparks of the Roman candle, so much so that by the time the brightness was gone and the after image faded, the show was over before I realized it?

Looking back, I can see how most of my ideas of what a relationship should look like was formed by others usually trying to sell a certain way of life. Commercials on T.V., books, magazine ads, and even friends and family illustrated a type of relationship that was not ideally realistic for me. Society paints a glowing picture of endless happy couples usually tied to some product line or another, while the reality of everyday relationship life is more complex and conscious. And similarly, the version of my coupled friends that I get to see is rarely the same as the subterfuge that I am presented with.

I think that most people get hung up on the expectations associated with the labels given in relationships. Deeper levels of commitment bring greater levels of status and entrenchment, which naturally come with labels attached, which, in turn, carry connotations that people associate with the images they are presented with in society and social circles.

Every relationship is its own creation, each bond between two people unique and irreplaceable. Whether the bond lasts for a season or many seasons, it is unfair and often inadequate to reduce these bonds to mere labels.

Perhaps the measure of a healthy relationship is in the substance of the amount of harmony that person brings to your life. Whether you are compatible on an analogous or on a complementary level, the person that you call “significant other,” should bring a measure of sanity, support, and challenging influence to the table. I’m not talking about the person becoming your identity or losing yourself in the identity of the relationship, but rather your significant other enriching your identity by filling a gap that exists in your life. How can it be anything but good if that person “frees” you up to be yourself rather than placing unwarranted restraints on your natural personality? Oh yeah, and you have to be good for them too. Now that’s what I call compatibility.

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