Attraction and love are both completely irreverent when it comes to compatibility. This might just be one of the great injustices of life. When we really want to be in a specific relationship with someone, we imagine that no matter how different we are, that where there is a will there is a way. We imagine that if we want it badly enough and if they do too, that mutual desire and mutual commitment and mutual love will allow us to triumph over all. Most people just don’t want to accept the reality of incompatibility. After all, it is a less than romantic concept. But refusing to accept incompatibility will lead you straight down the road to relationship hell. And this is how:
Incompatibility in a relationship is not about being different. Many differences are workable and can be easily accommodated in a relationship. In fact, many differences make people in a relationship even more compatible. Incompatibility is the condition of two things being different in a way that is specifically uncomplimentary to the degree that the specific difference makes them incapable of coexisting harmoniously. Incompatibility is really about putting people with these non-harmonious differences in roles or positions with each other that require there to be either no difference or that require a difference that is non harmonious in nature to be harmonious. If you want to learn more about this in depth, I would encourage you to watch my video titled: Incompatibility, A Harsh Reality in Relationships.
Still, our desire to be able to find a way with someone, despite being incompatible to them, often causes us to refuse to accept the incompatibility. We don’t see that in refusing to accept the incompatibility and make adjustments accordingly, we are dooming the very relationship that we care so much about.
When genuine incompatibility is an element of a relationship, you can’t be happy with the other person being the way they are and chances are, they can’t be happy with you being the way that you are. So, you need either them or you (or both) to change so that you can be happy together. When you will not accept incompatibility in a relationship, you will not swallow the reality of the difference. Instead, you have to find a different way of explaining the uncomplimentary difference away. And then you must throw your energy into trying to change it.
An overwhelming majority of the time, this will lead a person to do one of two things:
- Make the other person wrong or bad for their difference (personal feeling, thoughts, needs, desires, boundaries etc). And demand for them to change. And try to convince them that it is in THEIR best interests to do so. When that is really a disguise for the fact that you think it is in your best interests for them to change, so that you can be in a certain desired arrangement with them.
- Make yourself wrong or bad for your difference (personal feeling, thoughts, needs, desires, boundaries etc). And set about trying to change yourself. And try to convince yourself that it is in your best interests to do so; so that you can be in a certain desired arrangement with them.
Sometimes, if we are especially desperate to keep a relationship together, we will try out both approaches. But when two people do this, what ends up happening is that both people in the relationship end up feeling pain; not only because of the uncomplimentary nature of the dynamic itself (and the conflict that arises as a result of it) but also because they end up feeling like crap about themselves. When we send someone else the message that they need to change something about themselves, they feel bad and wrong and thus they feel shame. When we send ourselves the message that we need to change something about ourselves, we feel bad and wrong and thus we feel shame. Refusing to accept incompatibility in a relationship is a recipe for a relationship where the experience of love goes away and is replaced by mutual shame.
So that you can understand how this dynamic plays out, I’ll give you an example.
Ria met Danny at a film festival two years ago. And it was love at first sight. They spent six days in the absolute magic of each other. They knew they had found ‘the one’. Even though Ria lived in Los Angeles and Danny lived in New York, they decided to commit to an exclusive relationship before they went home. For the past two years, they have been in a long-distance relationship.
Over time, the magic of their relationship has been fading. Their relationship has been getting more and more painful. Ria is ready to settle down and start a family. She wants to get married to Danny. She wants Danny to move to Los Angeles because she wants to be in California. She has even lined up jobs for him to take there. Danny keeps dragging his feet. Every time he considers moving to LA to be with her, he takes on a film project that prevents it. Danny is now talking to a therapist because he can’t help but notice his own pattern of avoidance and procrastination.
The truth is, Danny does not want to settle down. He wants to be on the road at least 280 days out of the year. When he is at home too long, he starts to feel depressed and stuck and empty. When Ria catches glimpses of this incompatibility between him and her, she will not accept it. She tells herself and Danny that the only reason Danny feels this way is because Danny’s Dad was always gone on the road when Danny was a kid. She believes that Danny would have to face the pain he has in the relationship with his own father and stop idolizing him and then, he would actually want to settle down.
