The secret to compatibility is a lot like the old joke: "How do two porcupines make love?" Answer: "Very carefully."
Compatibility is something you have to work at. Like porcupine sex, compatibility has to be negotiated as you go along. You'll have a better chance at negotiating this dance if you let go of three popular myths and misconceptions about compatibility.
Myth #1: Similar people are more compatible
There is no evidence that very similar couples are more likely to have lasting, loving relationships, with one exception. If you have very traditional ideas about marriage, family, and gender roles, research suggests you'll probably be more satisfied with a partner who shares these beliefs. Otherwise, chances are, you can be happy with someone who's similar in some ways and opposite in others.
Often, these differences spark a lot of passion. Plus, you avoid the boredom of being with someone who already knows how you think and feel about everything. As Jerry Seinfeld once said: "I can't be with someone like me…I hate myself!"
Myth #2: Compatible couples enjoy each other's company and don't fight
All couples have fights. They typically fight about the same things too: money, kids, and sex. Contrary to what most self-help books will tell you, many very happy couples fight all the time. My aunt and uncle bicker constantly, but they certainly stay involved in each other's lives. Plus, if you look closely, you'll notice how they wink at, tease, and occasionally kiss at the same time they're fighting.
All couples go through periods of feeling bored with each other too. My friends and I joke that you can always tell the couples in a restaurant who are dating and the couples who are married, because the married ones aren't talking. Again, it goes against popular wisdom, but many very happy couples don't have a lot in common or much to talk about. Compatibility is about your ability to re-connect with each other, over and over again.
Myth #3: You can tell within the first few dates if your date is compatible
Although I'm a big believer in natural "chemistry," I've seen too many couples either give up too quickly or rush into a relationship, solely based on first impressions. Unfortunately, a lot of important information remains hidden for the first five or six dates. Frankly, everyone is on their best behavior on these first dates (or at least until you've had sex).
This brings us back to those sexy porcupines. They look sweet and even cuddly until threatened, and then the quills spike up. For most of us, our personality and communication style work the same way. It's only when we are threatened (because we feel hurt, angry, or afraid) that our instinctual way of responding pops out. Like those porcupines, we often start jabbing and hurting each other or simply run away.
Making love very carefully
Compatibility is about what the two of you do in those prickly situations. It's your ability to create a good "fit," even when your connection doesn't come naturally. That's why I encourage people to focus less on looks and common interests and more on a potential partner's "relationship skills" or "emotional intelligence."
If you're going to end up fighting, you might as well find someone who knows how to fight fair. If you know you're eventually going to get bored with your partner, you should probably find someone who likes to try new things and wants to grow and change with you.