Compatibility; we’re obsessed with it. Does this job suit me? Does this apartment meet my needs? Does this person work for me? How well matched are we, really?
It won’t surprise you to learn horoscopes are a highly read segment of our rich and varied Life & Style offering here at Fairfax. I won’t go into the data, largely because we all know why we love star signs, regardless of whether we believe they are evenly slightly accurate. To wit, they’re all about us, and they promise to unlock the keys to understanding not just who we are, but where we’re going.
Most importantly, in the context of this blog at least, these heavenly scripts seem to reveal our 'true' love matches. Everyone knows Aries women and Virgo men are destined to find perfect happiness together, for example. Or, as writ in the Chinese Zodiac, a Fire Rabbit with an Earth Snake is a most auspicious union (etc, etc, ad nauseam).
But is there any science behind the idea of so-called perfect partnering? What makes us more or less compatible? And what if we’re well matched in some areas, but less so in others – is our fate somehow flawed?
According to this study, published late last year in the North American Journal of Psychology, it is possible to predict whether a person will find one prospective partner more preferable than another. Similar educational and financial backgrounds fuel attraction. Shared values are also important, though it was more important for political beliefs to be shared than religious ones. Interestingly, when it came to physical appearance, it was “self-assessed” attractiveness that mattered most on the preferences scale.
Yet this says nothing of relationship success. You may prefer someone to another one, the trick is whether or not it’s right.
A ream of studies in the eighties focused more specifically on this question. Much of the research concluded individuals were well matched and likely to marry if they were alike in nearly every way. But this, in part, reflects the social stratification of the day rather than any ultimate truth. It also fails to capture the impact women’s improved access to education and financial independence has had, especially on today’s generation of love-seekers.
Hence the new wave of thinking captured in this 2011 article from New Ideas in Psychology:
“Contemporary women and men are striving through talk and text to reconceptualize their needs, rights and obligations as wives, husbands or partners. In their intentional, goal-directed, inventive efforts to solve their relationship difficulties, new discourses of intimacy, compatibility and soulmates are being constructed.”
Such "new discourses" have given space to a whole new range of "compatibilities" which go beyond the old, ‘must be of same breed/class' way of thinking. In The Love Compatibility Book, Hoffman and Weiner suggest we should benchmark according to 12 must-have commonalities; need for companionship, idealism, emotional intensity, spontaneity, libido, nurturance, materialism, extroversion, aestheticism, activity level, subjective well-being, and intellectualism.
Apparently alignment on those fronts matters more than stars, or breeding.
But do you agree?
How do you determine whether you’re compatible with someone or not? Do you have a check-list? Do you consult the stars? Or do you prefer not to think about it, preferring to trust your gut instead?