Just How Important is Compatibility in a Relationship?

By | 02/03/2015

Compatibilities in temperament, character, taste and interests in a relationship are a very relevant issue these days, but it was not always so. About a century ago, Freud, in “On Narcissism – An Introduction,” claimed that the ideal was a complementary couple, in which each had qualities the other lacked; this would make the couple stronger and give them better conditions to face life’s adversities. These days, we talk about soul mates; before, we used to say, “Opposites attract.” Why did we rethink these concepts?

The changes in this past century made compatibility between couples increasingly important. It’s not that Freud was wrong; his perspective was based on the circumstances of his day and age, not on a universal pattern that would be forever applicable. Since then, several important human achievements drastically altered our world and the way we live; the following are the most important ones.

Technological advances made life easier: appliances make chores like cooking, doing the laundry and preserving food, for instance, much simpler. These improvements also make physical strength less necessary to accomplish several different activities, which helped women join the workforce and provide their professional services.

The birth control pill was the first step to end sexual and social inequalities between men and women. Now, couples have fewer children and marry later, when both men and women are around their thirties.

Several technological advances in the field of entertainment happened on the past fifty years. These days, a vast and diverse quantity of movies gets made; there are hundreds of channels, catering to every possible taste or interest; on the Internet, the possibilities are endless. If in the past life was restricted to the relatively short space one could walk or ride to, today cars and planes can quickly transport us to anywhere in the world. In short, entertainment possibilities have multiplied in very few decades.

Perhaps the most important change is in the woman’s role; she used to merely “shadow” her husband, following him wherever he went – which wasn’t that hard; one rarely went anywhere in those days! These days, however, there are more women than men enrolled in college; they study and work as hard, or harder, than men do and, in some countries, are already paid more than men for their work. If before men and women danced close so the man could lead and the woman, follow, these days, equality can be seen even in the way they dance: apart and each with their own moves.

In the past, it was seen as natural and not particularly relevant that the man led and the woman followed; life’s practical needs required mutual effort. But today, there are two people in a relationship who think, have their own tastes and interests and more time for leisure.

Well, a century ago, life expectancy was around fifty years; now, we live fifty percent longer! The number of working hours decreased; the time for leisure grew; the number of children a couple has decreased and now men can just as easily handle household chores, with the help of modern appliances. It must also be noted that single people’s quality of life vastly improved, so tolerance to frustrating and uninteresting relationships decreased.

A new context brings new demands and adjustments. To live in harmony, a couple must share similar tastes and interests. Since compromise is no longer crucial, it’s an ability that has been losing importance. Differences have always existed and must be respected, which only makes each person in a relationship more independent from the other. Compatibility and common interests must prevail both in leisure and important life projects.

So much has changed and in such a short period of time, that it’s not surprising that most people haven’t yet adjusted to this new mindset; it’s even less surprising that the process of falling in love hasn’t immediately followed these new developments. But that’s where it is inexorably headed.

Tradução: Amanda Morris