Relationships on the Real: Compatibility, Compromises & Communication Edition
Updated: Apr 9, 2021
I’m just going to come right out and say it, straight up: my boyfriend and I do NOT share the same views.
Especially when it comes to politics.
But honestly, on a lot of other stuff too.
I grew up in the city by the Bay, and he was raised in the high desert of Barstow, CA.
I tend to shift towards a social voter, while Spence’s got a math/money brain.
Without boring you with all the details, just know that we are significantly distinct individuals.
And I would be lying if I said our differences (and thus disagreements) didn’t scare me sometimes.
To reveal what I’m REALLY thinking, they don’t worry me in the way of feeling as though I’m “right” and he’s “wrong.”
It’s just about being right for eachother, you know?
Which leads us to today’s question for exploration:
How do you know what kind of person is really right for you?
And, if that person ends up being distinctly different from you, how do you make it work?
Because none of us want our relationships to end in Romeo-and-Juliet-status tragedy, but we also don’t want to end up Katy Perry-ing about the one that got away.
My own relationship aside (for now ;)...I believe what we really want to know is:
HOW DIFFERENT IS TOO DIFFERENT?
With the world whispering “opposites attract” and ALSO that “birds of a feather flock together” you might be (like me!) left wondering:
How different is too different?
Between wanting to compliment your partner like PB&J and yet still have that varietal spice, it’s almost impossible to know which relationship-route is right.
Key word: almost. (*wink wink*)
Whether you’re currently dating and deciphering whether or not they’re the RIGHT one, or your swiping through Tinder seeking out a relationship that will REALLY work (and allow you both to feel free and fulfilled!), this blog is for you.
HOW DIFFERENT IS TOO DIFFERENT?
Unless you’re dating your identical twin brother, it would be weird if your significant other didn’t differ from you in at least a couple of ways.
(Couple - HA! ;)
But what happens when it’s more than just a couple comparisons, or you really just can’t stand for something they stand for?
Relationshipping is hard, and I would be lying if I said those questions (paired with mine and Spence’s intrinsic differences) didn’t scare me sometimes.
But they worry me a LOT less now.
Below are three questions designed to attract the clarity you need to honestly answer the question:
What kind of person is right for me?
Here to initiate our list, Question #1-
#1. What do your differences have to do with?
In a Women’s Health article on the subject of whether or not opposites actually attract, a licensed clinical psychologist, named Joseph Cilona says, “Many important aspects of relationships, especially personality traits, needs, and preferences are a much better fit when they are opposite or complementary, rather than similar.”
Feeling that sigh of relief release from your system?
‘Cause complimenting your partner can only happen if you each have unique things you bring to the table, like salt n’ peppa.
Which means that if you DO have differences (in personality or in preferences) CONGRATS!
You have the makings of a complimentary match.
This might help you when you go out for a night on the town (what a concept, right?!), and your extroverted partner orders the drinks up at the counter, while your inner introvert embraces the responsibility of securing a seat - somewhere away from the crowds.
But what if these distinct personality traits leave the introvert at the table, and the extrovert at the bar all night?
Or worse- what if the introvert doesn’t want to go out at all, influencing their extroverted partner to feel like they’re suffering with a fiery case of FOMO?
You’re onto something.
The different types of difference!
(Promise it’s not as backwards as it sounds.)
You see, in my (5 years and running!) relationship with Spence, I’ve found our strength has less to do with whether or not we disagree, and more to do with what makes him HIM, and what makes me ME.
AKA: Our values.
Or, as author of Should I Stay or Should I Go, Ramani Durvasula says, “You may be opposite in interests or in backgrounds, but values may be quite aligned and that is the key to often seeing eye to eye.”
Because values are arguably our most important motivators.
YEP - 6 DAYS deciphering what you really value.
Because how could you (quickly!) choose between love and happiness? Or peace and freedom?
Don’t worry- you don’t have to decide right now.
But DO understand that if your deepest values vary significantly from those of your significant other, it might also cause some significant division.
Start getting to know your values even just a whittle bit better, right now.
Ask yourself this: What emotional state is MOST important for me to experience in my life?
Your answer is your value.
Spence and I are different, but our saving grace is that our values are similar.
That doesn’t mean we don’t still scream at each other sometimes though!
Which brings us to coupling Question #2:
#2. HOW TO COMPROMISE WITHOUT KILLING YOUR INTEGRITY?...OR YOUR PARTNER!
I’m sure you’d agree that what dubs a couple strong vs weak is less about the amount of differences you have, and more about how you work them out.
But drawing the line in a compromise can be just as difficult as deciphering which differences might drag your relationship down..
GOOD NEWS - there’s something we can understand that may make this MUCH easier.
Compromising in a way that really works for both parties involved calls for maturity (damnit!), as well as understanding one vitally important thing:
In other words, the things you absolutely, 100% want (or don’t want) in a relationship.
Your make-its or break-its.
