Dating Compatibility Guide

Women's Dating

A Comprehensive Guide on Dating Compatibility

Karen Belz

Written by: Karen Belz

Karen Belz

Over the last 10 years, Karen Belz has written for dating and lifestyle sites such as Zoosk, Bolde, and Elite Singles. She started her career as a professional writer by helping launch HelloGiggles in 2011. Karen graduated from Millersville University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Broadcasting with a minor in Print Media Studies. She is now happily married and believes that healthy communication is the key to all successful relationships. You can follow her on Threads @karenbelz.

See full bio »

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

Reviewed by: Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks is a dating and relationship expert who has penned over 1,800 lifestyle articles in the last decade, and she still never tires of interviewing dating professionals and featuring actionable advice for singles. She has been quoted by the Washington Times, Cosmopolitan, The New York Post, and AskMen.

See full bio »
Discuss This! Discuss This!

If you’ve ever witnessed a friend’s relationship and thought, “I’d never be able to be with someone like their partner,” you know why compatibility is important. Compatibility determines how well two people will get along without a huge conflict getting in the way. While it’s healthy to date someone who is different from you, lacking a compatible personality or lifestyle may lead to trouble down the road in a relationship. 

Many people think of compatibility as if it’s all about dealbreakers, but couples should also recognize the essential deal-makers. It’s important to make sure you and your partner agree on things that matter regarding both day-to-day life and long-term goals. 

For example, if you want kids and your partner doesn’t, that is a big incompatibility that doesn’t lend itself to compromise. Ideally, you and your partner should be on the same page as much as possible so you’re better able to weather any storm together.

Since compatibility is one of the key ways to predict the success of a relationship, it’s important to brush up on the topic when you’re thinking about getting serious. Here are ways to recognize compatibility and determine if you and your partner will work long-term. 

Compatibility Factors | Tools to Assess Compatibility | The Ick Factor

Factors of Compatibility

Many factors can determine if a couple is compatible, and it goes much deeper than zodiac signs. A good start is to get to know your partner on a deep level to discover these commonalities. When it comes to levels of compatibility, some factors can make all the difference in a romantic relationship. 

1. Personality Traits

Dating becomes much easier when your partner has a compatible personality. This can take on a few forms. One example of personal compatibility is tidiness versus messiness. If you and your partner both like to keep a tidy home, you shouldn’t have many problems when it comes to splitting household chores.

Certain personality traits can make two people compatible. Introverts often have similar interests and expectations for staying home in their free time, while extroverts like to go out and can fulfill each other’s needs for an exciting social life.

Photo of a couple cleaning
Cleanliness habits are just one factor that can contribute to a compatible lifestyle.

These personality traits definitely vary from person to person. Sometimes two opposites can find a harmonious balance, but it often adds a layer of stress or tension in the relationship. Couples should discuss any incompatibilities and learn how to navigate their differences in the long run. 

While people are capable of making big changes to their everyday habits, it’s not something you should expect in any relationship. 

 2. Values and Beliefs

Different cultures and traditions certainly make the world a much more interesting place, but it can make long-term relationship compatibility challenging for people with different backgrounds. Having the same values and beliefs as your partner will add to your compatibility and make your relationship run much more smoothly. According to Pew Research, around 69% of married couples share the same faith. 

That said, having a family with different beliefs can work if you have respect for each other and an open mind. Right now, interfaith relationships are skyrocketing in popularity. Nearly half of unmarried couples who live together don’t share the same faith. Interfaith relationships can work, especially if religion isn’t a big part of someone’s everyday life. Even so, plenty of people are willing to convert if they don’t have strong ties to religion or if they know it’s necessary to start a family with their spouse. 

Having different family values with your partner can cause tension — especially if you and your partner decide to have children. In the dating stage, it’s important to talk about religion and family values. Here are some questions to identify your compatibility:

  • How do you envision spending holidays in the future?
  • Who do you expect to be the breadwinner in the relationship?
  • What traditions or beliefs do you feel are important to pass down?
  • Are you open to living in a new city, state, or country someday?

