Compatibility—More than just personality and interests

Is Compatibility Important?Compatibility:  a hot topic today! Google the word and you’ll find results related to everything from zodiac and horoscopes (is your sign compatible with the person you are dating?), to technology (as in IBM or specific application compatibility), temperaments (take a test like Myers-Briggs!), or love and romance capability indicators (there’s an inventory for everything!). It’s enough to make your head spin-–and make a confusing subject even more confusing!

When it comes to relationships, compatibility is a key component. But as Christians seriously desiring a relationship that will go the distance, in what areas of the relationship is compatibility a major factor? Does God really care if I am compatible with my mate? And how compatible is compatible enough?

There is no doubt that compatibility in many areas makes life easier. Marriage involves two people living together. When you see things similarly it’s much easier to come to decisions that both of you are happy with. But what is God’s desire?

Let’s take a look at what God tells us in His Word when it comes to absolutes, preferences, and principles.

Absolutes—God does give us a directive about compatibility.

As much as we want clear direction from God as to His plan for our lives, when it comes to a marriage partner there is really only one passage in the New Testament that speaks specifically to the compatibility issue.  (Note that there are also verses in the New Testament that deal with eligibility for marriage, such as in the case of divorce and remarriage in Matthew 5.)

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14, NIV). This is actually a reiteration of a principle God gave the Israelites in the Old Testament to not marry those outside of the Jewish nation. Why? Because this is such a foundational part of who we are. God knows that this will be best for us-–to be in a life-union with someone who has the same foundation (Christ) as we do!

That isn’t a lot of direction, but it is very clear! God wants us to be in a relationship with someone that believes in Him. And so, the only directive He has for us, the only absolute, is that the person we marry is a Christian. The rest He leaves up to us.

So what does it mean to be in a relationship with a “believer?” Here’s where compatibility can really be a factor. Early in the relationship, or even before you begin dating someone, discuss the level of his or her commitment to Christ. Ask questions like:   How have you experienced Him? What are you presently doing to grow in your relationship with God? How committed are you to God’s people? To His work? How do you worship God? Then consider, is it the same way you do? Are you coming from a more traditional background? If so, can you accept someone from a more contemporary or charismatic background? Consider the person’s level of involvement in the church, whether he or she attends worship services regularly, or is involved in a ministry. These questions need to be discussed in order to help you predict how this might affect your relationship long term.

God wants each one of us to have a relationship with Him! And that relationship influences all the other areas of our lives. This one factor will ultimately shape your marriage relationship and the life you have together with your spouse.

Principles—God gives us guidance for wise decision making.

Opposites attract. In chemistry–this is quite often fantastic! In relationships, it’s not always so great. Initially the magic of being attracted to an opposite comes from the novelty of spending time with someone who is quite different than we are. They are everything we are not. Together we seem to make a whole. We appreciate their differences and value what they bring to the relationship. But in the long term those very opposite behaviors and attitudes have the potential to cause frustration.

In the Bible, Amos 3:3 gives this wise advice:   “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” God has blessed you with a good mind to ascertain the stability of your relationship. Strong relationships are built on good thinking (not just the exciting feelings)! As Christians, we believe that God’s Holy Spirit gives us wisdom–and we can use that wisdom in every area of our lives including our relationships.

So take time to think about this:  Do you and your potential mate agree on the direction you are heading? Not just with the relationship, but in other areas of your life as well. There are five major topics that are important to consider as you answer this question:  Purpose, Expectations, Character, Attachments, and Life Experiences. Set aside some time to think about your attitudes and values and then have a serious discussion with your partner.

Purpose: What are you living for—short term and long term? What drives you? Family? Fun? Ministry? Career? Money? Success? Possessions (house, car, clothes, grown-up toys such as a boat or technology gadgets)? Hobbies? Prestige? Recognition? Your response to this topic will have a major impact on your relationship in the long term.

