How To Tell If You Are Compatible As a Couple
One parlor game we play when we go out to dinner or for drinks is called, for lack of anything more imaginative, Are They a Couple or Have the Potential to Be? Despite the fact that we have decades of combined experience in living--and we have no compunctions about staring at people in public places for long periods of time--we sometimes have trouble telling if a pair is couple-worthy. Often, it leaps out at us; other times, we have to puzzle it out. Here are clues you can use to find out if you or another couple appears to be relationship-compatible:
Mirroring: Monkey See, Monkey Do?
Researchers who study relationships find that mirroring in speech and body language is a sure predictor for relationship potential.
In one study, researchers at Northwestern University found that when the number of times men and women used small, insignificant words (but, the, and, etc.) was close to equal between the two people, there was relationship potential.
Mirroring is a well-established concept in the study of body language, and it's often used as a persuasive tactic. So, while mirroring can be an indicator of compatibility between two people, it can be reverse-engineered and used to create the feeling of compatibility between two people who currently aren't.
Opposites Attract Except When They Don't (Or Shouldn't)
It's often said that opposites attract, yet this is only partially true. One benefit of this thing called love is that you get to crawl into the world of another person, along with their unique temperament and tastes. If you are so enamored of your own self that you don't like that kind of thing, the solution is easy enough: stay single.
Simple example: one person loves opera and all that goes along with it--the pre-opera dinners, the clothing, and the crowd. The other person grew up listening to country music. The opera person gets a chance to experience the country music life, and vice-versa.
You should seek a partner who is opposite from you in ways. But how far do you take this "opposites attract" thing?
Dr. Elliot Cohen differentiates between areas where you should seek the same and other areas where opposite characteristics are desirable. With curricular interests, such as the opera-country example, it's not at all a big deal if you have different interests, and it might even be a good thing.
Yet core values such as those involving your moral system and religious beliefs absolutely need to be similar. The relationship may coast along for awhile without this compatibility, but eventually it will collapse due to these things.
Touching: A Touch A Day...
You came together for a physical relationship. Whether you're horny bunnies who hopped straight into bed or more restrained people for whom a good, warm hug has significance, it's all about touch. Touch is how you distinguish this relationship from other relationships in your life. You kiss your husband on the neck, not your boss, right?
Relationship counselor Denise Knowles says that daily intimacy is necessary for a relationship. Is this a "well, duh" kind of statement? No. Even though this is a basic fact of maintaining a healthy relationship, we're surprised at how many couples forget this basic fact.
But what might be a bit surprising is that those cheesy little acts that couples often pass off as touch--the peck on the cheek, the dry-lipped kiss on the way to work--actually do serve a purpose. While we don't advocate building a relationship on this kind of touch, it does serve as a stopgap or a maintenance device until you can have real intimacy.
Shared Laughter: The Ultimate Indicator
Image: Creative Commons-Licensed; Flickr User: Boston Bill
Go out on a date--dinner, drinks, a walk on the lake, whatever (anything except a movie). Spend three hours on the date. When you get home, make a rough count of the number of times you two laughed.
Ten or more times? Three? Zero?
If neither of you laughed--and you weren't discussing cancer or world hunger--then chances are good that this relationship does not have potential. It's not like a sense of humor is a major cornerstone in a relationship; neither of you needs to be a born comedian.
Rather, it's an indicator of intimacy and ease between people. As with mirroring, it's often sneakily reverse-engineered to induce a state of semi-intimacy. We believe, though, that you can't force humor. The best kind of couple-humor doesn't come from a joke fired toward another person, but from shared observations of the world around you.