For relationships to work, they have to feel good to both people in the relationship. This is true no matter what kind of relationship it is (friendship, partnership, family relationship, work relationship etc). Obviously this is much easier said than done. But one of the top reasons that relationships do not feel good and are unsustainable is: Incompatibility.
We are conditioned to believe that love triumphs over all. We have been conditioned to believe that if we are genuinely a good person, we should be able to have a feel good relationship with anyone and everyone, regardless of what role they are playing in our lives. But I’m going to tell you today that if you are holding yourself to this expectation, your relationships will end in pain. There is a big difference between loving something and being compatible with something. A bird may love a fish for example, but if their desires for a partnership requires them to live in the same place, there is no way to make that happen without killing either of them.
Incompatibility is the condition of two things being so different in nature and so uncomplimentary in that difference that they are incapable of coexisting harmoniously. It is tempting to assume that incompatibility is simply about having differences. But what incompatibility is really about it is 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.
This is the case with all relationships, but nowhere is this more easy to see than in partnerships. One of the most common incompatibilities in partnerships today occurs with opposing attachment needs. One person in the partnership will desire a partnership that is very close and committed, where both people are living life as a joint venture and take responsibility for one another. In this relationship, it is assumed that they are doing everything together unless it is mutually agreed that they will do otherwise.
The other partner prefers his or her space. This person does not want one life with anyone but prefers for they and their partner to have two separate lives and to come together to enjoy closeness and share each other’s separate adventures with one another. This partnership is not a relationship where they take responsibility for one another and it is assumed that they are doing everything separately except for at nighttime when they go to sleep, unless it is mutually agreed that they will do otherwise. This is an example of an incompatibility that has no remedy because if either partner conforms to the desires of the other, the relationship will be miserable for them and eventually (because only unhappiness is the result) both will end up unhappy and incapable of maintaining harmony with one another. This relationship is a guarantee that either one partner will feel limited, not free and suffocated or the other will feel constantly pushed away and abandoned. There is often trauma that creates these extremely different needs in adult relationships, specifically abandonment on one side and enmeshment on the other. But it does not matter because neither partner can try to heal the other one into being compatible.
When incompatibility is present in a relationship, it is usually very difficult for people to admit to it, to change the nature of their relationship, to change their roles in each other’s lives or to end the relationship. We want everything to work out so badly because we can’t face the reality of the incompatibility because of what it would mean to us. But because of this, we destroy the relationship. What we do is that we try to make the other person compatible with us by making them wrong or bad for their difference. This creates shame in them. And they most likely will do the same to us. After a while, the emotional condition of the relationship itself is shame and resentment towards each other because of it. Often, when we make the other person wrong 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 never works because if you try, the message conveyed by approaching them in this manner will be “you need to be fixed because something is wrong with you.” They will feel totally unloved by you and unaccepted and unwanted as they are.
One of the main signs of incompatibility in a relationship is that either one or both people in the relationship will feel totally unloved. The most glaring sign of incompatibility in a relationship is that you will be unable to genuinely say that you want the other person to be exactly who they are. The truth will be that you want them to change and that who they are in this moment, if nothing else changed, causes you pain. In an incompatible relationship, you will spend your time vacillating between wishing the other person was different and wishing that you were a different person. Chances are if you really want the relationship to work, you will try endlessly to change them and endlessly to change yourself so there can be harmony. But it will be futile. The relationship will become the biggest source of pain in your life.
This mutual shame created by incompatibility is greatly enhanced if either person is unable to be authentic. Many people grow up in households that have no respect for boundaries and so safety in the house is about throwing your unique identity away to create social harmony rather than developing a solid core and really knowing yourself. When this is the case, a person grows into an adult that does not know himself or herself at all. Because of this, this person wants a relationship but has no capacity to assess compatibility before entering into a relationship. Instead, they will try to become and promise to be exactly what the other person wants and needs. This will be impossible of course to maintain because it is impossible to deny who we really are and what we really want and need. The truth will come out eventually but often far after two people have already committed to a kind of relationship where these differences make for an impossibility to maintain harmony.
One of the reasons we tend to be inauthentic is that we feel so much shame for our personal truth and what we really want and need that we cannot admit to it. Or we feel the consequence of being authentic is not something we can face. The truth comes out, as it always does, in subconscious ways. We send mixed messages constantly and other people start to guess at our truth even when we deny it. But what we have to see is that we are setting ourselves up by doing this. We are also setting other people up. We are setting ourselves up to be loved for a mask, not for who we really are. And because they agreed to the mask, when we remove it, they will feel duped and may reject who we really are. We are also setting them up because they are agreeing to a relationship and assessing compatibility based on something false. They can’t discern incompatibility if we are leading them to believe we are compatible to them when we are not.
One of the best examples of this is a gay man who was raised to believe being gay is an abomination and that by engaging in an intimate relationship with another man, he would risk eternal damnation. Because of this, he cannot be authentic. He may enter into a heterosexual marriage, trying to convince both he and the woman he is committing to that they are compatible. They are not compatible in the role they are entering into together. But the truth will not come out until later when there is a whole lot more of a consequence for all parties involved to discover that there is an irreconcilable incompatibility.
