Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
Are You With “The One?”
Are you compatible? How do you know if you're with the right person? If your relationship is good but not perfect, is that okay?
These are questions that bedevil many, especially in this modern era where a brand new potential relationship is always just a swipe away. Are you truly compatible with your partner? Is this a good relationship, even if you have points of conflict? How good is good enough? These questions certainly com up when you're dating, but also for people in long-term relationships. Should you stay with this person, and invest in the relationship for the long-term — go to couples counseling, work on your communication, etc — or should you cut your losses and move on?
So. Many. Questions.
Relationship FOMO is a Thing.
It's easy to compare the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of our own relationship to what people choose to share about their own on social media. Even though we all know, rationally, that there's more to the story of every relationship than the gigantic flower bouquets and super-fun moments people choose to share on social media, it's still normal to have a twinge when you get a peek into what other people are doing.
In reality, all relationships are a mixed bag: We partner with other imperfect human beings who have quirks, personalities, annoying traits, and who are never going to meet all of our needs perfectly. (Although there are things you can do to increase the odds: Check out “How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship.”)
At the same time, it can be hard to figure out what is good enough when it comes to relationship compatibility. How do you know if this is as good as it's going to get? Or if you're settling for less than you could have if you kept looking for the right partner. Even worse, how much time do you want to spend in this relationship, and on this person, if you're only going to break up or divorce in the end.
Fear of Commitment
This uncertainty about a relationship becomes especially fraught when people are beginning to think about marriage. We toss around the term “afraid of commitment,” but after years of talking to commitment-phobic people as a life coach and therapist, I've found that at the root of their anxiety are the same questions: Is this it? Is there a better relationship for me? How do I know if I'm settling?
When people begin considering marriage, these relationship questions become a siren in their mind to the point where it can cause a great deal of anxiety. And for good reason! There are very few choices that will impact the trajectory of your life as the choice of a life-partner.
This angst was captured perfectly by a recent question that someone asked on our Growing Self Facebook page:
Hello! I have been listening to your podcast for years and it’s helped me so much. For the first time I’ve built a healthy, long-term relationship with a guy and I’m so happy. I had a question I’d love you to answer in a podcast or blog: how do you know if you should marry the guy?
I’m in my mid twenties and loads of my friends are facing this question, as am I. You’ve been with them a couple years, it’s good but not perfect … Do you break up and look for more or is he the one?
Are You Compatible?
There are so many different aspects of compatibility: Personality, values, the way you communicate, the things you want for your life, and more. Furthermore, we know from the work of Dr. John Gottman that the bulk of relationship issues couples face are not things that are “solvable problems.” They are issues of compatibility — based on things that are intrinsic to who you each are, and will likely never change much.
There are other aspects of relationships that can be changed, through excellent premarital counseling, couples therapy, and relationship coaching. In my experience, all of us have room to go and improve in the way we relate. People can learn and grow. Communication can improve. Priorities can change. People mature. Most importantly, people often learn how to show each other love and respect, and kindness and generosity over time. These are all skills, and they are coachable skills — particularly when you're motivated to have a great relationship.
However, it's also true that there is not a human being alive who you will be in perfect alignment with all the time. So a big piece of figuring out compatibility in a relationship is identifying your own boundaries: what you can accept, what you can appreciate, and what is a deal-breaker for you.
A Relationship Expert's Take on Compatibility
Because the subject of relationship compatibility is so complex, I decided to ask my colleague Dr. Georgiana (who is also a licensed marriage and family therapist) to share her insight on the subject. Listen to our interview for Dr. G's surprising advice for how to
- Determine if you and your partner are compatible
- The most important compatibility factors for a successful relationship
- The least important factors for determining relationship compatibility (that most people mistakenly look to, btw)
- How to determine your “deal breakers “
- Signs that your normal, imperfect relationship is worth working on (or letting go of)
- How much change is possible for each person in a long-term relationship
- Things to consider if you're thinking about breaking up or staying together
- When to focus on acceptance and appreciation for the person your partner is vs. when to push for growth and change
Dr. G and I both have years of experience as dating coaches, premarital counselors and marriage counselors, and we're tackling all these questions for you on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.
All the best,
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Are You Compatible?
Music Credits: Galapaghost, “The Science of Lovers”