How to Find Compatible Relationships

How to Find Compatible Relationships

Discover what compatibility is and how to find it.

Compatibility is defined by psychologists as having several components (Sprecher, 2011). First, compatibility means people feel positively toward each other, whether that is feeling at ease around each other or being drawn to each other. Although negative emotions may come up sometimes in the relationship, they are not the norm when two people are compatible. Second, compatibility means enjoying what you do together; this could be as simple as just being in each other’s company, but it usually involves doing activities together that are mutually satisfying. In other words, in compatibility people find it not just pleasant, but also rewarding, to spend time together.

Compatibility & Personal Characteristics

A less essential but still common component of compatibility is the matching of personal characteristics (Houts et al., 1996). This can look like similarity or complementarity.

That said, we have a natural tendency to gravitate toward people who are similar to us demographically (Houts et al., 1996). People who share our social class, racial or ethnic identity, or sexual identity are more likely than the average person to share our ways of relating to the world and our interests, so it is not surprising that friend groups are often pretty homogenous.

“What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are but how you deal with incompatibility.”
― Leo Tolstoy

Compatibility-Seeking

Social scientists have long documented this form of compatibility-seeking in what they call assortative mating (Thiessen, 1999). This is the fancy psychology term for the phenomenon of people choosing romantic partners with whom they are demographically similar. While this is typically measured in terms of selecting a partner who is similar in age, race, religion, socioeconomic status, and education, it also appears in our preference for people with levels of physical attractiveness, personality traits, and personal interests that are like ours. This seems to help with relationship outcomes: for example, people who are matched in their religiosity tend to have longer-lasting and more satisfying romantic relationships (Cassepp-Borges, 2021).

In pursuing connections with people who are similar to us, we may be seeking people who are genetically similar to us (Rushton & Nicholson, 1988). We may also be seeking people who reflect the environment of our childhood and who help us recreate the interpersonal experiences we had with our families of origin (Reynolds et al., 2000). Or we may simply find it more rewarding to be around people who do the things we enjoy (Aron et al., 2000).

Personality Traits & Compatibility

Research does suggest that certain personality traits make some people more readily compatible with others. People who are high in agreeableness and extraversion and who demonstrate a secure attachment style, seem to have an easier time being compatible with others than do people who are high in neuroticism and have an insecure attachment style (Barelds, 2005; Caughlin et al., 2000).

Tips on Finding A Compatible Relationship

Beyond our initial experience of attraction to another person, it can be difficult to know how compatible we are. A variety of factors somewhat beyond our control, from random events in our lives to the experiences we have with another person as the relationship develops, powerfully influence our compatibility (Eastwick, 2016; Karney & Bradbury, 1995). One tip that emerges from the psychology research is to partner with somebody with whom you share common interests, such as leisure activities (Crawford et al., 2002). In other words, couples that have multiple options for enjoyably spending downtime together are often the happier couples.

My other tip for finding a compatible relationship is to avoid overinvesting at the outset. Our judgment of compatibility can become clouded by the excitement and passion of starting a relationship, and we may move into greater commitment to the other person without paying attention to the quality of fit. For example, one study found that couples who waited longer to start having sex with each other had higher relationship quality on average, even when characteristics such as their religiosity and past relationships were taken into account (Busby et al., 2010).

In addition to the characteristics mentioned above, people who are interpersonally warm are more easily compatible with others (Finkel et al., 2012). Beyond this, however, it really does come down to how well two people’s personalities and interests match each other – your personal traits make you compatible with some people and less compatible with others. So rather than worrying about whether you are naturally likable, it is more beneficial to focus on what, or who, will be compatible with you (Marchi et al., 2023): what are your values, lifestyle preferences, and opinions? People who match you on these characteristics are more likely to be compatible with you.

In Sum

Compatibility is idiosyncratic – it is all about the context of the moment: who you are, where you are, and where you are going. From a place of knowing yourself well, hopefully you can find people who are compatible with just who you are.

References

● Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(2), 273-284.

● Barelds, D. P. (2005). Self and partner personality in intimate relationships. European Journal of Personality: Published for the European Association of Personality Psychology, 19(6), 501-518.

● Busby, D. M., Carroll, J. S., & Willoughby, B. J. (2010). Compatibility or restraint? The effects of sexual timing on marriage relationships. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(6), 766–774.

● Cassepp-Borges, V. (2021). Should I stay or should I go? Relationship satisfaction, love, love styles and religion compatibility predicting the fate of relationships. Sexuality & Culture, 25(3), 871-883.

● Caughlin, J. P., Huston, T. L., & Houts, R. M. (2000). How does personality matter in marriage? An examination of trait anxiety, interpersonal negativity, and marital satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(2), 326–336.

● Crawford, D. W., Houts, R. M., Huston, T. L., & George, L. J. (2002). Compatibility, leisure, and satisfaction in marital relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(2), 433-449.

● Eastwick, P. W. (2016). The emerging integration of close relationships research and evolutionary psychology. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25, 183– 190.

● Finkel, E. J., Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., & Sprecher, S. (2012). Online dating: A critical analysis from the perspective of psychological science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13, 3–66.

● Houts, R., Robins, E., & Huston, T. (1996). Compatibility and the development of premarital relationships. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 58, 7–20.

● Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (1995). The longitudinal course of marital quality and stability: A review of theory, methods, and research. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 3–34.

● Marchi, A., Csajbók, Z., & Jonason, P. K. (2023). 24 ways to be compatible with your relationship partners: Sex differences, context effects, and love styles. Personality and Individual Differences, 206, 112134.

● Reynolds, C. A., Baker, L. A., & Pedersen, N. L. (2000). Multivariate models of mixed assortment: Phenotypic assortment and social homogamy for education and fluid ability. Behavior Genetics, 30, 455 – 476.

● Rushton, J. P., & Nicholson, I. R. (1988). Genetic similarity theory, intelligence and mate choice. Ethology and Sociobiology, 9, 45-57.

● Sprecher, S. (2011). Relationship compatibility, compatible matches, and compatibility matching. Acta de Investigación Psicológica, 1(2), 187-215