Danny doubts himself sometimes. Sometimes he believes that he is unhealthy and that he does have to change. After all, he’s never going to be able to have kids if he isn’t willing to settle down. But he never does prioritize changing this about himself. He just feels like crap about himself and yet continues to prioritize other things. When he is talking to Ria, he vacillates between agreeing with her that he is messed up and needs to change and that she just needs to back off and stop pressuring him because he isn’t ready yet.
Ria and Danny are in a stalemate. Neither of them know if or when the relationship will end or progress. When they get in fights, which happens more and more now, Ria screams that Danny is taking the best years of her life and is keeping her on the hook and is a narcissist. Danny yells that Ria is needy and basic. Both of them will not accept the incompatibility between them. As a result, each spends their time trying to convince the other that what they want is bad and wrong. They each spend their time trying to get the other to change. And as a result, they both feel like crap about themselves. Their refusal to accept incompatibility makes Danny feel like he is a dysfunctional, self-centered ass hole. And it makes Ria feel like an insecure and needy harpy.
If they were to look their incompatibility straight in the face, it is that Ria wants to settle down, marry and have kids. Danny wants to be on the road 280 days out of the year and does not want to settle down and doesn’t want to have kids yet. If they accepted that reality, each of them would have to be honest with themselves about what that means for them and make decisions about what the highest and best arrangement would be for their relationship, without compromising.
The second faulty move that people make when they see incompatibility, but don’t accept it, is that they try to find a compromise. If you want a relationship that feels good, compromise is to be intentionally avoided. If you want to learn more about this, watch my video titled: Why You Should Never Make Compromises in a Relationship.
When Ria faces reality, she sees that she can’t just wait for Danny to be ready. She doesn’t even have the biological time to do so if she wants kids. So, she decides that the best thing for her to do, is to get off of the hook of waiting for Danny and to make him a friend instead of a partner.
When Danny faces reality, he sees that he just isn’t going to prioritize changing his current career path and how often it has him on the road. Even if he moves to Los Angeles, he will be gone most of the time. And even though he wishes things were different, he sees that keeping Ria on the hook isn’t loving. And constantly feeling like he is disappointing a woman makes him feel chronically bad about himself. So, he decides that after a two-month break from contact, he wants to make Ria a friend rather than a partner.
There is a big difference between loving something and being compatible with something. It is completely understandable that we would not want to admit to incompatibility and/or accept it because there are consequences for incompatibility. We don’t want to face those consequences. But this might cause us to be inauthentic and dishonest. It might also cause us to mislead the other person. And neither is something that we can keep up for long.
Nowhere is the refusal to accept incompatibility more prevalent than in social circles that are self-help/self-development oriented. So many personal desires and personal needs and personal preferences and personal feelings and thoughts and behaviors come from trauma. And people in these circles tend to have this idea that if anything comes from trauma, it not only can change, it should change in order for someone to be healthy. So, I see SOOO many people in these circles trying to heal each other into compatibility. This is just yet another refusal to accept incompatibility. Not only that, it is an attempt to justify that refusal. Because this so often happens with desires, it would benefit you to watch my video titled: You Can’t Heal Yourself Out of A Desire!
When we try to make an incompatible person, compatible with us, we usually do so by making them wrong or bad for their difference. We come up with a reason why they are wrong for it and try to then heal them out of that difference or try to change it so that it doesn’t exist. This creates shame in them. And in turn, they will most likely make us bad and wrong for our difference and come up with a reason why we are wrong for it and try to then heal us out of our difference or try to change it so that it doesn’t exist. After a while, the emotional condition of the relationship itself is shame and resentment towards each other. And after a while, both of us in the relationship feel totally unloved.
It may not feel good in the short term, but accepting incompatibilities, especially when it comes to desires, is an essential element of creating a feel-good relationship; rather than a relationship based on mutual shame.