In the search for love, we all ultimately want the same thing. We may not all have the same type (yes, types are real), but most of us share a vision of what the so-called “perfect” relationship looks like: comfortable, supportive, fun… dare we even say, easy? So often, though, partners that seem so right for us in the early days begin to feel like a totally wrong fit over time. And it’s always so disappointing to realize this. Why shouldn’t a perfect first date signal a lifelong love connection? Why doesn’t that initial affinity stick? We got a lesson in true compatibility from eHarmony CEO Grant Langston, and now we think we may have some of the answers.
In the dating site’s early days, eHarmony’s experts studied couples categorized as “very happy” and “very unhappy” to determine what the former group had that the latter group was missing. These key traits went on to form the basis of their matching process, and they represent, according to Langston, true, long-range compatibility. “These were not superficial similarities, like sharing a love of certain activities or food,” he says. “That doesn’t have anything to do with it. These are very deep-seated, foundational traits that happy couples share.”
Those superficial commonalities — similar interests, great conversation, mutual attraction — are the makings of a great first date, but they often don’t sustain couples long-term. This is why you may find that a strong initial connection fizzles as soon as the stakes in a relationship get higher. People are actually born with many of the traits that determine true compatibility, and most of the others are “baked in” by family and other key influences during childhood. Langston says that eHarmony focuses on approximately 30 traits when assessing compatibility between couples on their site. Here are more details about four especially important factors.
1. The Fight Factor: The way we handle conflict as adults often mirrors the way we watched our immediate families approach conflict when we were young, and if you and your S.O. grew up with different models for resolving fights, you may struggle to effectively keep the peace with each other in a long-term relationship. Due to the rosy glow that often comes with a new crush, Langston says that it’s often difficult to assess whether or not you and a partner will be compatible on this trait early on, but he has some tips for figuring it out. “You need to see this person in as many different settings as possible,” he explains. “You [also] just have to keep your eyes open. The way they resolve conflict may be apparent by the way they deal with other people before [the conflict] gets to you, because the early days of a romance are pretty wonderful.”
2. The Grump Factor: According to Langston, people are generally born with a disposition that’s either sunny or grouchy. Sure, anyone can switch on a better mood when the situation requires it, but we each have a perspective that naturally falls somewhere along the spectrum of positive and negative — and that’s not easy to change. Seek potential significant others with whom you share a similar worldview. “The glow of chemistry can get you through some months, and you may have a sense that your partner is grumpy and negative… but you’re just intoxicated by the chemistry,” Langston says. “Well, that’s going to come to an end. If you and this person are not similar in this area, it’s just going to be hard.”
3. The Ambition Factor: “Ambition is kind of a hidden trait for a lot of people,” Langston says. “You need to be willing, in the early days, to say ‘What are your ambitions? What do you want to be? Are you a go-getter or are you the kind of person that just wants to take life as it comes?” Neither type of person is going to be an inherently better partner, but you should feel like you can relate to each other on this level if you are truly in it for the long haul. If you and your S.O. aren’t similarly motivated by new opportunities, professional growth, or financial success, you’ll likely experience friction down the road.
4. The Social Factor: When it comes to our level of sociability, most of us fall somewhere around middling — you may be shy but come out of your shell in certain situations, or you may be naturally outgoing and act more withdrawn when you’re stressed. People who fall at the more extreme ends of this spectrum, however, should be particularly mindful of how socially compatible they are with a love interest. If you enjoy going out to see friends and family and your partner repeatedly avoids going to these events, that’s a red flag — and it’s unlikely to change. “People are who they are and your best advice is to take someone who’s like you,” Langston says. “Don’t go looking for someone who you’re going to want to change on these big, fundamental dimensions because it’s pretty impossible to do it.”
Given this insider info about true compatibility, is there any way to know for sure that you and a new partner “match up” in all the ways that matter? Not necessarily. But, according to Langston, moving beyond first impressions and staying open in your search for love is key to meeting the right person. “Our human systems of assessing people are just not very good,” he says. “Unless, [they’re] a total creep, have a second date with them. Do yourself that favor.” After a few more dates, you may find that you have real compatibility (like the traits mentioned above) with a new potential partner, even if you didn’t share more superficial interests on the first meeting. Give it a try!
What traits do you think are most important for compatibility? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)