Expectations: In the excitement of a new relationship many times expectations are not discussed. It’s just fun to be together and expectations are often assumed. If this relationship leads to marriage, what are your expectations within the relationship? Are you both going to work? What about children:  yes or no, how many, who will be responsible for their care? How about finances:  separate or joint, who will be responsible for what, what are the expensive items you are hoping to have once you are married? What are your views on sex? What are your thoughts on opposite sex friendships and associations once you are married? What standard of living is your goal…and how are you going to get there? These areas within a relationship can be difficult to discuss, but they are critical to a compatible relationship down the road!

Character: Hmm…this is an interesting concept to think about! What about character? Does it matter to you personally? Does it matter to you what kind of character your mate has? A person’s character affects and essentially becomes their reputation. Is that important to you? What kind of character does your mate possess?

Attachments: Take a look at your potential mate’s friend base. With whom does he or she keep company? Are these good, honest, caring people? Are they believers? What is your potential mate attached to? The answer to this question will often reflect values in other areas such as purpose and character. Are you willing to live with those attachments? Consider your own attachments. Think about what you’re committed to doing. People you are committed to. Goals you’re committed to accomplishing. How do you feel about your mate having their own set of attachments? How do you want to spend your time…and what expectations do you have for your mate? What are your thoughts and feelings about future commitments or attachments as a couple?

Life Experience: What kinds of life experiences are both of you bringing to the relationship? How have those experiences shaped you? Be honest with yourself and your mate. Great experiences as well as painful or hurtful experiences should be shared. What are you hoping to experience together as a couple?

While it is certainly possible for two very different people to have a wonderful, fulfilling marriage, it is also a fact that when two people are similar in these key areas, life is often much easier.

Preference—God gives us freedom to satisfy our personal taste.

God has made each one of us a unique individual. And within that individuality are personal preferences and tastes. Although the Bible makes it clear that we should only build a marriage with someone who is a Christian, there is still a lot of room for us to make a personal choice. When it comes to personality, appearance, and interests we have a lot of options!

For example, in the area of personality, do you prefer someone outgoing, reserved, athletic, brainy, fun-loving, compassionate, compliant, sweet, tough…?

How about in the area of appearance? What are you looking for by way of age, height, body type? Is someone’s personal style important to you? What about personal hygiene? What is most attractive to you and your tastes?

A person’s interests are usually important when it comes to personal preference. What do you like to do? Are you more of a homebody or do you like to go out several times a week? Are you more into leisure activities, outdoor activities, thrill seeking opportunities, the arts? What are your political views? Can you be with someone who doesn’t share those exact opinions? How about health? How focused are you on physical fitness?

How important is it to you-–and to your mate-–that you share your views and interests? How much are you willing to “agree to disagree?” Can there be some variety? Are you open to new ideas and experiences?

In A Nut Shell—How much does God really care about compatibility?

God cares a great deal about our faith compatibility! The bottom line is that it is important to build a relationship with a person who is a Christian. But beyond that, it may be God’s will for two people who are quite opposite to be married as long as they are a committed to Him and to each other.

Neil Warren, former faculty member of Fuller Theological Seminary and chairman and co-founder of the online dating service eHarmony, once said, “Your choice of who to marry is more important than anything else combined that you will ever do to make your marriage succeed.”

You are making a choice on who to marry! Compatibility is important but not an absolute requirement in every area. However we need to use our God-given common sense and good judgment whenever we are considering marriage! It really comes down to…

Do you believe that this person is God’s very best for you? Do you recognize them as being God’s perfect gift to you? If you have questions or concerns or an uneasiness about the relationship, give yourself more time to gain perspective on the relationship. Think more, talk more with your mate, and ask trusted friends for their thoughts and opinions of the relationship.

Hold on to the fact that God wants His very best for you in everything you do, including choosing a mate. Obey His absolute, pursue His wisdom, and trust His will for your life.