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Oct '10

Relationships and Compatibility

For the past month and a half I’ve been living with my girlfriend here in Beijing. This is the first time I’ve lived with a girlfriend, and sharing a small room in a small home with someone 24/7 has been great at times but also quite difficult at times. The experience however has taught me a lot so far, specifically in the area of compatibility.

Things in Common

Jen and I have a lot in common, which makes us a pretty good couple. We both have a spontaneous adventurous mindset, so if we are walking down the street and we see a bunch of old people gathered together for a dance class of course were going to immediately run over and join in 😀 . We both like to drink and party so we make an awesome beer pong team. We both like travel so we’ve had some fun trips together.

Despite how much fun we have together we also have lots of little fights which gets me thinking about compatibility.

Compatibility Problems

There’s a common phrase out there that is often accepted as truth, the notion that ‘opposites attract’. From what I’ve experience I really don’t think this idea is true… at least not on most levels. Perhaps with some personality aspects opposites attract. It’s not that uncommon for a quiet person to be attracted to a loud outgoing one, or a dominant personality to be attracted to a submissive one, or an indecisive person to be attracted to one who is quick to take the lead but if we move to the level of what people believe in and value I think it’s a whole different story.

I think relationships in which people have different beliefs and values are destined for struggles and unhappiness. If one person values a simple, comfortable, stay at home life, with dreams of having the perfect family.  While the other values an adventurous, challenging, travel oriented life with dreams of working on relief missions to help the children of Africa, it’s easy to see how they will run into countless issues and fights in a lot of important areas.

When it comes to important values such as religion, or future dreams, or wanting children or not, it’s obvious that opposite personalities are not compatible. But even when it comes to smaller or less important values, the differences between them can cause relationship havoc.

Coming back to the little fights Jen and I have, I wondered why we have fights over such small things, we bicker over unimportant temporary events, or small scale unimportant issues… but then I realized these little fights aren’t little fights at all… on the surface they are meaningless, but underneath the surface issues, what we’re really fighting about is our higher differences in values. The surface level fight is just a projection of a higher level compatibility issue brought into form with whatever little problem is present.

An example of this happened the other day. Jen and I were going for lunch and I felt like dressing in my blue hippie pants, my black button down shirt, and a green hat which I wore with a funny style. As we were walking down the street Jen complained with passion about how stupid I looked and how she didn’t want to be seen with me, I told her we were just going for lunch and not to worry so much and just have a little fun with my silly outfit. Eventually she got really pissed off, yelled at me that I looked retarded and stormed off to eat lunch alone, and I got pissed that she cared so much about appearances and that she wanted to control me, so I was happy to see her go. On the surface it’s a little fight over a little silly thing – my choice in fashion on one occasion – but underneath the surface we can see it’s what we value that we are fighting about.

Jen values good fashion, looking like a perfect couple in public, and a boyfriend who is compassionate enough to always want to make her feel happy and comfortable. While I value doing what makes me feel happy and not worrying what other people think, breaking free from the ‘norm’ by doing my own thing, and a relationship with freedom from control.

It was these differences in values that we were truly fighting about under the surface. The fight about the silly clothes instead becomes the fight about the ‘principle’ of the matter.

Increasing Compatibility

If you find yourself fighting with your partner all the time over big things like, whether you should have kids or not… or if your dreams clash and take you in opposite directions, or if the things you value are just too opposite to ever get along, you might just need to accept that this relationship isn’t perfect for you… But if you share a lot of the same beliefs, have some important things in common and just find yourself fighting about the little things I think it can be pretty easy to increase your compatibility.

Before working on your relationship it’s good to keep in mind that it’s nearly impossible to change someone else, if things need to change then it’s your responsibility to change yourself, and it’s your partner’s responsibility to change their self. But working together with open lines of communication will make it easier.

Firstly become aware that the little fights you have are most likely truly fights about the bigger things you value and realize the small surface level issues are unimportant. When you know this your free to just ‘drop’ the small issues, to ‘let them go’ and focus on the big underlying issues. (Learning how to ‘just drop it’ has been a big one for me as I tend to want to discuss and discuss issues to death, constantly throwing new fuel on a dying fire.)

Next try to understand your lover’s values and see the world from their eyes. Delve into the things your partner values and see if they could be something you begin to value as well. Seek first to understand before you seek to be understood.

Next realize that there may be some places you just can’t see eye to eye, and learning to accept the values your partner has and to respect them will help you avoid pointless confrontations about things you know you differ in opinion about.  Give each other space to be who you are, and accept each other’s flaws while working to improve your own.

What Personalities Are Compatible?

Based on the above it would seem only relationships where people hold the same values are compatible but I also thing on a more surface level it’s okay to have differences as well.

Earlier I wrote about some opposite qualities in couple which can still be attractive such as: quiet vs outgoing, dominant vs submissive, or indecisive vs decisive. You can see that these personalities, while opposite, don’t clash with each other, they actually complement each other well. Two dominant personality types would constantly butt heads with each other and two submissive types would have trouble taking a stand on anything, but a dominant and submissive relationship is harmonious and helps one person give the other person what they need.  With a quiet vs outgoing relationship both partners leave room for learning and growth from the other person. The quiet person can learn to break out of their shell and feel adventurous and thrilled, while the outgoing person can find a new sense of peace and simplicity from the quiet one. Obviously these are over-generalizations, but the ideas stand in the complexity of real relationships too. It seems then, based on this, it’s not really opposite personalities that attract, but rather personalities that are different but complement each other well.

It seems to me that Jen and I have the most fun when we enjoy things that are in line with the things we both value, and we both gain valuable experiences and grow when we participate in each other’s interests which are different than our own. We gain the most from each other in the areas where our personalities complement each other, and the only time we fight is when we have a difference in the things we deeply believe in and value.


In conclusion it seems to me that the perfect relationship partner is one that holds the same general beliefs and values, has a personality type that compliments your own, and shares different hobbies and interests that can make your relationship more fun and interesting.

It’s hard however to find someone perfect, so to make things better with your loved one, realize that your little fights are really fights about your values, and learning to accept the differences in the things you value, becoming aware of your partners values, gaining a better understanding of each other values, letting go of the little fights that arise based on these differences, and just enjoying all the good times with love will make you are your lover all that more compatible and make your relationship all that more awesome!

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