Relationships are confusing enough without having issues with compatibility. But what should you do if you're in love, but feel incompatible with your partner — can incompatible relationships work? What if you clash on major issues? First of all, relationship counselor Crystal Bradshaw tells Bustle, you should identify the most important areas in which compatibility is key. These include temperament, intellect, and life goals, she says, as well as interests, though she adds, "You don't have to like everything your partner does, but you should be interested in their interests. Know what they like and why they like it. You don't have to like it too, just be supportive of their interests." Too true!
She also says money is important in a relationship, especially your beliefs around it and styles regarding "spending, managing money, saving, retirement, investing, making large purchases," and the like. Also vital: the way you approach sex and intimacy, she says, especially "frequency and preferences." Consider the way you like your living environment, she continues, keeping particularly in mind cleanliness and organization.
Lastly, though it might not matter at first, it's wise to think about your views on spirituality and religion, she says: "This can become an issue for couples when children are introduced into the dyad." If you're worrying about whether you're incompatible with a partner on any of these issues, here are nine things to keep in mind:
1. Stay Calm
"Don't freak out," Bradshaw tells Bustle. "You don't have to be 100 percent compatible to make a relationship work. The more compatible you and your partner are in core value areas, the easier it will be to navigate relationship challenges, but if you feel incompatible, try asking yourself: How, in what ways, are we compatible? What is the natural state of the relationship? Are we compatible in our core/basic values?"
If you're "in the same ball park, but in different sections," you're fine — that's normal. "As long as you both understand the others' perspective and respect that," you're good to go, she says. "It's important to be able to identify areas of core values that you are not flexible on, the ones that are non-negotiable, and then articulate why that value is so important to you." If your partner can get down with your needs, and understand them, don't sweat the differences. "Therein lies the key to navigating a difference in beliefs within a relationship," she says. "Remember: Relationships are a collaborative effort."
2. Imagine Life In 5 To 10 Years
"Imagine life with this person in five to 10 years, when the excitement has worn off, and ask yourself if you have the skills and desire to compromise on the issues that are incompatible now," marriage and family therapist Esther Boykin tells Bustle. "We like to think that love conquers all but the reality is that you need more than love to if you want a relationship to go the distance." If there's love and also the ability and willingness to go the distance regardless of incompatibilities, you might have a shot.
"If you have different life goals or significantly different values, it's unlikely that your love is going to make the relationship work out," Boykin says. "A healthy relationship involves compromise and a shared vision for your life together; if your incompatibilities prevent you from building that, love won't be able to override it for long." If you're unsure if your differences are deal-breakers, she suggests going back to the vision of yourself with this person down the line. If you can see it, feel free to proceed — but go slow and be sure to talk about this with your partner. And if you can't, move on.
3. Figure Out Where You Stand
"If you are in love with someone, but you question your compatibility, you need to ask yourself what types of issues you are incompatible about," psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. "Are they deal-breakers, or are they minor concessions that you can live with never agreeing on?" Before jumping to conclusions, it's wise to figure out where you stand first.
"If it is the first, you might be better suited being honest with yourself about what is fundamentally important to you, and what you should be looking for," she says. "If they are the latter, think about if you need to look at your own rigid thinking and feeling, and if this person is more important to you." Deal-breakers are real, but it's also possible to overthink these things. Once you know what's really going on, then you'll be ready to decide what to do next.
4. Agree to Disagree
"No two people are going to see eye-to-eye on everything," relationship coach and psychic medium Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can't Leave Bad Relationships, tells Bustle. "If the disagreements are about small things, and you can come to agree to disagree about them or compromise about them, then there is hope for the relationship," she says.
Like Martinez, though, Sansone-Braff says that deal-breakers are not possible to work through. "If the issues are major, because you really don't see the world at all the same way, not morally, financially, sexually, and intellectually, then this would be a deal-breaker, and ending the relationship without drama and trauma should be your goal," she says. "Remember, you don't have to hate someone to leave him or her." You can love them and still accept it's not going to work.
5. Have A Heart-To-Heart
"Resolving incompatibilities, learning to work with differences, is often the core of a really successful relationship," Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. Though you'll never agree on every single level, you will have to learn how to compromise with your partner. From there, see what happens.
"If you can’t work it through, you’ll know the relationship is a bad idea," she says. And feel free to pipe up and tell your partner what's on your mind. "If you think a particular question is going to mess up the relationship, then mess it up right away," she says. "You need to know what happens when you disagree."
6. Rethink Your Relationship If You Want To Get Married
If you want to get married or start a family, it may be best to rethink your relationship if you're incompatible. "Don't marry them," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "Other than that, it's totally up to you. Not everyone is in a rush to walk down the aisle and sometimes it's fun to date someone who might not be right for you in the long run. If you know that marriage is next on your to-do list, move on," she says. "Long-term relationships are difficult enough to maintain, and being incompatible is a sure-fire way to end up separated."
7. Be Real With Yourself
"If you love someone and you’re incompatible, chances are you haven’t felt the pain of a failed relationship yet," New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. "Those who have will want to try and avoid that in the future, which means dating smart." If you're in a relationship that has the potential to fail, be very careful as to how you proceed.
"Love is grand, but just because you love someone doesn’t mean you should a) date them, b) marry them, or c) live with them," she says. "You can love people and be incompatible — and when you realize that just because you have a feeling doesn’t mean you should act on it, then you can go to the head of the Maturity 101 class. You’ve graduated to smarter relationship behavior." In the meantime, if you're already dating someone who is incompatible, it's best to face the reality of the situation right away if you're looking for something long-term.
8. Have An Open Mind
"You could attempt to be more open to your partner's interests, hobbies or activities," relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver tells Bustle. "By automatically stating their activities are 'stupid,' 'boring' or 'dumb,' you are placing blocks in your relationship that can expand and hasten it to the end." Rather than remaining closed-minded, try an open mind and see what happens.
"Sharing physical activity creates a stronger bond between couples," she says. "I suggest to try their activity out, you may enjoy yourself and want to do it again." And if you don't enjoy their bowling night or whatever, at least you've given it a shot. "If you have tried it and don't like it, your partner will know that you made the attempt and be happy that you wanted to experience their activity," Carver adds. If you're dealing with major deal-breakers, it's a whole other ballgame — but if it's just activities and interests, and you love your partner, why not see if you can work it out?
9. If Your Want A LTR, Move On
"Sadly, walk away," Marina Sbrochi, IPPY award-winning author of Stop Looking for a Husband: Find the Love of Your Life tells Bustle. "Long-term relationships only work well when you are compatible." If you're never going to be able to agree — or agree to disagree — on major issues, you'll be happier in the long run without this person. "Life is more enjoyable with a compatible partner," she says.
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