To learn how to be authentic, watch my video titled: How To Be Authentic. You must know yourself in order to establish any form of relationship that is genuinely compatible.
Sometimes, when we experience an incompatibility, we can find a third option. In fact, if we cannot find a third option when incompatibility is involved, our relationship is doomed in the form it is in. This is an arrangement where by agreeing to subtle changes, both people can be happy. Other times, finding a third option is literally impossible. But when we cannot find a third option arrangement that feels good to both people, it is usually because that person is in the wrong role. In fact the only way to resolve the incompatibility so there is any harmony in the relationship is to change the role they are in. This is very much the case in companies in the corporate sphere. For example, someone who is in a role of manager may be terrible as a manager (and therefore incompatible to the company itself) but may be perfect in customer support. This is also very much the case in partnerships. For example, a person may be truly incompatible as a partner but may be a truly great friend. And what is true is that our loving of someone is really about our capacity to change someone’s role in our life (even though it may be a painful process of letting go and of change) rather than to reject or to hate them or punish them for not being compatible to us in the role we want them in. And/or to throw them out of our life completely.
The single hardest thing by far when it comes to assessing compatibility is that attraction has absolutely no respect for compatibility. I will be discussing why we have attraction for the people that we do in a later video. But when we find ourselves attracted to someone and wanting so badly to have a relationship with him or her, and it just feels right because of that gravity between you and them, it is very difficult to see reality vs. the fantasy you have for what it could be. It is also very difficult to see that incompatibilities that are not a big deal when two people first fall in love may be incompatibilities that make a relationship impossible down the road.
A good example of this is religion. For some people, being a different religion from their partner is a difference that does not qualify as incompatibility. For others, it is a huge incompatibility. Some religions are not something that is only done on Sunday. It is an entire way of life that governs what someone does and does not do on a daily basis. For example, if someone is Mormon, the way life is lived is so different that the behaviors of a non Mormon spouse would be considered to be incompatible. Also, the intention that a Mormon has in choosing a spouse is to share in the celestial afterlife together. A non-Mormon cannot make it to the celestial afterlife. So if a Mormon married a non-Mormon, it would mean that they would have a temporary life with them until death, which feels hopelessly empty and would create extreme distress. Therefore, a Mormon marrying a non-Mormon would be incompatible where as a Presbyterian marrying an Episcopalian might not be an incompatibility depending on how both people feel about it.
Another super hard thing is that many of us were incompatible with the very family that we were born into. It is an assumption that by being born into a family, we will be compatible with that family. This is just not the case even though it is taboo in society to say that. If our differences cannot be accommodated by or accepted by our family, the reality is that many of us would have ended off much better in a different family. But adoption is a very hard thing emotionally for all parties and it is not societally accepted for adoption to occur on these grounds. As a result, when this was the case, we developed a core self-concept of shame. When this was our experience and therefore our core wounding, we carry this unhealed wound into adulthood and so we will find ourselves in relationships with incompatible partners over and over again until we can find resolution to this wound and be aware enough to consciously choose a compatible partner.
I’ll give you a little consciousness treat and tell you something. People who were wounded by being incompatible with their family and therefore being pushed away, shamed and rejected for who they are, are desperate to belong. They want closeness, tend to cling in relationships and they are so desperate for connection that they commit to people who are incompatible to them even after they become aware of the incompatibility. It is a bit like being so desperate for water that you’ll drink it even if you know it is poisoned. But because of their unhealed wound, they will often end up in relationships with people whose childhood wound is that they had to throw their identity, preferences, thoughts, feelings, needs and desires away if they were incompatible with one of the adults in the home so as to create social harmony. This person has no idea who they are and therefore cannot be authentic. This person also experiences relationships as suffocating and will push partners away. Therefore, the relationship becomes a mirror of both people’s childhood wounds. It will be a relationship with incompatibilities. The main incompatibility being that one person will feel constantly imprisoned by the relationship and as if they are losing themselves. The other will feel constantly pushed away and abandoned. Both will feel shamed for who they are. The universe is hoping that through the conscious awareness of this wound, both can heal it. One will heal it by consciously finding true compatibility in a kind of adult adoption process. The other will heal it by consciously choosing to live in alignment with their authenticity and have someone love them as they are, even if that love takes the shape of changing the role they are playing in someone else’s life.
The argument that people have for putting a lot of effort and even time into getting to know someone completely, before fully committing to someone being in a specific role in your life, holds serious weight when it comes to compatibility. The reality is that life changes, people change and unfortunately, you can’t make people be authentic, especially if they don’t even know themselves enough to be authentic. All of these things make it hard to guarantee that you are genuinely compatible with someone; or will stay compatible with someone for the rest of your life. But genuinely knowing yourself and being brutally honest with yourself about your internal truth, including your personal preferences, feelings, thoughts, wants, needs and dislikes will make it much easier to see what differences between you and people will make for genuine incompatibility. It will allow you to put people in your life in the roles and positions that they truly belong in so both you and they can be happy.