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Characteristics for Compatibility in a Relationship

by Scott Thompson

If you're looking for a serious, long-term relationship you've probably heard the word compatibility from almost every source. Compatibility is supposed to be the key to real love and lasting happiness, and most people define compatibility as having shared interests, shared values or similar backgrounds. Surprisingly enough, this type of compatibility isn't as important as most people assume.

Acceptance and Warmth

People often meet because they share certain interests, but shared interests don't add up to real compatibility. You and your partner might both love the same type of movie or enjoy the same kind of music, but that's not going to help you get along or treat each other with love and caring in your daily lives. Psychology Today interviewed several psychologists, dating coaches and marriage counselors in 2012 and the consensus was that neither shared interests nor chemistry would produce real compatibility. Instead, compatibility comes from a shared attitude of acceptance and warmth.

Interaction Quality

Similar personalities don't predict compatibility either. According to an article on the "Science of Relationships" website, a study of 23,000 couples in Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom found that similarity between partners was responsible for about half a percent of the level of satisfaction either partner felt with the relationship. The quality of interaction between the partners was a much more significant factor, along with external circumstances such as stress. Since no one can completely control the level of stress or other circumstances that can affect a relationship, quality of interaction is the one factor both partners can work on to improve their compatibility.

How You Treat Each Other

When you're looking for real compatibility, it's all about how you treat each other. If you like spending time with your partner and you treat each other with kindness, caring, empathy, respect and affection you will become more and more compatible over time. If you don't have these things, any compatibility of interests, personality types or physical chemistry will fade over time. Compatibility isn't something people have because of who they are. It's something people build through the choices they make together.

Take It Easy

One way to build compatibility is to take it easy about the little things. Ted Huston, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, told Psychology Today that two of the most important factors in long-term relationship success are congeniality and having an easy-going attitude. Another is to let yourself idealize your partner a little. Lisa Diamond of the University of Utah told Psychology Today that the happiest couples are those in which both partners have an unrealistically positive image of the other. (See References 1) Of course, it is possible to take this too far. Quality of interaction is something both people have to work on. If your partner is abusive, untrustworthy or incapable of treating you with love you will never be compatible no matter how much work you put into it. However, if you and your partner are basically good to each other you should take it easy about everything else. (See References 3)

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