Just as everyone has a unique set of fingerprints, all people experience life differently. Life experience, personality, physical differences, perspective, values and goals all vary, to some extent from person to person. Consequently, each relationship has its own dynamics and degree of intimacy. You may connect well on a sexual level with your spouse, and intellectually with your best friend, for instance. Another level of compatibility refers to how well you and a relationship partner respond to one another emotionally.
Although emotional needs vary, many share similar foundations. People have innate desires for affection such as hugs, kisses, words of affirmation, as well as for honest and open communication, such as talking about feelings, daily events, goals and plans for the future. There may also be the need for what the Relationship Institute refers to as "recreational companionship" -- the participation in one another's favorite activities. For couples raising children, there may be the need for shared participation in parenting and discipline. Overall, love and compassion form the core of emotional needs.
People in the process of cultivating relationships often feel more connected with one another as they learn more about each other and share experiences. They learn to appreciate qualities, talents, opinions and motivations in each other. They need not have an overabundance of commonalities or the same emotional needs to nurture a relationship. Instead, each should understand the emotional needs of their partners. They are not required to meet every need. An awareness of and respect for them is the primary requisite for an emotionally authentic relationship.
Just as relationships and individuals vary, compatibility is subjective, because compatibility is based on the dynamics of each relationship. For instance, a wife may find that her husband adequately fulfills many of her needs, although he may be lacking in the area of emotional sensitivity. If she is unable or unwilling to get these needs met elsewhere and her husband is unable or unwilling to adjust to her needs, likely, they will have an unhappy relationship. If she finds, however, that she has satisfactory emotional relationships with her friends or family, she may be comfortable in her marriage. They do not need to meet all of each other's needs to be compatible -- just to find a balance that works for them.
If partners find that their emotional compatibility is lacking, they can certainly work toward strengthening this aspect of the relationship, states Shruti S. Poulsen, a lecturer at Purdue University's Department of Child Development & Family Studies. She makes some suggestions for doing so in the publication, "Relationships: Sharing Dreams and Goals: Creating an Emotional Connection." They include discussing individual goals, and what each person would need from the other to achieve them. It is also helpful to engage in activities together, reminisce with one another and to establish rituals to celebrate their relationship -- such as regularly shared mealtimes and vacations. Any opportunity to express emotions and ideas in a supportive and caring context is likely to be beneficial.
- Strengthening Emotional Compatibility as a Prerequisite for Marriage Counseling Success: Joseph Abraham, PhD
- Psychology Today: 7 Keys to Long-Term Relationship Success: Preston Ni, M.S.B.A.
- Relationship Institute: Emotional Needs Questionnaire
- Purdue University Department of Child Development & Family Services: Relationships: Sharing Dreams and Goals: Creating an Emotional Connection: Shruti S. Poulsen, PhD
Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.
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