What is Compatibility?
Last week a few friends and I met up for some Indian food and long overdue catching up. We spoke about everything from current events to work and of course, dating. The conversation quickly turned from date-from-hell stories to an intense conversation about compatibility and how to know when someone is right for you. Being the only married one of the group, my friends bombarded me with questions about how I knew Kate was the one, how we refrain from getting on each other’s nerves and what married life is really like.
Having a background in personality testing, my friends often come to me (rightly or wrongly) for advice. Although I enjoy hearing about what is happening with my single friends and don’t mind sharing my thoughts on relationships, I am hardly a relationship expert. But when one friend in particular asked if I felt she was compatible with the guy she met online, I decided to dig up some information on the topic of compatibility.
Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines “compatible people” as being capable of existing together in harmony. Ok. Harmony is an interesting word, but what does it mean?
Similar People are not always Compatible
Does it mean that in order to be compatible you must be similar to one another? Or does it mean that people who are compatible differ in some ways but ultimately complement each other? With the increased acceptance of online dating and the proliferation of websites claiming (and in some cases guaranteeing) that you’ll find your soul mate by signing up, I thought I would look to them to find some answers.
Dr. Neil Clark Warren, founder of eHarmony.com, a popular web-dating site with over 12 million members, has said that similarity can mean the difference between success and failure in a long-term relationship. According to Dr. Warren, it’s “practically impossible to have a successful relationship with a person who is more than 10 IQ points higher or lower than you.
Well my friend claims that she and her boyfriend are very similar, they’re both joggers who love dogs, come from great families and want kids of their own someday. They both seem fairly intelligent. But what does that have to do with living happily ever after? Does a love for jogging really make them compatible?
According to Dr. Warren, similarity doesn’t always contribute to compatibility. For instance when it comes to dominance and submissiveness, he believes a couple must be complementary in order to enjoy the relationship.
While I have no idea who wears the pants in my friend’s relationship, they do seem like they are enjoying themselves. Is that enough, simply being similar and taking on roles?
It depends who you ask.
Like eHarmony.com, JLove.com, a leading Jewish web-dating site also uses the DISC theory as the basis for potentially matching members based on their personality. They recently launched JType, a test developed by Thomas Technologies International, which allows members to search for members who have either similar or complementing personalities. By highlighting potential compatibility challenges members may face as a result of differences in their personalities, JLove helps its members determine whether they are compatible with one another. JLove uses DISC, originally developed by Dr. William Marston (Harvard), as a tool to educate its members, the rationale being that the more self-aware people are, the more successful they’ll be at finding a mate.
So while eHarmony.com uses DISC, as well as other measures as a way to predict whether relationships will ultimately succeed or fail, JLove uses the same tool as a way to empower it’s members with information regarding modifying behaviors and truly knowing yourself. So who is right? Is JLove right because they place the emphasis on the individual, or eHarmony.com because they place the emphasis on the result?
Views on this may vary, however, not to be outdone by its competitors; True.com also asserts its own unique approach to answering the compatibility question.
True.com doesn’t stop at a simple personality test, they offer the TRUE Compatibility Test! which claims to scientifically measure 99 relationship and compatibility factors. Endorsed by Psychology Today the test gives members three reports that are designed to help them in their search for a soul mate, as well as provide a psychological profile of their ideal partner.
For my friend who is wondering if this guy is the one? Can a personality test be the answer? Should she log on ASAP and start taking tests, trust the guidance of eHarmony.com, look to JLove.com, or try the True test?
Merriam Webster’s online dictionary goes on to define computer compatibility as working with another device or system without modification. This seems to suggest that we don’t need to change in order to make our relationships work. If the web is the most efficient automated medium for searching for everything from books to cars, it should be able help us to find our soul mates. But that doesn’t absolve us from doing the heavy lifting ourselves.
Understanding Your Own Needs
My conclusions on the compatibility debate are these: regardless of the tools we choose to use, to be successful in the dating world we must take a look at ourselves. We need to attempt to understand our own needs. We also need a tool which will help us understand how to modify our behavior in an attempt to increase our compatibility with others. And finally, we need to be honest with ourselves. We have to think about what we need and not what we want, and perhaps most importantly we must find a way to learn from our past experiences.
A good web-dating site should be more than a place to find a date. It should provide members with functionality that allows them to assess themselves and their compatibility with others. Sites that do this will be providing value to their members.
As for my friend, well, we met again a few days ago and over lattes she announced that she is getting married. Her question is no longer Are we compatible? she now wants to know if asking her maid of honor to lose 10 pounds makes her a Bridezilla.