Entries in compatibility (7)
Relationships frequently fall apart due to irreconcilable incompatibilities. Sometimes these incompatibilities are so large that they seem like they should have been obvious from the start (e.g., one person wants children, the other partner doesn’t; one person is deeply religious, the other isn't). Why don’t such dealbreakers prevent relationships from getting off the ground in the first place? Why do people so frequently wind up with incompatible romantic partners?
Are you satisfied with “vanilla” sex? Or do you seek the thrill of kink in the bedroom with your own list of “hard limits?”
In order to be sexually satisfied, you might think that you and your partner need to be on the same page of Fifty Shades of Grey. Aside from the intrinsic motivation to have a good sex life (i.e., good sex feels really, well, good), research has strongly established that sexual satisfaction is closely tied to relationship satisfaction.1 In longitudinal studies where couples are followed over time, sexual satisfaction also predicts, such that less sexual satisfaction is tied to an increased chance of divorce.2 So, when it comes to relationship health, sex matters.
About a year ago, I made a very silly, and costly, mistake.
I forgot my backpack in a cab.
My partner James and I were on our way home from the airport. It was late, we were both tired, and I didn’t even realize what I had done until I went to check my email and didn’t have my laptop.
“Hmmm”, I said, to no one in particular. “My backpack isn’t here. I think I might have left it in the cab.”
James, who is characteristically calm and collected, proceeded to completely lose his cool. “Oh no! Oh NO!! This is awful. This is so bad! What can we do? Your passport was in there! Your laptop!! Can we call the cab company? This is terrible!”
“Yes,” I mused. “I probably should have checked for it before getting out of the cab. Perhaps there is a lost and found.”
After about an hour of searching, we had exhausted all avenues of trying to retrieve the bag. It slowly dawned on me that I was never getting my stuff back.
“I can’t believe this”, I groaned, slumped into the couch with my head in my hands. “It’s gone. My laptop. My passport. I think my lab keys were in there! This is awful.”
My partner, who was more or less over the crisis at this point, tried his best to be responsive to my sudden state of dejection and misery. But he couldn’t help but ask, “Uh, Sam - didn’t we know this an hour ago?”
Folk wisdom gives us mixed-messages when it comes to compatibility. We hear phrases like "birds of a feather flock together" telling us we need to be compatible with a partner in order to be successful. Then we hear contradictory phrases like "opposites attract" telling us we need not be similar to our partner, but rather different for relational success.
Although compatibility isn't necessarily a synonym to similarity, they are certainly in the same family.
Perceived sexual compatibility is defined as the extent to which a couple perceives they share sexual beliefs, preferences, desires, and needs with their partner. Another form of sexual compatibility is the extent to which similarities exist between actual turn ons and turn offs for each partner emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally.
Have you ever had to admit on a first date that, among your many compelling and marvelous qualities, you are also a relationship counselor? I have. While this announcement can provoke a range of interesting responses, one I have often remembered was:
“Really! How interesting. Does that make you any better at your own relationships?”
This particular guy wasn’t asking sarcastically; he was actually curious. I chuckled and stalled for time. On a gut level, I wanted to say yes…but was that true?
“Romantic compatibility theory”—it has a nice ring, doesn’t it? This theory suggests that relationship success is a function of the unique combination of two individuals’ qualities. He appreciates her art, they both love cycling, and her positivity keeps him motivated when he needs a boost. Obviously, such similarities and connections between partners impact romantic outcomes—right?