There are the old sayings that “birds of a feather flock together” or “opposites attract” because they balance each other out. Typically, couples use whichever saying fits them and their partner best because they want to feel that they are COMPATIBLE for each other. The problems come when conflict in the relationship starts, and the blame begins. Then, couples start to attribute the conflicts that they are having to, “We just aren’t compatible!” and so, “Maybe we just can’t work it out.” As a couple’s therapist, this is about one of the worst things to hear. It’s not your compatibility, but rather, how much you are willing to give that makes a relationship work out or not.
Now, not being “compatible” does not mean that some people just aren’t meant for each other. Disagreement will sometimes happen. However, if you and your partner are questioning your compatibility and whether or not you are meant to be together, answer these three questions to resolve your question of compatibility.
What First Attracted You To Your Partner?
A lot of times, couples come to therapy because of something significant that caused a great deal of conflict in their relationship. During times of conflict, it can be difficult to remember the good about your partner. So, think back to the beginning of your relationship. What did you like about your partner? What were the two of you doing as a couple that maybe you aren’t doing now? What’s making you want to work on the relationship rather than jump ship and leave? Once you have answered these questions, you’ll likely have some guidance for ways that you and your partner’s thinking and behaviors have changed overtime. Keep reminding yourself of the good that you see in your partner, point out the positive things that are happening in the relationship, and bring back the things that you once enjoyed as a couple, but stopped doing over time.
How Are You Talking About Conflictual Topics?
Naturally, if you are questioning you and your partner’s compatibility, you are likely struggling with the ways in which you are talking about conflictual topics (i.e. values, finances, intimacy, etc). So, how do you respond when you and your partner disagree and you begin to question your compatibility? When couples come to therapy, it is not uncommon for the therapist to hear what the OTHER partner did wrong. During couple’s therapy, your therapist will likely ask you to reflect on what YOUR role in the conflict was. Did you become defensive when your partner brought up an issue? Did you leave and walk away leaving your partner questioning where the relationship stands? The way that you and your partner communicate about conflict can be a huge indicator as to whether you can overcome compatibility. If you feel yourself getting escalated during conflict, pause to think about why. What are you trying to communicate with your partner that is getting mixed up in the heat of the conflict? During this time, focus on “I” statements. Tell your partner how you feel and what you need during that time. And most importantly, don’t attack your partner for any differences that you may have. It is ok to have differences of opinions! The only way to work through this is to fully understand where your partner is coming from and how you feel about the topic of conflict.
What Are Things That You Do Agree On?
It is uncommon for couple’s to get into a relationship if they have absolutely NO shared interests or values. Typically, couples start to question their compatibility when other means of working through conflict does not work and they just can’t seem to see eye-to-eye. So, what are the things that you and your partner do agree on? Are there activities that you enjoy doing together? What values do you both share? As previously mentioned, it is important to remember the things that are going well in the relationship. Reminding yourself of the areas in which you and your partner are compatible can be helpful. Now, what do you do when you can’t agree on certain topics – maybe even big item topics? In this situation, think about how much you are willing to give and compromise in this situation. Sometimes, you may feel that there are some topics that you can’t compromise on. That’s ok. You have to decide how much you are willing to give in order to make things work. However, remember that no relationship can work if there isn’t ANY compromise.
Now that you have read these questions to overcome the challenge of compatibility, think about your relationship and answer the questions for yourself. What attracts you to your partner? How are you communicating about conflict? And, what do you and your partner agree on? After you have answered and reflected on these questions, consider how much you are willing to give and compromise in the relationship. If you want to, you can overcome the challenge of compatibility.
Amanda Cummins is an intern with The Marriage and Family Clinic. She focuses on working with couples in distress as well as families and children in transitions. As a Denver Native, Amanda enjoys hiking, yoga, and spending time with her family.