Shouldn’t Spouses Be Compatible?

Square Peg in the Round HoleCompatibility.  It’s the idea that if you can find a person with similar personality traits, similar interests, similar backgrounds, etc. then there will be a higher probability of the relationship being successful.

But there’s a problem with this take on compatibility.  If you’ve been married for any length of time, you know that husbands and wives are inherently different.  We’re different biologically (thank goodness.)  We’re different hormonally, emotionally, mentally and socially.  We have different experiences, different families of origin, different desires, and different outlooks.

My wife and I are 180 degrees different on many things.  I’m a big picture person and she’s a detail person.  I’m more of a dreamer and she’s more practical.  I love art and music while she functions better with things that are tangible and measurable.  I love Star Wars and super hero movies, while she would rather watch the Lifetime movie channel.

Based on the typical idea of compatibility, our marriage should have broken down by the side of the road years ago.  But we’ve been happily married (most of the time) for over 30 years.

Does that mean that compatibility plays no part in a marriage?  Does that mean that people should try to find someone completely opposite from them?  Not at all.  Certainly the more spouses are alike in their thinking and interests the easier the relationship can be, but the compatibility that really keeps a marriage together is not having the same personalities, the same approaches, and the same likes and dislikes.

The compatibility that really matters is having the same effort and the same commitment to making things work.  It’s a compatibility that is focused more on working together than fitting together.  In general, it’s a foundational “sameness” in a couple’s commitment to making things work that makes the two compatible.

I’m not sure who originally said it, but it’s been said..

“A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people that refuse to give up on each other.”

Now that’s compatibility!

Join the conversation – What are your thoughts on compatibility and the part it plays in marriage?

Copyright © 2014 Bret Legg

2 thoughts on “Shouldn’t Spouses Be Compatible?”

  1. I think you are right. There needs to be a middle ground in there somewhere and not one extreme to the other. So many couples go into marriage with idealistic expectations that cannot possibly be met. We seem compatible when dating so we think marriage will be easy. Having completely different backgrounds and experiences can lead to learning how to compromise and establish new ways of communicating. I think having completely different interests (Star Wars versus Lifetime) also keeps a little something for yourself. It does not have to be all or nothing.

    • I agree. The all-or-nothing piece and the idealistic expectations piece can make marriage more difficult than it needs to be. Great thoughts.


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