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How To Be Compatible With Anyone

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How To Be Compatible With Anyone

The truth is you can be compatible with any partner if you don’t insist on being right about everything

How invested are you in getting your own way?

I was recently asked “Do couples have to like the same things or think the same way to make their relationship work”?  My answer, of course, is not at all.  Furthermore, that’s not how I would define compatibility.  My Oxford Dictionary of Current English has as its first definition “able to co-exist”. With what degree of difficulty or good grace is not addressed. According to such a loose definition as the dictionary offers us, any two people can make themselves compatible, and I do think that’s true.

If two people share similarities in anything it probably will be easier for them to get along than two total opposites. If whatever it is they do share is central to their lives, such as two missionaries of any ideology, the greater the likelihood of their compatibility. Since, however, no two people are going to share every single opinion or way of doing things in everything, whether or not they are compatible is going to be defined by how they deal with whatever differences exist between them, however few or many.

I am remembering a couple I saw in my counseling office who married late in life and came to see me about their fights (not squabbles, but real fights) about housekeeping styles.  It mattered passionately to him that she made the bed “wrong” and she called him to task every day about the “ridiculous manner” in which he loaded the dishwasher.  No “I  prefer…”  or “I am used to…”.  It was black and white, right and wrong, and it was war.  These people may both have been devout Methodists or avid hikers, important beliefs and interests they had in common, but it didn’t matter since they could not get along at all if each angrily insisted on being right about everything.

The way I assess compatibility as a psychotherapist is: how do people settle their differences? Can they manage it in an adult manner that satisfies each of them most of the time? While it may look to the world as if Joel and Jennie, who are both flea market fanatics, would be highly compatible or because Jason and Jed both are into dog breeding they would make an ideal duo, if one of them is a rigid “My way or the highway” type and one is a believer in “If I outshout you I win” neither is likely ever to be part of a compatible couple until he or she changes to a more accommodating style of settling the inevitable differences, no matter how much they have in common.

So a more important question to ask any couple wanting to assess their chances together is not “Are we compatible?” but “How can we peacefully coexist with the minimum of trials and the maximum of pleasure?” Maybe, “how good are you at negotiating?” and “how invested are you in always getting your own way” would be far better predictors of a happy life together; not “are we compatible?” but “will we both do our damnedest to become so?”

[Isadora Alman]

Isadora Alman, M.F.T., is a California licensed marriage and relationship therapist, a Board-certified sexologist, author and lecturer. Her syndicated sex and relationship column "Ask Isadora" ran in alternative weekly papers worldwide for 25+ years. Web surfers can find her columns on her online free interactive Sexuality Forum (link is external). She is the author of two collections of Q & A's from columns: Let's Talk Sex and Ask Isadora, as well as Sex Information, May I Help You?, a peek behind the scenes of a sex help phone line which still flourishes in San Francisco today. Doing It: Real People Having Really Good Sex is a collection of helpful hints and titillating tidbits culled from column readers and Forum web site users. Her novel Bluebirds of Impossible Paradises: A Sexual Odyssey of the 70's is out in paperback on She has also contributed chapters to several books including Herotica (Down There Press), Dick For A Day (Villard NY), The Moment Of Truth (Seal Press) and Single Woman Of A Certain Age (Inner Ocean Publishing, Inc.) Isadora has been a talk show host and frequent TV and radio talk show guest, and a lecturer and workshop leader on a variety of communications topics. She conducts her private psychotherapy practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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