Compatibility can be a confusing thing. While we know that opposites attract, and relationships require compromise, what does it mean to be fundamentally compatible? What are the big things – beyond values, future plans, lifestyle – that make two people just “flow?”
Though it’s impossible to generalize every relationship, most can boil down to the individual’s Big Five, or five factor, personality traits. The more “alike” you are in the fundamental ways you perceive and interact with the world, the more you will just “get” one another, and have an easier time combining your lives together.
People who are high on “openness” are intellectually curious, expressive, emotional, and sensitive to beauty. They are willing to try new things, and tend to have an appreciation for art, adventure, imagination and new ideas. They tend to hold unconventional beliefs, or at least like discussing ideas that challenge the status quo. People who are “open” adjust better to new life circumstances, and see the potential in change more than they do the fear in it.
People who are contentious are self-disciplined, ethical, and aim for their own measures of achievement rather than living up to society’s standards. Conscientiousness relates to how people control and direct their desires and impulses. People who are more conscientious tend to prefer routine more than they do spontaneity, as they recognize that repeated action creates results. People can fluctuate in their conscientiousness over time – and in different areas of their lives.
People who are extraverted receive energy from other people and new experiences, rather than feeling drained by them. It’s said that another way to characterize them is that they desire a breadth of activities, as opposed to depth. Extraverts are, of course, countered by introverts, who receive their energy from their interpretation of their experiences. They tend to be the “life of the party,” and “everyone’s friend.” Though most people fall somewhere in-between introvert and extravert, and it is possible to make relationships work between the two, people who prefer the same degree of “time in” and “time out” tend to get along the best.
People who are agreeable simply get along with others. “Agreeableness” measures your degree of of considerateness, kindness, empathy, and awareness of other people. People who are agreeable aren’t necessarily chameleons – they don’t alter their ideas and opinions based on who they are around – rather, they are skilled at allowing different ideas to coexist, and build relationships on the belief that everyone can get along. People who are agreeable tend to be optimistic and sensitive. On the other hand, people who are disagreeable place their self-interest above getting along with others.
People who are “neurotic” are more prone to emotions of worry, anger, anxiety and depression. Neuroticism indicates a person’s level of emotional stability, or the degree to which everyday life as the capacity to upset them. People who are higher on the “neurotic” side tend to be less tolerant of stress or tension, and they also tend to interpret otherwise benign situations as being threatening or hopeless. They epitomize “over-thinkers.” This is the one exception in terms of aligned compatibility: it is common for someone who is more neurotic to be paired with someone who is less so.