While some of these values don’t need to be perfectly aligned, they should be similar enough that it won’t cause a catastrophic fight to discuss them. Sometimes, people don’t know how they’ll react to a situation until they’re in it — and that’s OK. As long as these “what if” scenarios are discussed during your relationship, you should get a good idea of your general compatibility. 

Oftentimes family values and religion are tied closer together than you may think. Certain aspects of someone’s religious upbringing may come out when children are in the picture, which may be why studies have shown that interfaith relationships can often be a bit unstable. 

3. Interests and Hobbies

Having common interests adds to your compatibility. Whether it’s hiking, going to the movies, or traveling, a shared activity can become that much more enjoyable thanks to your partner’s presence. If going to events together is more of a chore, that’s a sign that the two of you might not be the most compatible match. 

Having similar interests is also a good way to plan dates. Couples can pursue their passions and create good memories together as a way of strengthening their relationship. Whether it’s axe throwing, geocaching, or antiquing, sharing in fun activities can expand a couple’s compatibility.

Quick Caveat: Not all your hobbies need to overlap. It’s important for people to have “me time” in a relationship so they don’t feel suffocated.

4. Communication Styles

Good communication is vital to a healthy relationship. If your partner often shuts down and storms off when it comes to conflict, they may not have the proper tools to communicate effectively. They may also hold a “me versus you” mentality instead of viewing you as an equal partner and teammate.

There are four types of communication styles: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. Passive communication is often fear-based. One partner is afraid of angering the other, so they don’t speak up. Aggressive communication is the opposite — it’s usually driven by anger and can lead to hostility. Passive-aggressive communication is when you state that things are OK when they’re not. This communication style lets hurt feelings fester.

Photo of a couple in a disagreement
Incompatible couples do not have good communication during disagreements.

Assertive communication is the healthiest way to express yourself. This approach recognizes both viewpoints and tries to create a space for honest and nonjudgmental communication. Partners in a healthy relationship should strive for assertive communication.

If you see yourself as being more passive, and your partner is aggressive, it can lead to a communication breakdown in your relationship. 

Communication can always be improved through therapy, which is an excellent tool to get you and a loved one on the same page and clear the air without making assumptions. It does require a lot of work, but working on your communication style is bound to increase your compatibility with a partner.

5. Emotional Intimacy

If you always feel safe, loved, and secure when around your partner, you’ve built a healthy level of emotional intimacy. This bond doesn’t come from hugs and physical contact but from feeling understood at your deepest level.

Emotional intimacy builds over time for many couples. The longer you’re together, the more you share, and that strengthens trust. When viewing your relationship compatibility, it’s important to be honest and ask yourself a few questions — do you think your partner can accurately predict your reactions to certain life issues? Do you trust that they’ll have your back when things get hard? Thinking on the topic positively, are they the person you go to first when good news happens? Do you think they will share in your excitement, or shoot you down? 

Having a strong level of emotional intimacy only adds to your fulfillment within the relationship. It’s important to have someone by your side who knows you and loves you just as you are. This doesn’t mean that you harbor no complaints about some of your partner’s bad habits, but strong emotional intimacy can make the little issues more understandable.

6. Goals And Aspirations

If you’re looking to enroll in the local college or start a new career, but your partner is thinking about moving in six months to the other coast, then your goals and aspirations aren’t necessarily compatible. When discussing compatibility, two partners need to agree on what their next five or 10 years will look like. Yes, things can come up that disrupt the plan, but it’s important to at least have an understanding of the future together. That means you’re on the same page about marriage, kids, location, home ownership, and even pets.

Photo of a couple looking at a blueprint
Compatible couples share similar dreams and visions for the future.

Two partners can care a lot about each other but still disagree on the topic of kids. Since there’s no compromise when it comes to children, that indicates serious incompatibility that will end in someone feeling unfulfilled. It may seem like a lot to bring up these big topics with new partners, but sometimes it’s nice to know right off the bat if you’re in alignment — especially if you are at an age where some of those life milestone windows may naturally close. 

Assessing Compatibility: Tools and Techniques

If you’re not sure where you and your partner fall on the compatibility chart, there are plenty of great tools to test yourself. 

