Compatibility – it’s not what you think it is
Grant Langston, eharmony’s CEO, explains the true meaning of compatibility and its common misconceptions.
If you’re using eharmony, it’s likely you put some value on compatibility. After all, that’s one of the pillars of our matching philosophy. In my conversations with people who use the service and have an interest in compatibility, I’m often amazed by the number of people who misunderstand what compatibility is and what it is not.
Is eharmony matching me with my twin?
I often tell a story about my sister-in-law who proclaimed, “This eharmony compatibility thing is crazy. Your brother and I aren’t compatible, but we’re happy.” I asked her in what ways they were incompatible. She said, “He likes Italian food and I don’t. He likes science fiction movies and I don’t.” She listed a few other issues where they weren’t synced, and I told her, “You’ve misunderstood what compatibility is.”
Let’s say you get an eharmony match and in their profile you see a long list of things that you have no interest in. They like to play golf, they like classical music, likes to travel to Asia, primarily, and loves to cook at home. So, they are a bad match for you, right? Wrong.
Many terrible relationships have begun on the backs of common interests. Having little affinity for the same interests probably says very little about whether you are compatible. That’s why it’s a bad idea to reject a match solely based on the things they like to do.
In fact, one of our biggest struggles is to get people to understand that glancing at someone’s profile and saying, “No thanks” is one of the biggest dating mistakes you can make.
But who really fits together?
The compatibility we care about, and that predicts long-term relationship success, has little to do with golf or classical music. It’s deeper and more fundamental. Here are a few of the things we think are important to compatibility:
What’s your sociability? Are you a social person who draws energy from crowds, or do you get your energy from quiet time alone?
What’s your autonomy? Do you need lots of alone time? Would you prefer to spend most of your free time with your partner?
How curious are you? Do you have a deep need to know about the world?
What is your sense of humor? Do you laugh a lot, at absurd things? Do you see the humor in everything? Are you a joke teller or a passive chuckler?
What’s your level of sexual passion? Are you extremely sexual? Do you feel that sex is a less pressing matter in your life?
These are examples of the many fundamental questions we need to consider. Let’s take industriousness. How industrious are you? We’ve learned through psychological research and experience that two people who have different levels of this key dimension can have serious problems. If you are a hard worker who gets up early and stays late — you may look at a person who doesn’t as being lazy. This breeds a lack of respect with serious consequences. If you like to work less and aim for a better balance between work and personal life, you may see a very hard worker as a workaholic who has their priorities in the wrong place.
You can see the entire list of eharmony dimensions here.
So how much compatibility do we need?
As much as you can get.
In building a great relationship, some incompatibility is fine. Your relationship can carry some compromise, and some friction. The danger occurs when you exceed a reasonable level or a period of time. If two people find they are compromising over and over on issues and values that are very important to them, that friction can lead to a lot of conflict. Some couples have the conflict resolution skills to handle that, but many do not.
All this means is when you’re searching for love, don’t get hung up on the superficial differences that don’t matter. Look for real compatibility, deeper compatibility, and build your relationship on a solid foundation.
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