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Modern Dating Needs to Prioritize Compatibility
Compatibility is more important than chemistry and similarity when it comes to love
Modern dating is a new phenomenon. In Eastern cultures, romantic unions were traditionally arranged by matchmakers and limited by socioeconomic boundaries. Even in the West, marriages were dictated by clergymen and parents before more liberated forms of courtship took place (e.g., Jane Austen). The biggest change dating has brought is freedom: it has enabled and encouraged people to customize their search for what they want, even if one doesn’t know what’s best for themselves. Do we vibe? See a future together? Otherwise, it’s ‘thank you, next.’
I asked my town square what they thought was most important for a relationship. The results were epically tied:
Let’s take a look at the old-school ways for a second: it tells us that the best match is one that prioritizes interpersonal fit and not sappy romance. Sure, we had less personal say in the days of arranged marriages, and gooey fairytale fantasies definitely feel amazing, but they are not what gives relationships longevity.
When it comes to romantic relationships, compatibility matters more than chemistry and similarity. A LOT more.
There’s good stuff on the way…I’ll let you know when it’s here 💌👇
High school science taught me that there are three ingredients necessary for a fire:
Fire = heat + fuel + oxygen
A relationship is a lot like a fire: you need chemistry (heat) to ignite it, compatibility (fuel) for it to burn, and a shared vision (oxygen) for it to last. A fire may need a spark to ignite, but it needs fuel to burn and a constant supply of oxygen to keep it alive; modern relationships are so short-lived because it overemphasizes the spark. While chemistry is the desire to be close to someone, compatibility is what makes you stay.
Chemistry gets it started.
Shared vision keeps it going.
Compatibility makes it work. The highs, lows, and every moment in between.
Think of a relationship as a joint venture where two people embark on a journey together:
They first have to meet and get to know each other: there’s your spark — your chance to hit it off and form an alliance.
Then you have to make sure they have similar values (i.e., worldviews & core beliefs) and that they actually WANT to embark on this journey together: there’s your shared vision — your evaluation of whether or not this relationship is going to last or if it already has a foreseen expiry date.
Most importantly, you have to see if they actually work well together: this is compatibility — no matter how much chemistry or common goals two people share, if they don’t work well together, they won’t work. Period.
The iPhone is a great phone and the USB-C is a great connector. But they are not compatible, therefore they will not work together.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with having size 10 feet and nothing inherently evil about manufacturing size 6 shoes. But they do not fit, a person with large feet can not wear the tiny shoes even if they really like its design.
Water will drown a bird and height will kill a fish — not because they want to but because these habitats simply were not made for the nature of these animals, respectively. Water is simply more suitable for the fish because they’re born to swim, as height is for the bird.
Compatibility is the most important because conflicts are inevitable.
The Latin root for the word compatible is compati, which means “to suffer with” or “to suffer together”. This sounds bleak, but in order for a romantic union to be strong and long-lasting, two people must be compatible because there’s no such thing as a relationship without conflict. Disagreements are as inevitable as death and taxes. You’ll argue, you’ll fight, you’ll fail to understand each other.
Compatibility > chemistry, because the spark is only useful at the beginning of the relationship. It might get things going but there’s absolutely nothing guaranteeing that it’ll last. Conversely, we’ve all heard of love stories where two people started off lukewarm, or even enemies, then grew to be very close.
Compatibility > shared vision, because similarities will get you as far as friendships go. Two people can have the same hobbies and interests, get along well, and have similar lifestyles, but we’ve all heard of love stories where relationships between very similar people fizz out because of one bad fight.
It’s best to think of these three things as more like dimensions: there are couples who don’t appear very affectionate with one another (i.e., low chemistry), but they click like puzzle pieces and hold the same political beliefs. There are couples who flirt and touch each other endlessly but can’t figure out how to handle disagreements. There are couples who feel a very deep emotional belonging to one another and can bear difficult times together but are of totally different religious backgrounds. Unlike other kinds of relationships (e.g., colleagues, friends, roommate), romantic relationships require compatibility to be minimally viable.
Compatibility is about synergy, not codependence.
Ask yourself: “does being with them bring out the best part of me and does our union result in a sum greater than its parts?”
Compatibility is the key to longevity because it boosts quality and satisfaction in a relationship: being with someone who matches you makes you happier. If there is too great of a mismatch, disagreements and misunderstandings are bound to pile up. For example, if a husband is introverted but his wife is very extroverted, they might argue frequently about how many parties they should attend — either the husband snaps because he simply can not stand that much social stimulation, or the couple start to drift apart because one of them is always a homebody. Overtime, this couple that once felt so much chemistry might start to feel like strangers to one another who have nothing in common.
Relationships like this no longer bring out the best in either of them, instead, both parties simply coexist and depend on one another because their title asks them to.
Signs of good compatibility:
You are comfortable around them, even when there is nothing to talk about
You can spend a day with them with no agenda
You “get” each other — communication is easy or you feel like you share the same brain
In times of conflict, you both take a step back and try to empathize before defending your own take
Despite sharing a big-picture vision, you both accept the nuances and differences
They make you happy being who they are and vice versa
You both try to out-serve each other; the mindset is “how can I do more for this relationship than they expect?”
You’re both equally willing to compromise and make sacrifices
“The best negotiations are the ones with someone in which I say, “You should take more,” and they argue back, “No you should take more!”
People who operate this way with each other make the relationship better and the pie bigger—and both beneﬁt in the long run.” — Ray Dalio
Good compatibility is when two people make the pie bigger together before deciding how to split the pie.
Re: modern dating has granted us a freedom to customize our relationship by cherry-picking people with traits we like, even if they come with a boatload of other traits that totally do not work well with us. But in reality, no one is perfect and no one came into this world with the intent of checking off someone’s list of “things they want in a partner.” Lovers are not bespoke. When you choose a partner you choose them wholly — no one is perfect but what matters is how you handle each other’s shortcomings.
Love is more than an emotion, it’s a living thing that needs to be nurtured and grown. A relationship does not survive on feelings alone — it needs logistics and reasoning as much as it needs chemistry and vibes.
“Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” — William James
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