What’s one of your non-negotiables?
Not having children? Needing to live in California?
Never being presented with a reason to doubt your partner’s motives? Or where they were late last night?
I’m sure you can think of a few right now, just off the top of your head.
Your list might signify a select few things, and your list might be longer than the length of your life thus far.
(And nothing’s wrong with yours being either length!)
But, either way- everything you leave OFF the list?
Need to be things you’re willing to negotiate.
Because, I will repeat:
RELATIONSHIPPING IS HARD.
Which means that if you really want to have a lasting, happy relationship - you need to be open to leaving everything else up for grabs, and going for the goal of GROWTH.
(Hey - all good if you gotta get back to your list now for a bit ;)...I’ll be waiting right here when you get back.)
Ready with the list?
We’re about to get down and dirty with it.
Get ready to do THE most important thing in any relationship:
Remember, everything NOT on your non-negotiables list is now contained on your “compromise list” and it’s fight night.
But before the bell rings-
5 Quick Communication Tips:
Be open, honest, and authentic. (To me which means: share (aloud!) the emotions and ideas you're experiencing internally.)
Be in it for the long haul - EVEN if the conversation takes all night.
Say it, don’t spray it - or sass it! (*maybe most difficult for me*)
Attempt to listen as passionately and empathetically as you talk.
See it from their side. (Step into their shoes metaphorically, and stand/sit next to them physically.)
By following these five steps, you can feel more confident in your communication- a crucial component for compromise to take place productively.
In discovering that the most harmonious relationships are born by leaving it all (AKA: your non-negotiables) out on the field for the goal of a happy medium, you might be left wondering a question I’ve considered time and time again:
#3. HOW DO I SUSTAIN MY RELATIONSHIP WITHOUT LOSING MY SENSE OF SELF?
In other words, how do we make sure our compromises don’t chip away TOO much of what makes us...US?
Because, remember, I’m a REAL Romantic.
(And if you don’t remember, catch up on my origin story right here!)
Which means that my former, transcendentalist-obsessed self, instilled in me two ideals:
#1. Losing myself = my greatest fear.
#2. Self reliance = absolutely ingrained in my system.
Some people might think it’s due to dudes making me cry, and thus distrust my intuition.
But it’s much, much more than that.
Remember those values we talked about earlier?
(The one people pay for SIX DAYS worth of deep thought and coaching to REALLY uncover?)
In the top three of my list lands FREEDOM.
The freedom to be my own spirit - strong in standing alone, loving myself regardless of anyone else.
The freedom to be everything and anything I want at any moment - multidimensional and moving through life as a unique unknown.
All of which is a winded way of saying: I’m NOT gonna let us lose ourselves, my balanced being...guaranteed. ;)
Here are 3 questions you can answer to ensure you’re not losing yourself amidst your many compromises:
Am I compromising on a consistent belief/value of mine, or is it subject to change?
Follow up question: Have I always felt/thought this way?
Am I losing a thing, or am I offering up a piece of myself?
AKA: Am I compromising on something I can live without?
How does my body feel about this?
Listen to your GUT, and if you feel super yuck, you may just be compromising too much.
Clear of a few more things you absolutely CAN NOT let go in a compromise?
Add them to your non-negotiables list now. :)
Now that you’ve REALLY got your list going, I want to nudge you with one final note I believe will bring you closer to the relationship you want:
Realize that this goes both ways.
And just as you have drawn lines of your non-negotiables - (the “take this or leave us”) - allow your partner to draw their boundary lines too - and not always agree or be like you!
Spence and I are both still working on this one, but I sincerely believe saving space for yourself is vital for the strength of any relationship, especially when you want it to last.
A few more ways for you and your significant other to BOTH be yourselves:
Spend time A-L-O-N-E.
Enjoy weekends with friends.
Set goals that serve your dreams, outside of your relationship.
Empower (aloud!) the unique qualities you appreciate about each other.
Because those couples that are strong within themselves?
Are better empowered to serve everyone else.
So, the next time you’re caught comparing your couple, compare instead what makes you compatible, and thus creates harmony between you and your hunny - attracting a beautiful balancing effect like the one you see in the yin and yang, or the perfect swirl cone.
Although it’s not easy to avoid feeling fearful when you feel like you’re so far from aligning with an idea of your significant other’s, today, I want to challenge you to attempt to observe your differences as opportunities for growth...for you BOTH!
Because there’s so much beauty in being different.
And there’s a completeness, I believe, we can find in the compromise.
A completeness that comes to those couples who commit their love to a continual compromise, and realize that within that compromise, you invite one another to create something even more real and true, because it contains both sides of you.
(And I can’t freaking WAIT to see what Spence and I make. :)
P.S. Want to spice up your relationship with some of my favorite takeaways from Netflix’s hit show, Bridgerton? Discover 5 Whistledown Whispers to Bridg-er-to(n) Your Bedroom, right here!