Compatibility. To be compatible. Now there’s an interesting concept. When considering a person for a lifelong mate the issue eventually comes up. We look for things in common hoping to affirm that this compatibility factor is present. But how exactly is it defined and what areas truly make any two people ‘compatible’? These are the issues we’ll examine today.
First of all we have to admit that there are two kinds of long lasting relationships in this world. Healthy and Unhealthy. When it comes to the ‘unhealthy’ relationships, which seem to abound, there are a variety of ways in which people find ways to co-exist. I classify many of these relationships as the ‘Parasite/Host’ type. Not very romantic a label I know, but neither is this type of relationship. In it you essentially have one partner willing to give their forbearance, kindness, patience, humility in abounding quantities while the other simply feeds off it to sustain their own selfish lifestyle.
One example of this could be the woman (host) who uses her every ounce of energy holding family, job and sanity together while the husband (parasite) dives deeper into a life of alcohol, domestic violence, drugs or extramarital affairs. Of course the reverse also happens in which the ‘hen-pecked’ male host finds himself continually unable to satisfy the overwhelming demands of his seemingly sadistic mate.
These examples are pretty extreme, but there are subtler versions as well. It often exposes itself in the area of ‘control’. One maintains control over the other by continually destroying the other’s self-esteem. Discouragement of healthy outside activities, growth or friendships is common as the parasite keeps their host in fear that they could not survive without them when it is actually the other way around.
But enough on the unhealthy items.. what concerns us here is the issue of healthy compatibility. Many simply define it as “items of sameness” or “likeness of mind”. Deeper definitions may state it as a “connection” or even a “cosmic oneness”. But we’ll just stick with the idea that sameness or like-mindedness is what is meant.
Over the years I have had the interesting experience to know an extraordinarily wide variety of people. I have known people who are wealthy, once-wealthy, dirt poor, drug addicts, music and video producers, pastors, male and female prostitutes, handicapped, kind-hearted, bitter-hearted, vietnam veterans, homeless, intellectuals, medically psychotic, ex-convicts.. all of them on a personal basis with whom I’ve spent time to know as a friend at some time in my life. And with each one of them I was able to find some level of ‘compatibility’, or sameness of mind even though we were as diverse from each other as could possibly be.
What this tells me is that if you place any two people together on an island, male or female, it is highly likely they can find some level of compatibility someway, somehow. So in the search for a mate it is not just a sense of ‘sameness’ that counts.. but sameness over certain issues. Even though many of these people I mentioned were friends or close friends I doubt I could have many as a live-in roommate or marital spouse with much success. Why? Because for all that we shared in common those items were not the important issues of compatibility.
Perhaps you meet someone and find there is a mutual attraction.. be it for personality’s sake or simply physical. As you begin to know them eventually you find you like the same music. Or perhaps lived in a similar area of country or share similar views on ecology, romanticism, hobbies or career goals. Perhaps you are both easy-going, or both are flamboyant characters. While these things are nice, I don’t consider them issues of compatibility in themselves. What sort of issues do seem to make or break this elusive compatibility? Following are what I consider to be the major issues two people must see eye-to-eye on. For without these four issues held in unison, having the same favorite colors or views on extraterrestrial life will not be bonding enough to smooth over these critical items.
LOVE. ‘Do you believe in love?’, “Yes.”, ‘Wow, so do I.’ But what do these two people mean by their definition of love? Unless they both see love as giving and receiving love in a committed way that survives through joy, sorrow and anger.. chances are one person is going to feel either taken advantage of or highly disappointed. Love has to be understood as inseparable from respect, truth and kindness. It’s easy to tell the truth and be harsh about it. It’s easy to be kind and never speak the truth. Love demands we respect our loved one and ourselves enough to be both truthful and kind-hearted when needed.
COMMITMENT. This one often has to be taken on faith. There are tell-tale signs, such as infidelity, which may forewarn the lack of commitment in a partner.. but there are no guarantees that a person understands commitment until it has survived a few hard times to prove itself. Some enter into marriage with the idea, “It’ll be great, it’ll be fun.. if it becomes a hassle, we can always get divorced.” But an understanding of commitment says, “I make my choice to marry carefully and you are the one I want to stay with, through thick and thin.” Easy words to say, but again, only realized when tested. And life has a way of eventually testing commitment in all of us.
RELIGION. How much heartbreak has occurred over this issue. Even if both persons are equally non-religious at least they are then compatible in this area. But when each is of a different, adamant sect of belief it is best to part ways before any commitments are entered into. It cannot be ignored that eventually children may come into the picture and the issue of which parent’s religion will be implemented becomes an unyielding source of distress. The tempting idea that “you do your thing and I’ll do mine” in regards to religion is a foolish one that does not understand that marriage is the joining of two person’s lives into one. When that oneness is made of opposing elements, separateness or concession of one partner to true conversion are about the only two options available.
FAMILY. Primarily this would be the area of ‘children’ as in how many, any at all, etcetera. However it also includes simply the importance each person places on the value of family as an institution. One would think it comes natural but there are too many unattentive husbands, mothers, fathers and wives to prove otherwise. Family structure is important and must be important to both partners. Family time, affection, discipline and planning don’t just happen.. it must be an important value that is cared and nurtured for in order for it to flourish. What we don’t know how to do, we learn by way of love. But we learn it because for us it is essential, not a luxury or past-time. Saying, “I’d like to have kids someday.” is not the same as saying, “I value and will strive for a healthy family.” When only one person understands this only grief can result until it is a joint effort.
Love, Commitment, Religion and Family. These are four basic non-negotiable areas around which any other items of compatibility may be added to. People can be of different personalities, backgrounds, races, or have differences in music, hobbies, intellect or social standing and still have a joyful, healthy life together when these four issues are compatibly in agreement. But take away these basics and eventually the difference in perspectives become too great for either to ignore.
As a friend of mine have often agreed, it comes down to two people having the kind of love that causes them to value each other so greatly they work out these issues even if they did not see eye-to-eye on them when they first met. In all our courtships we all try to figure out things best we can, but often don’t address all these issues. However, when there is an underlying commitment to love that is willing to find common values in these areas I believe it is then that a couple has taken a milestone step towards the soundness of their life together.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.