What Does it Mean to be Compatible?

What Does it Mean to be Compatible?

Posted By: Kelly Seal Date: 03-14-2019 Comments: 0

“I just don’t think we’re compatible.”

How many times have you heard your friends say this about someone they’re dating? How many times have you felt this way in a relationship?

There’s no doubt that along with chemistry, compatibility is a very important marker in determining whether or not a relationship is worth investing your time. But what exactly does “being compatible” mean? Is it a requirement that couples share similar backgrounds, groups of friends, interests, and hobbies, or have the same opinions on things like politics or money?

No. In fact, these types of compatibility factors generally don’t mean as much over time. We are always changing and growing, and this means you and your potential partner might have different interests or even perspectives at different stages in life.  

Let’s take an example. Being compatible means more than whether or not you both like roller derby, voted the same way in the last election, or whether you prefer dogs or cats. These things might seem important in a partner because they are important to you right now, but let me be clear: they are not as important as you think.

It’s nice to be able to share your life with someone who loves hiking or biking as much as you do, or who is amazing in the kitchen if you’re a real foodie, or who is down to engage in political conversation each night. There’s no doubt that unique bonds are formed through spending time together doing what you love, but what about the other parts of your life?

Let’s consider relationship dynamics. That is, instead of judging compatibility based on shared interests or background, try understanding how you and your love interest relate to each other.

If you find yourself getting frustrated because your girlfriend is neglectful in responding or doesn’t share her feelings when she’s upset or hurt – but you are quick to respond and always let her know how you feel – these differences can get in the way of the great compatibility you share.

Instead of looking at a potential partner through a lens of what you have in common, let’s look at how you interact with one another. I call this being relationship compatible.

Following are some ways to assess whether the two of you are relationship compatible:

Communication patterns.

No two people are exactly alike. We all think and move differently in the world, based on our experiences. But in relationships, good communication is crucial because there is so much room for misunderstanding. If you and your partner have problems communicating or feeling understood, you’re not alone. But being compatible means that you’re both on the same page in terms of your commitment to each other, to giving each other the space to talk, to listen, to be understood. Learning how to best communicate with one another while being mindful of your differences is the mark of good compatibility.

Relationship style.

Are you both on the same page in terms of what you want out of your relationship? Don’t think your love will come around to your way of thinking because you have so much in common. We often make the mistake of assuming our significant other thinks as we do because we like doing the same things.  

Instead, consider your differences. Now is the time to examine your relationships on a deeper level. Do you get scared and distance yourself when things get tough? Or do you want your partner to “prove” her love to you because you tend to be insecure? We all have hang-ups and patterns in our relationships. Being compatible in this sense means you are both open to acknowledging your differences and working together when times get tough.   


While it’s great to be sexually compatible, intimacy is a bit different. Intimacy requires being vulnerable emotionally. Are you both willing to do this with one another? If one of you is holding back in the relationship, it will eventually affect both of you. Nobody is perfect, and nobody is a hero. The more we admit our weaknesses and fears to each other, the stronger the bond we form. Ironically, when we are vulnerable, we see much more commonality with each other. We see exactly how we are alike.

Being compatible in relationships is deeper than you would expect. Relationship compatibility means truly understanding your differences, and being open to listening and understanding each other.

Kelly Seal is a freelance writer, dating expert, and author of the book “Date Expectations: A Guide to Changing Your Dating Life and Finding Real Love.” She got her start in the dating industry by hosting speed dating events around southern California and offering advice and encouragement to attendees. She now lives in L.A. and spends her free time hiking in the Santa Monica mountains and blogging at www.kellyseal.com.