Relationship Compatibility comes down to two significant factors:
Factor 2 is more important than factor 1. If factor 2 isn’t
in place factor 1 is going to return wonky results. So let’s put first things
first and talk about factor 2!
Are you authentic? Do you dare to be authentic? It’s a massive risk … have you taken it? It’s a risk that pays off … you gain just as much for everything you lose.
Authenticity requires the value / skillset of courage to support its development. Courage is something that can be developed in and of itself, and serves as a gateway to all the other virtues, and to ‘alive’ life experiences.
When I am my authentic self with an intimate it means I show them me as I am, right now, in this moment, no varnish, no mask. I tell them what is going on inside of me, no editing. This doesn’t mean I dump my opinions and emotions on them in a blaming way. For authenticity to truly work its magic, it requires that I don’t believe my own hype.
My perception of the world is a kind of hype that I filter reality through, and as I learn to experience what is there more fully, but not buy into it, my filter gets more accurate, and I experience reality more as it actually is.
Have you ever experienced how when you’re in a filthy mood and you think of your partner, you want to leave them? Or judge them? Or attack them? That you suddenly see them and whatever situation you’re experiencing in the worst possible light. Your head is filled with fearful stories, your heart is filled with storm. And the stories and storm seem REAL.
But they’re not that real. The moment your mood clears up you feel differently. Suddenly you regret those cruel words you said. You want to be close to your partner again. You fear they may leave you. Everything has changed (yet nothing much changed at all except your mood, and its influence on how you filter reality).
To be your authentic self in a way that supports intimacy with BOTH yourself and the Other, you still experience moods, emotions, and thought-stories. The difference is that you hold these lightly. You admit to your partner what is there, and you let them know that you don’t blame them for it. It’s just what is there inside of you right now. You choose to let yourself experience it. You may ask for their support in some way as you experience it. You receive their yes/no gracefully, sharing whatever comes up in you in response to it. You keep being real, moment to moment.
That’s it and it’s easy. And it’s oh so hard. It’s an ongoing practice; it’s life being lived. You’re real in every moment.
You fully accept everything about you. By fully accepting (but not buying into) your inner reality, you become safe for others to be around, and safe for yourself. You can be authentic and it doesn’t destroy intimacy … in enhances it.
Google search tells us it’s when you share similar opinions, values, and lifegoals with your partner (ie worldview and preferences). Sharing these means you’re more likely to stay together (and maybe even grow together) in a relationship. Which is what many of us aspire to.
Conversely you might be opposite to each other in some key ways that spark excitement and growth in both of you (but you will still need to be compatible in fundamentals like relationship style and key lifegoals in order to stay together).
I agree and disagree. On the surface level the above is true (and this practical level is important). But I’d say when you drill down to the root (the depth level), we’re drawn to people who are compatible with what our growth journey requires at that time, in some key way which is exactly what we need (that may be completely unknown to us).
No matter what happens on the surface the root is there, predicting the course and outcome of this particular dance of our relationship with intimacy (which is what every relationship with a partner is really about).
The root stays until we learn its lessons. And then we attract a new kind of partner and a more intimate relationship.
Partner A) When I was ultra-responsible and repressed emotionally I was drawn to a vibrant, spontaneous and irresponsible woman, much younger and more playful than myself. And she was powerfully drawn to me.
Partner B) When I distrusted all humans and didn’t believe in love I was drawn to a woman who was completely closed to me, and highly suspicious of my motives. We were a perfect and powerfully magnetic match.
Partner C) When I
got sick of caring for my partners and being the nurturing one, I was drawn to
a responsible and nurturing woman who was there for me. She often treated me
like a child, and I was totally into it. But it made her angry, and she subtly
shamed me for my neediness – she was both drawn to and repulsed by my childlike
self. She alternately cared for it and pushed it away.
With Partner A the relationship failed miserably through lack of surface compatibility. Yet it was a raging success due to me learning the lessons provided by depth compatibility. I realised after she broke up with me (which I found agonisingly painful) that she was right in her complaints. I was shut-down, I was anal, I was trapped in perfectionism and plans.
When I could finally take her feedback on board (something I personally couldn’t do without the motivating pain of heartbreak), I found freedom. I developed qualities that had been trapped inside of me, stunted in development since childhood. I became so much more like her, and so much more myself. I learned how to laugh and play. I let myself be spontaneous (oh my!).
And intriguingly, I stopped being compulsively attracted to those qualities in others. Thank you, my love of yesterday, Partner A.
With Partner B I had a terrible, emotionally abusive, and incredibly exciting and passionate relationship. We broke up when I told her I loved her – she didn’t love me, and was terrified and repulsed at the thought of me loving her.
It took me several years to get over her (she was the first woman I fell in love with and actually dated). During those years I recycled painful memories about us constantly, and complained about her bitterly to whoever would listen. I called her a witch, and felt like she’d cast an evil spell on me.
Gradually and eventually it occurred to me to wonder why I fell so hard for someone who didn’t give a fig about me. Why I longed to melt her icy expressions, to reach her inaccessible heart, to be loved by someone who pushed me away. I chose her as much as she didn’t choose me.
Gradually I recognised that she felt a lot like my mother … if my mother was young and beautiful, and not my mother but my lover. That was pretty hard to face up to! I thought I hated my mother (I did at that time) … and I certainly hated Partner B. But I loved her as much as I hated her, and craved her constantly … just like I craved the mother who never loved me back, no matter how hard I tried to earn her love.
The lesson for me was that I needed to give up earning my
mother’s love. Or a partner’s love. Some people wouldn’t and couldn’t love me,
and that had nothing to do with me. If I wanted to experience love, I needed to
choose something and someone that had a snowball-in-hell’s chance of love – not
make a choice based on hellish familiarity.