Self-Reflection and Introspection

A lot of people assume that they’re flawless in a relationship and it’s always the other person who’s at fault if feelings get hurt. But the truth is that all humans are naturally flawed and 100% compatibility is a myth. We are works in progress, and perfection simply doesn’t exist. By taking a few mindful minutes to yourself, you may be able to analyze your last argument now that you’re out of it. Was there anything that you said while in the moment that you didn’t mean? Did you communicate poorly, and did it lead to a big misunderstanding? Try to figure out how you can improve your communication style. 

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and try to replay the argument at hand. Would you do anything different? Forgive yourself for making mistakes, and take accountability. Then communicate this to your partner. Instead of keeping score, use these moments to grow as an individual. If your partner does the same in their approach, the two of you can grow together. If these steps are hard to do, it’s safe to assume you and your partner just lack compatibility. 

Relationship Quizzes and Assessments

They’re not just fun to take when you’re bored at work — relationship quizzes can be a good way to find out how compatible you are with someone. In fact, a lot of dating sites start with a quick personal survey and work the test results into a smart match algorithm. OkCupid and eharmony are both known for their fun quizzes that aim to measure compatibility. Seeing that eharmony has made over 2 million matches, it’s fair to say the questionnaire has a knack for sparking long-lasting romance. 

eharmony quiz question
eharmony uses an in-depth personality test to calculate relationship compatibility.

If you’re already in a relationship, you might want to take a personality assessment test like the Five Love Languages to further investigate compatibility factors. The Myers-Briggs test categorizes people into one of 16 psychological types based on emotions, intuitions, and attitudes. Personality tests allow you to see your strengths and weaknesses, and which “types” you may be most compatible with. These quizzes can also help you learn a lot about yourself, and what role you currently play in and out of your relationships. 

Professional Guidance

Therapy isn’t only useful for people tackling major issues, it can also help a person better understand themselves and their relationship needs. A therapist may help you figure out how to move forward and escape harmful patterns, including self-sabotaging on dates and navigating miscommunications with partners. Working with a therapist can help a person recognize when a potential partner is truly compatible.

A matchmaker can also provide good insight into this area. Matchmaking teams ask questions that challenge singles to think about what matters to them and create the best possible match. This may mean accepting shortcomings or dealbreakers. By identifying your strengths and weaknesses, a matchmaker can find someone to complement your life as it is and recommend a match with genuine compatibility. Seeking professional help is not a foolproof way of identifying long-term compatibility, but it can certainly help.

The Ick Factor and Compatibility Changes Over Time

Compatibility can and often does change. A couple may become incompatible as their careers and finances shift — or their values can change with life experience. A person may have a change of heart when it comes to life goals after several years of marriage, and it can be difficult to navigate these changes as a couple.

Do Opposites Attract?

Despite what Paula Abdul might tell you, opposites don’t actually attract. While you may be drawn to people who have vastly different personalities or lifestyles (perhaps since they seem intriguing or unavailable), you won’t have enough in common to form a happy union.

A study published in Nature Human Behaviour has the scientific data to dispel the myth that opposite traits make for compatible romantic partners. As Science Daily reports, “… between 82% and 89% of traits analyzed, ranging from political leanings to age of first intercourse to substance use habits, partners were more likely than not to be similar. For only 3% of traits, and only in one part of their analysis, did individuals tend to partner with those who were different than them.”

Can Physical Chemistry Change?

Physical attraction can be quite important when it comes to landing a significant other. A study on attraction found that the human preference for facial symmetry is based on biological imperatives, but our idea of beauty is learned and may evolve over time.

“Familiarity is a powerful determinant of attraction,” according to the researchers. “For many types of stimuli, including faces, exposure increases attraction — even when the exposure is unconscious.”

Physical attraction can grow and change over the course of a relationship. The phrase “beauty is only skin deep” does have some truth to it. The love and trust between two people can become more valuable than looks over time. Even as partners lose their classic good looks with age, they may still find each other attractive because of the deep emotional bond they share.

Building a Strong Relationship Foundation

It’s important to build a strong relationship foundation through deep conversations and shared experiences. If you meet someone you care about, make sure to spend time listening to them and going on adventures with them. Sharing experiences, both good and bad, is a great way to naturally become more compatible with someone.