Conventional wisdom states that the more compatible you are with a potential partner, the relationship will be a long-lasting happy one. Let me list 13 reasons why this may be in doubt. Getting along is important but there really is no way to eliminate the risk in a relationship. By definition, relationships are risky. Laws, social norms, religious standards; all of these encourage certain behaviors (hanging in there), but the risk is still there.
1. All about taking the risk out of a relationship.
Unlike buying a car, a relationship isn't only about weighing the pros and cons of a another person. It's about irrational, unconscious, and other messy parts of our selves we can't always tame. We fall in love with others who aren't good for us, stay with those who don't deserve us, and run away from lovers who were perfect for us.
2. It's about smoothing off the rough edges of the partner you've already picked out.
Polishing the object of our desire often starts with the desire for ideal compatibility. Shying away from the unexpected turns into removing the unwanted. And with it a sense of keeping the unknown at bay.
3. A plea for sameness.
This desire of security creates a need for sameness. Normal is essentially being similar to or like something else; a standard by which others can be judged. By ensuring our potential partner is like an ideal, we're attempting to reduce the risk in the relationship.
4. Convenience over challenge.
At its worst, compatibility becomes an excuse to reduce our choices to a manageable number whereby any choice will be good enough and so it doesn't matter who we choose--like a speed-dating event that's rigged. It removes the time commitment and emotional investment we put into finding a partner and to finding within that person their uniqueness and desirability.
5. Comfort over struggle.
Our longing for comfort in a partner is reasonable and takes us back to our first family and the unconditional love and acceptance we had (or wished we had) as young children. Without struggle, we lose the sense of specialness of our quest. Without risk of losing or failure, there is success, but no sweetness to it.
6. The triumph of boredom over fireworks.
Ultimately compatibility blankets the relationship with security that ensures no surprises; even unwelcomed and terrifying ones to be sure, but danger and crisis find their partners in possibilities and new directions.
7. We all want out love relationships to last forever (happily) and that's a long time.
Moving to the heart of it, we need certain assurances to get through each day and this is one of those necessary illusions. I won't get old, frail, and eventually die, I will get home from my commute every day, my kids will outlive me, and a hundred others that help to keep our life glued together enough to get out from under the covers each morning.
8. Ask yourself, "Who would I take on a voyage to Mars"?
The challenge of finding a partner that's similar enough to live with but different enough we won't become bored to death is the challenge of this task. Valuing compatibility over all else makes for a lopsided choice and may feel like an ill fitting cocktail dress after a surprisingly short time.
9. The huckstering of compatibility.
Online dating sites are the latest version of this game. Those sites that allow you to find your own way seem a bit more honest, yet they often have sister sites that will lift the burden of choosing wrong (chemistry.com and eharmony.com for example) from your shoulders with a mixture of psychology and statistical algorithms.
10. The seduction of compatibility.
Peace, cooperation, comfort, normal, security, boredom, sameness, and death. As the common-sense idea of compatibility weaves it ways through your heart, you may get what you wish for and suffer for it more than you thought possible.
11. The terror of incompatibility.
Struggle, misunderstanding, difference, challenge, risk, learning, growth. Which is what keeps most of us huddled around the fire of compatibility with its warmth and light; staving off the unknown darkness in the chaotic world of relationships.
12. I love chocolate, but . . .
Compatibility is, in the end, a good thing, but if I remove all variety (read differences) from a potential partner pool, well too much of a good thing can even lead to homicide. (see Solaris).
13. The Secret.
Is none at all but a reminder that we all have some incompatibility. We hide it, sand it down, and round if off. And cheat our partners out of the best parts of ourselves. Our uniqueness not our compatibility is the most interesting.
Sexually--its success, mechanics, and purpose. Intellectually--politics, religion, life and death. Physically--beauty and health. Emotionally--fear, love, and the depth of ones soul. Cherish your partner's uniqueness by cherishing yours.
What do you think about compatibility? Is there too much focus on compatibility? Not enough?