You like your coffee black, strong, and sugarfree. He doesn’t like coffee at all.
You’re an articulate writer. He’s a tech-savvy introvert who’s not good with words but with codes.
You speak your mind. He’s passive-aggressive.
Opposites attract and likes repel. But does this natural principle hold true when it comes to the matters of the heart? Clinical psychologist and journalist Vinita Mehta says, “It’s complicated.”
Every couple has incompatibilities. Every couple argues about the same things, like money, sex, kids, and the lack of time. We are all wired differently. It’s about how you manage those differences. It’s about not making your incompatibilities deal breakers.
Sure you think your “perfect match” is someone who is more like you. However, experts agree that compatibility is overrated. The sensitivity to the issue of compatibility is often in itself a sign of catastrophe.
The similarities or personality traits that “attract” people to each other might not hold up over time. You might be attracted to someone because you two both can play guitar. But what if the other one gets injured for life and swears to never play again?
Personality and values are crucial. But, people overemphasize its effect in relationships yet underemphasize the extent to which easy compatible characters aid marriages. The main reason people break up is they grow apart, not together. Faith, family values, shared vision of your life goals together, and other “foundation things” – these are the fundamental things you should be on the same page about.
So let’s cut to the chase: You feel like you and your partner aren’t compatible since you don’t share the same traits and values. What are you gonna do about it? How do you make your relationship work?
Here are some tips to settle your differences and come to an improved, workable relationship.
Don’t say “you have nothing in common.” There must be something. Even if you don’t enjoy the same kind of movies and music, perhaps you may like the same actor or musician. Even if you don’t like the same kind of cuisine, you may share one weird eating habit – like putting catsup on everything. You may hate the same person, a politician for instance. There must be something relatable you saw in him when you first met that made you stay.
And when we talk about “common ground”, we don’t always mean likes and dislikes. It can be shared experiences and emotions. Think about the times you shared, the challenges you endured and the triumphs you celebrated. Couples facing divorce might say, “we have nothing in common” but in reality, they have kids, a house, and a decade of shared adventures.
It’s quite tempting to force your partner to like the same things you like and be more like you, but imposing your beliefs on another person will just magnify the gap you’re seeking to bridge. It can also be frustrating. You have to learn to accept that you’re different, but these individual traits make you who you are, thus should be valued and respected.
Treat your differences as a positive aspect, not a negative one. Learn from each other while respecting each other’s worlds. Sometimes, differences can be used to establish an even more fulfilling relationship. It’s nice to have someone who challenges and spars with you but in an assertive way.
Be more open to your partner’s activities, hobbies, and interests, no matter how boring or complicated they may seem. You don’t have to force yourself to fully understand and engage in them (like, how the hell does computer programming work?). In the same way, he doesn’t have to learn how to play the piano or love classical songs just to get along with you.
In addition, when you’re having opposing views on certain issues, try to understand where he’s coming from. For example, he believes in traditional courting where men pay the bills, while you’re a modern feminist who doesn’t condone gender roles. If you try to stand on his shoes, you may see that he might’ve been raised in a family of policemen where chivalrous acts are practiced, and he doesn’t intend to offend you.
Next to seeing things from the other person’s perspective, the least you could do is to compromise. Given the situation, you could agree to split the bill everytime you dine outside, or take turns. And from there, let’s see what happens.
Interests in sports, music, art, travel, and gourmet are surface values and they shouldn’t be deal breakers. What matters most is how you work to settle your differences. If you find it impossible to work it through, then maybe it’s time to rethink your relationship. Would you be okay with this setting five years from now? Would you want to pursue the marriage?
Especially if you’re planning to get married and have kids.
Long-term relationships per se are hard enough to maintain, so being incompatible adds to the strain of the relationship. Having different interests is a minor issue that can be settled. On the other hand, not seeing the world all the same way, morally, financially, and intellectually is a major concern.
If incompatibilities like opposing life goals and significantly different values prevent you from building a shared vision of your life together, then it’s likely that your love isn’t going to make the relationship work out. Same goes if you’re hurting each other physically and emotionally just so you could come to a resolution. Every. Single. Time. That’s not healthy love.
And if you think a specific question will mess up the relationship, then mess it up right away, instead of getting stuck in a long-term relationship that will continue to make you unhappy.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is one of the writers for The Relationship Room, a couples psychology institution specializing in relationship counseling and therapies for couples and families. When she’s not using her pen in writing self-help articles focused on love, dating, and relationships, she spends her time creating poems and screenplays, painting, and making music.