What Do You do If You And Your Spouse Are Incompatable?
You may find yourself, like many couples, wondering how you ever got together and if you are compatible enough to stay in this relationship. Before we jump into things to do if you think you’re compatible, let’s consider the upside to differences. It is the differences that make a relationship interesting. Diversity in backgrounds, personalities, personal preferences, viewpoints, and perceptions can be good.
You, no doubt, are familiar with the phrase, “Opposites attract.” Even science has proven this to be true! Claus Wedekind is a Swiss biological researcher notable for his 1995 study on attraction. This study is often known as the “sweaty T-shirt study .”In it, men each wore the same T-shirt for two days. The shirts were then put into identical boxes. Various women were asked to smell the shirts and indicate which shirts they were most sexually attracted to. The results showed that women were most attracted to men with an MHC (major histocompatibility complex) most dissimilar from their own. (Source: Wikipedia)
AGREEABILITY AND CONSCIENTIOUSNESS
Dr. John Gottman believes that compatibility is one of the myths people believe about relationships. He says that when we say “compatibility,” we really are talking about the qualities of agreeability and conscientiousness. I tend to agree! To amplify these two qualities, consider their synonyms:
- Agreeability: pleasant, friendly, amiable, congenial, cordial, social, warm
- Conscientiousness: responsible, organized, hard-working, honest, honorable, just, upright, scrupulous
These are certainly desirable qualities for both you and your partner to possess. These are the qualities of a person who would, in a disagreement, say things like, “I never thought of it that way before,” “I am sorry. Will you forgive me? “or I love you too much to try to prove myself right and you wrong.” If you are both agreeable and conscientious, then you will have much more success applying the tools given below for making your “incompatibility” work for you and your relationship.
MAKING THE MOST OF INCOMPATIBILITY
- Take a deep breath and relax. The calmer and more peaceful you are, the more likely your chance of success in your desire to grow closer to your partner. Being stressed and upset will only push you further apart. You can do this, but it won’t happen overnight in most cases.
- Become Expert Communicators. As with any issue in a relationship, communication plays a crucial role in succeeding in that area. Learn the tools of communication like reflective listening, empathy, determining if your spouse is speaking emotional or logical language, etc. You can’t overcommunicate!
- Let Go of Expectations. As I once heard, “Expectations are just disappointments paid forward.” You will be disappointed if you expect your partner to live up to your expectations of what a mate should be and do. The gap between what you expected and what you got (reality) can be vast. What feels that gap are intense emotions like anger, bitterness, sadness, deep disappointment, hopelessness, and hurt.
It’s important to realize that our expectations can be an attempt to control our partner and the relationship. Therefore, we have to learn to let go of what we expect to move forward, accept what is, and open ourselves to what can be!
- Have a Deep Conversation. Choose an appropriate time and place for an honest conversation between you and your partner. Own your feelings and be careful not to blame or accuse them. Open discussions about complex issues are not easy, but they set a new trajectory for the relationship. Honesty combined with love is a powerful glue for a relationship, no matter the differences.
- Accept Areas of Difficulty and Disagreement. You are two different people and, in some ways, will always be “incompatible .”It has only taken me 47 years of marriage to learn this! She puts it this way, “He goes from A to M, and I go from Z to N, but we always meet in the middle.” She will never like country music, and I will never appreciate figure skating, but we have learned to enjoy each other’s enjoyment of them. It’s a decision to be happily incompatible or miserably incompatible.
- Appreciate and Celebrate the Differences. Become a student of your partner. In other words, make it about them, not all about you. Learn everything that you can about them – their personality, preferences, favorite foods, music, team, etc. Don’t expect them to be like you – that’s putting pressure on them and frustrating you. The more you learn about “what makes them tick,” the more you will appreciate them and accept them for the person they are, not who you would have them to be. This can even lead to celebrating and enjoying your differences. Your marriage is one of a kind with its own DNA. There’s never been one exactly like it before. Celebrate it!
- Discover Common Ground. There may be very few things at present that you enjoy doing together. One way to connect is to try interests or hobbies that are new to both of you. Doing something together for the first time creates a kind of intimacy and connectedness. For example, you could each make a list and then try things from both lists – this week, do something from her list, and next week, do something from his. Even if neither one enjoys the activity, you can enjoy each other and agree together that you didn’t like it. You might also find common ground in exploring spirituality together. A shared faith is one of the strongest bonds a couple can have.
- Be Willing to Grow. Your differences with your spouse are opportunities to grow and expand your knowledge and understanding. You can grow as an individual and as a couple if your attitude is to learn all about each other and your differences. It could be something as simple as learning all about his favorite team and thus gaining an appreciation for the sport he loves. He could learn more about government and the economy to discuss the political causes about which she is so passionate. Both could grow by taking parenting classes together to improve parenting skills.
- Envision Your Future. Do you want to be the person who went from relationship to relationship only to find incompatibility with each new partner? Probably not. Wouldn’t you rather be the person (couple) who worked hard at creating a mutually satisfying relationship and left a legacy of love and laughter?