Compatibility Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be. Here's What To Look For Beyond It

When it comes to dating and relationships, the number one thing you will hear about is compatibility. That is, do you and your partner mesh well together? In "Jerry Maguire," Tom Cruise insisted that Renee Zellweger completed him, and ever since, so many of us have been looking for something similar. The yin to our yang. The cream in our coffee. The apple of our eye. The Romeo to our Juliet (y'know, without all the sword-fights, poison, and rampant deaths). 

How do you know if you're compatible with your partner? The internet has you covered, with quiz after quiz to help you figure it out. BuzzFeed has one (because of course they do). has one. There's an InStyle quiz to help you figure out if your respective zodiac signs are compatible, and dating app Bumble even has a quiz to test if you two are — get this — Netflix-compatible.

Yes, we all want to make sure that our love is buttressed by compatibility, but what does that even mean? Are we just checking to see if we have similar interests? Or does it go deeper than reliable pastimes and favorite bands? Is compatibility the gold standard? Could there be instances where compatibility isn't actually so hot? We investigate.

What's love got to do with it?

When we start dating someone new, the first few months can feel like we've hit the jackpot. They like the same music we like! They love all the novels we love! They're awkward and weird like we are!  This can make it super easy to fall in love, but when the going gets tough (and it always does), that's when you discover the true meaning of compatibility, and it has a lot more to it than just liking the same Netflix shows. 

As author Mark Manson writes on his website, you want to look for an alignment of values, and not just chemistry. What that means is, having your core moral and ethical compasses align is way more important at the end of the day. As your lives become more entwined and you begin to build a life together, having the same values will inform how you address bigger issues: Do we live in the city or the suburbs? Do we send our kids to public or private school? Do we have kids at all? 

Clinical psychologist and sex and relationship therapist Megan Fleming told HuffPo, "Knowing that you share the same core values makes difficult decisions easier because you both have the same inner compass." In other words, you and your partner might actually have wildly dissimilar hobbies or interests, but you will nevertheless thrive together in a relationship because you both steer your ship to the same star, so to speak. 

Is your compatibility toxic or unhealthy?

Speaking to Cosmopolitan, relationship counsellor Simone Bose said compatibility should be measured by "your ideas about family, how you live your life, what you spend your money on and how you treat people." It's that last one that could be the most make-or-break, especially when it comes to dealing with conflict resolution within the relationship. Let's be honest: arguments are going to happen. It's unrealistic to expect you and your partner will enjoy a fight-free life. But when it comes to compatibility, just because you mesh well, doesn't mean you are compatible in healthy ways. 

Couples' therapist Racine Henry says that some of our traits may go well together with our partner's but "doesn't always mean it is a healthy or positive complementarity," per Mind Body Green, especially when it comes to resolving conflict. "There may be someone domineering who finds a partner that is passive," Henry told the outlet, noting that this can turn emotionally or mentally abusive when a partner takes advantage of another's path of least resistance to avoid apologizing or taking accountability and responsibility. What this means is, your traits may blend, but they could be harming you. Learn to amp up your Spidey senses, trust your instincts, and investigate if something truly feels wrong.

Compatibility could limit you

When we look back at our dating history, it's inevitable that we've gained new interests, hobbies, or passions from the people we once loved. Maybe you never would have gotten into photographing street art had it not been for your artsy ex. Or perhaps you never would have taken ballroom dancing classes were it not for your first, footloose love. Whatever it is, meeting new people who are different from us expands our horizons, and often our interests, going forward. 

So what happens when you start dating someone who is exactly like you? They also are obsessed with Benedict Cumberbatch's "Sherlock." They also love to visit live jazz bars on Friday night. They also collect antique typewriters. It's nice! It's comforting! But perhaps, it also puts you in danger of being too compatible.

Being too similar might hinder you from branching out and trying new things. When that happens, you might fall into the trap of being too comfortable with your partner, rather than challenged. In fact, The Daily Mail reported on a study that suggested couples who were too similar had less of a fighting chance at longevity. So should we be choosing partners who are incompatible? Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy once wrote, "What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are but how you deal with incompatibility." Perhaps there's no golden rule, but if you and your partner are committed to each other, you're probably more compatible than previously thought.