In dating, everyone seems to focus on connection. You go off the connection you had with someone during a first date, which really means you had enough things in common to relate to one another, had some similar interests and there was just a "vibe" that meant it felt like you knew each other well. And if it isn't connection, it's chemistry. The electricity that appears between two people that can be felt, hopefully by both of you.
But there's one crucial factor that often gets overlook but is the key component to build a relationship on and that's compatibility - the degree to which two people are able to coexist, grow, and thrive together.
And this shouldn't require significant change from either person to make the relationship work. This is the natural combination of two lives fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle, with a couple of edges that might need a bit of smoothing or filling out to adapt to a good fit - not cutting off sections to make the two pieces fit together.
For that reason, once you've established you like this person and decide you want to look further into their potential, it's important to think about a variety of factors that can impact the success of the relationship long-term. Below, I've put together a list of 5 compatibility checks to help you to answer the question "is this person really the right person for a long-term relationship with me?"
In life, we differ based on our values system. Whilst family might be a top value to one person, it might not feature for another. That doesn't mean they don't care about their family, but maybe friendship is more of a priority. Your values set the blue print of your life - they inform how you spend your time and how you make decisions, both short-term and long-term. Which means, when we're considering a relationship with someone, our values need to be compatible. If someone values family to the point of seeing them every week, and another doesn't, there may be less natural compatibility depending on how each person sees that working out. Can the family-valued person spend time with their family alone or does their value go as far to expect their partner to regularly attend too, later down the line?
This goes further in how it feeds into relgion, politics and other lifestyle debates and decisions.
For some, there's an agreeable middle ground, but for others, it won't work practically, or maybe there are too many differing opinions or justifications of choices that the other just can't get their head around.. That's when the relationship isn't compatible without compromising the values of the other.
No one is perfect at communication, and just as you think you're working on communication in a relationship, it goes to another level. At the start, you're working out communication frequency, which includes keeping the conversation going through asking good questions, and a little bit of flirty banter featuring too. Later, you're learning to communicate feelings and emotions, getting vulnerable and opening up to show this person a deeper layer of yourself. And once you're in an established relationship, conflicts, both minors and major, arise that require balanced communication skills. Communication isn't only about talking but being able to listen, understand and empathise so that you can find compromises.
It's easy to establish the communication compatibility in terms of how you communicate (text, phone call, video call) and how often (daily, every few days or weekly). The compatibility of conflict takes more time, and might even require being committed and out of the honeymoon period before this even comes to light. Considering how someone handles intense conversations is important. If you both get on the defensive, raise your voice and hurl insults, it might be the same but it isn't productive. It doesn't form the basis of a healthy relationship. If one person of the couple is like this, it's possible for the other to remain calm and us their communication skills to get through a heated debate, but over time this might result in resentment at always being the one to stay calm and actually resolve the situation. It becomes compatible if each person can grow further, take responsibility and improve their communication skills, but this all takes time and takes longer to work out from the initial stages of dating.
3. Sexual Compatibility
This might seem like an obvious one but let's cover the spectrum of interpretation here: Sexual compatibility is also an important factor to consider in a relationship. We're become more open to the different identifications in this world and sexuality is one of them. This isn't just about gender preference here, but instead about sexual attraction.
You might've heard of "asexual", the term used to describe those that doesn't experience sexual attraction to others. In turn, this can mean that sex isn't a priority, or it might be something a person doesn't engage with at all, although some asexual people are happy to engage with sexual activity, it's just that their attraction to another isn't reliant on it.
Most people haven't heard of the term "allosexual", but it's where the majority of people have traditionally identified - feeling sexual attraction towards others. That is until they hear the word "demisexual" which is described as those that only experience sexual attraction to others once they have a deep, emotional connection to the other person.
Often, the response can be "well of course there's got to be a connection", but my interpretations is that this goes further than feeling the chemistry between the two of you but establishing a safe space before sexual attraction is even able to develop. People that identify as demisexual often prefer to be friends with people first and pursue romantic and sexual relations after. As with all compatibilities, you don't have to have the same sexual identity to have a successful relationship but it might help. to be aware in terms of pacing and how people feel. On top of a sexual identity, a person's preferences for the frequency of sex is one of the more obvious and common compatibilities that need to be considered, as well as how open to experimentation and styles in the bedroom each person is.
4. Lifestyle Compatibility
This is all to do with how you spend your time, individually and as a couple. From work patterns, to hobbies, and how much time that allows for you to spend together, as well as spending it apart. Most commonly, people think they need to enjoy the same activity, have the same work pattern and be interested in exactly the same things as their partner. But it isn't about these being the same but working together necessarily. One person may be an early bird whilst the other is a night owl, which offers each an opportunity to get their time alone. Sport may be an interest to one whilst theatre and music is more for the other. Neither is interested in each other's hobbies so each half of the couple is able to maintain hobbies and interests with their friends, giving them other people to maintain connections with.
That said, there should be enough of a similar interest in some topics to facilitate conversations. But don't be put off if he's totally into football and you can't stand the idea. As long as there is time for you as a couple and that the football isn't on for every waking moment of the day, then you don't have to be interested if there's a balance. And vice versa for you when you're sat watching Love Island every evening for three weeks when he has no interest. Just make sure you follow up with quality time together before or after your individual interests.
5. Relationship Intent
The most significant compatibility check that gets overlooked because we make assumptions around what somebody is looking for. Just because you're on dating apps to find a committed relationship that means eventually spending weekends together, and slowly working towards moving in and creating a family together, as a couple or with additions, doesn't mean everybody else is.
It's important to ask the questions of what someone is looking for to truly establish if your two lives can blend together. Vague phrases like "looking for the real deal" or "looking to settle down" are too open to interpretation so getting absolute clarity when this discussion comes up is important to making an informed decision that leads to less hurt down the line. What do future living arrangements look like? Do you want to live together, and if so, where?
Is marriage part of your future plans? What about children?
This might seem like too much to bring up too soon. At the same time, you're only getting older and there's a time and place to bring these conversations up over time to establish the different areas and really find out what someone is looking for.
And be warned - just because someone is interested in moving in together, getting married and having children one day doesn't mean they want to do it with you. Both of you are evaluating what they really want and if it looks like what they imagined in their heads, and each of you deserves to find the right person for it, not just the best of a good bunch at the time.
You can only be a few pages different on this else your conversations will find their way into a cycle of one person trying to progress the relationship in one particular direction whilst the other holds back, trying to pull you into another direction.
These 5 compatibility checks are intended for you to use as a reference across a series of dates to help you establish if a relationship with this person really works or if you're getting carried away with your feelings.
Remember, you aren't looking to convince someone this works but to objectively decide if your lives cross over enough to make magic happen. No matter how strong the feelings, love isn't enough if it doesn't work practically so give these compatibility checks some time and thought as you navigate in dating.
You can listen to the full episode of The Single Girl's Guide to Life with Chantelle Dyson here: