You both enjoy long walks on the beach, chocolate ice-cream and reading. You finish each other’s sentences and it feels like you’ve known each other for a lifetime. You must be soulmates, right?
Just because you and your sweetheart are on the same wavelength, it doesn’t mean it’s forever. It seems logical to search for someone who has the same values as you, and enjoys similar activities, but research suggests that compatibility may not be the only key to finding your one true love.
A closer look
Dr Ted Hudson of the University of Texas did a study on married couples and he found that there’s no real difference in compatibility between couples who are happy or unhappy. Whether the couples were compatible or not, some still found happiness and contentment in their relationships. During interviews, these couples said that it was them who made their relationships work – and not compatibility.
The unhappy couples, on the other hand, blamed their problems on incompatibility and vouched for its importance in making a marriage work.
Arranged marriages have a reputation of being old-fashioned and outdated, but professor of Sociology at Stanford University, Michael J. Rosenfeld, along with international happy surveys, found that they aren’t any different to love relationships. Arranged marriages tend to last longer and couples are found to be much happier because they don’t usually consider the option of divorce as most Western cultures tend to.
Kim McKay, a clinical psychologist at the Meraki Assessment and Therapy Centre shares that compatibility can’t be a stable factor as to whether a relationship will work or not, because as an individual changes and develops, so too does the compatibility factor. Therefore, how “compatible” a couple is will change through different life stages. Couples in relationships that last, know that they’re not always compatible and are able to manage their differences well and able to resolve conflict.
So, if compatibility is not the way to make a relationship last, what is?
Appreciate your differences
Your ‘sameness’ can’t be the foundation of your relationship, so learn to appreciate each other’s differences. Your significant other might be patient while you’re hot-headed, or you might be spontaneous while your partner is reserved. As frustrating as these differences might be, it is useful to reframe them as complementing or balancing you out.
Show and respond to affection
The main difference between the relationship you have with your loved one and all other people, is romance. Studies have shown that relationships where partners show affection are more successful than those who are closed off. So, be intentional about those ‘thinking of you’ text messages, holding hands, kissing and looking each other in the eyes. Even when you’re not feeling very romantic, these gestures will cultivate feelings of closeness and connection, and build a stronger relationship.
Always be kind
Remember, you know your partner’s strengths and weaknesses like no-one else. If you’re angry or upset after an argument, don’t use that against them by attacking their Achilles heel. Take a deep breath and avoid a low blow which may damage your bond in future. Talk less, listen more. It will save a lot of unnecessary apologies down the line.
Give your partner what they need
Whether it’s having an official date night, switching off your phone when you’re with them, or showing physical affection, it’s important to cater to your partner’s needs. You’re do things differently, and you also experience things differently. Tune into what makes them feel loved, and make an effort to show your love to them in the way that works for them. If you like camping and they like fancy dinners, rather take them on a dinner-date. It will show them you love them, and strengthen your emotional bond.
Be honest and trustworthy
You’re at your most vulnerable in a relationship, so it’s important to be honest and trustworthy, which helps to develop respect. This can be shown by talking openly, listening to each other, compromising when there are opposing views, honouring boundaries, being kind to one another and supporting each other’s goals.
Just because the initial dating or honeymoon phase is over, don’t stop dating each other. Continue doing unexpected thoughtful things, chatting until late on the phone, planning romantic dates and even working on your goals together. This will help keep you invested in your relationship and create fantastic memories together.
- Kim McKay, Clinical psychologist at the Meraki Assessment and Therapy centre