That revelation was terrifying! And so so helpful and needed. Only Partner B could have got me there. Thank you dearly to you, Partner B.
With Partner C I experienced more love and good moments than I had with any other partner, at that time. But it was still a very painful and exhausting relationship. We went back and forth from sunshine to rain, just like that. Everything we said triggered the other one. We bickered constantly. Yet we loved each other too, and experimented with more truth-telling than either of us had ever achieved in relating.
We couldn’t seem to make it work though we both tried and tried. One problem was our surface level incompatibilities (they do count). We chose different relationship styles (monogamy and polyamory) and couldn’t face up to that – we kept trying to change each other. We wanted different life-goals (children and no-children) and couldn’t face up to that – we kept pretending it wasn’t true.
The other problem was our root level compatibility (which wasn’t a problem … it’s always a blessing in deep disguise). At the root I wanted to be cared for, and she didn’t want to care for me. But she’d been conditioned to care for others and ignore her needs, and she was scared of saying her true no, or making a new choice. She was also scared of recognising that she had needs too, and asking for these to be cared for. She preferred to pretend she was always strong and adult.
I wouldn’t let myself hear her consistent ‘no’, and feel the old childhood pain that came up for me. I kept pretending that she would come to say a consistent ‘yes’, I kept telling her she should change and grow in the direction I wanted her to. I tried to change her, and every time I did, I wasn’t loving her or myself.
Slowly slowly, we made our painful descent toward breaking up (it took a long time to get that plane to land, what with our mutual terror of losing each other and what drops of love we’d found). As we did I learned how to receive her Nos without melting down or getting revengeful. And I learned how to admit to myself that I wanted a relationship that was consistently a yes to me having owned-needs, and I wanted partners who admitted they had needs and were open to my support.
I learned how to admit this to her, without telling her she was bad or that she should change. We were fundamentally different – we were incompatible. We needed to admit it but that didn’t mean we needed to judge each other, or try to change a thing.
The deeper root reality as I see it (she sees it differently, and that's fine) is that we had mutual perfectly-opposite growth journeys that we invited each other toward, just by relating together. She said no to her growth journey (her fundamental human right, and in the widest scheme of things, the perfect choice and timing for her). I said yes to mine. And we went from being compatible on a root level to growing into incompatibility. This led to a perfect breakup, at the perfect time.
Breaking up can be success, and this one was beautiful. Thank you, Partner C. Your gifts to me were very rich.
… IF you learn the lesson at the root level of relationship compatibility. And if you choose to ignore that lesson, don’t worry! Life will keep teaching it to you. Life will start with a whisper and end with a roar. It’s your choice (always) when and if you’ll learn Life’s lessons. But Life is so kindly generous and cruelly relentless … it will never let you go.
Life’s lessons are about deepening intimacy. Deepening your capacity for it, your desire – deepening your heart. The more open you are to intimacy, the more open you are to Life. They are one and the same. Loving a partner is always an invitation to open more to Life. Which is ultimately the same thing as opening to yourself, to others, to strangers, to this imperfectly glorious present moment.
It doesn’t make sense to the mind. It doesn’t have to … it happens anyway.
What I didn’t know and wouldn’t have wanted to know as a young buck was that root-level relationship compatibility takes care of itself. I used to be very controlled, and make highly logical decisions that took me months and months of pondering. I carefully considered surface level compatibility and tried to make decisions aligned with it.
Yet every decision I ended up making (and did I make any at all? My unconscious always seems to overrule my conscious, without me even knowing it) was about root-level compatibility. Surface level be damned. I wasn’t in ultimate control.
So what I would say now, on the other side of so many horrible-beautiful intimates (myself always included) is, don’t worry about it. You’ll be drawn / repulsed by the right people at the right time. Relationships will happen (or not) in exactly the right order, to the right extent (and when I say ‘relationships’ I include unrequited love, relationships that never get off the ground, ones that never seem to end, all the confusing configurations, every falling in love, not being able to fall in love, and all the heartbreak).
What I would gently suggest (while laughing warmly with Life, at my younger self) is to flow with the flow, as much as possible. What I mean by that is to open up my eyes and take a good hard look at my root-level motivations:
I would listen to every precious drop of feedback from a partner, and examine it to see how much is their projections and how much is a gift for me. They know me better than others, I have let them in (to some extent). They can see my blind spots. I want to know what my blind spots are so I can look at them with loving eyes, warm them with my gaze.
I would watch our relational patterns, and experiment with ‘changing the pattern’.
I would watch our repeat conflicts, and ask for help in changing up the conflict pattern.
How would I do all this? I would be authentic. Factor 2 for deep-root relationship compatibility: I would give my partner accurate information about what was going on inside me at any given moment, and I would ask for what was happening inside of them. I would learn how to do this without blame (of self or other). It is what it is. It’s come up in the relationship to be lived-through. It’s time.
No games, no guessing, no blaming, no projecting. Just being real, and receiving their realness. Seeing what that organically develops into, between us. Real Love. Not a fairy-tale, beyond fantasies. Real Life. Real. (Optional Extra: Read this poem on what it is to be real.)
I would go easy on myself in expanding my capacity for authentic relating. It takes time. It’s a skill to build and a heart to open. Yet it’s also something I can do to my utmost in this very moment, which than grows my capacity in the next moment. It’s accessible. It’s sharing exactly where I’m at right now, so it’s always doable. It’s just being me. Letting me out of the cage.
It feels good to stretch!
It’s time for intimacy, for authenticity, for being just what I am and feeling just what I feel. For knowing this beautiful and strange human sitting across from me with fear in their eyes. For being soft and open toward them, toward me, toward our mutual bravery in daring intimacy.
It’s time for living.
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