“We’re just not compatible.”
I believe that compatibility is a major component of a meaningful, successful relationship. Although I reluctantly accept the notion that relationships require work, I adamantly reject any suggestion that the work should be laborious. I’ve been guilty on more than one occasion of stubbornly forcing a square peg into a round hole, insisting that the issues that keep presenting themselves in a particular relationship just require more patience and brute force to overcome. The more manual manipulation I applied to make it work, the more frustration I felt and the more toxic the relationship became. What should have been a mutual and amicable separation, became an accusation of surrender that led to animosity.
So how do you determine compatibility in a relationship? More importantly, how do you recognize incompatibility? Well, I decided to look no further than my smartphone to provide an analogous illustration of how compatibility in a relationship should work. With your indulgence, I offer five ways to determine the level of compatibility in a relationship:
1. It should work out of the box
In today’s competitive smartphone market, the major selling point for most users is a device’s ability to be ready for use immediately after the user powers it up. There is nothing more frustrating than retrieving a beautifully designed device from its packaging, removing all of the protective plastic, only to sit and wait for the device to download and install updates in order for it to work. I don’t mind exercising patience as I customize my phone with my user preferences, but my first experience should be easy and inviting.
It’s the same with new relationships. The initial encounter and first date should be smooth and enjoyable. The conversation should flow freely without unpleasant interruptions and obstacles. Even if there is a bit of awkwardness, there should be a mutual desire to create an environment that facilitates a pleasant experience. If the first few dates leave you feeling frustrated and confused, then you may have a compatibility problem that might not be fixed with patience and persistence.
2. Native software and accessories should work flawlessly
You have the device turned on and things seem to be working fine. Now it’s time to pair the device with its accessories or download the software provided by the manufacturer to heighten the user experience. Consider the level of irritation you feel when your efforts are met with error messages that suggest you try again at a later time. You shake your head wondering, “how could this not work? It came in the box!”
I view honesty, quality time, and availability as a few of the accessories of a relationship. If your partner’s words and actions seem to be diametrically opposed at the onset or if free time feels like a luxury that is rationed sparingly, then you may have a compatibility issue that will most likely not fix itself over time. The beauty of new relationships is that you both should be enjoying a season when schedules are freely altered to make time because being together is a shared priority. If someone is unable or unwilling to create opportunities, however brief, to see or talk to you, then you should accept that you are not a priority and you probably never will be.
3. There shouldn’t be a need for constant hard resets
You’re enjoying your new smartphone and all of its new and fun features, then all of sudden it freezes on you. You hold down the power button, restart the device, and it is working perfectly again until it isn’t. Over and over again, you are forced to initiate a hard reset, shutting down your device and powering it on again just to make it work properly. At some point, you are tempted to surrender all of your personal data to reset the device to factory settings.
I’ve been in those relationships where taking short breaks actually prolongs the life of the relationship way past its expiration date. After each breakup, despite the promise that its the last breakup, an opportunity to reconcile always presents itself. Nostalgia and familiarity camouflage the conflicts that initiated the breakup and the reward for trying again are brief moments of bliss followed by a stark reminder of why the relationship ended. These relationship hard resets will eventually trigger a desire for a return to factory settings – being eternally single.
4. It should require no 3rd party solutions
Innovation and creativity have started an all-out competitive battle for consumers amongst smartphone developers. Each company vies not only for the user but also for the proprietary rights of new software and hardware that promises to create a unique experience that demands the purchase of a particular brand. This attempt to hoard creativity has created a new market for third-party hacks that promise workarounds for incompatibility. The problem is that the third party solution is rarely as elegant and seamless as promised. Often times, the bridging software generates more problems than the one it was designed to solve.
A relationship should really be designed, constructed, and maintained by the two people in the relationship. A relationship that requires constant input from well-meaning friends and family is probably unsuited for longevity. The peripheral involvement of those hoping for the relationship’s success is basically duct tape temporarily holding the pieces of a broken relationship together. Eventually, despite the third party advice and reassurance, the inevitable takes place and the irreconcilable differences end the relationship for good.
5. Updates shouldn’t alter the user experience
You’ve been using your smartphone for months and you’ve discovered shortcuts and developed a decent level of proficiency that makes your device an essential component of your lifestyle. A message suddenly pops up on your screen announcing new software updates that offer new features and fixes for bugs that you never noticed. With hesitation, you accept the recommendation to download and install the new software, hoping it won’t cause issues with your current experience. The install complete, you power up your phone and to your dismay, everything has changed. Your apps are not where you meticulously placed them and your screen looks foreign as if you’ve accidentally picked up someone else’s phone. What’s worse, the apps you rely on daily no longer work the way they once did. Apps that have saved long-forgotten passwords are demanding you re-enter user data or come up with a whole new password that meets near-impossible character requirements. You search the web to see if other users have experienced the same agony only to find a plethora of warnings to skip the new update.
Things change in life and those changes bring with them new experiences, requirements, and opportunities. The continued success of a relationship should not be held helplessly captive to the outcome of a necessary life change. A new job, new opportunity, change in lifestyle, or new responsibility shouldn’t destroy the continuity of a relationship. There should be a strong foundation that allows adjustments and pivots that may make the relationship temporarily inconvenient but not feel consistently impossible. A strong relationship can handle the ebb and flow of life without being destroyed. Attempts to improve a relationship shouldn’t create insurmountable obstacles that lead to its demise. If the relationship can’t handle a periodic update, then it may have compatibility issues that were ignored at the onset.
The value of an analogy is that it can be used to paint a vivid image of an idea or concept. However, analogies, metaphors, and similes are limited in their application because variables will always exist that restrict a complete comparison. Rather than waste time poking holes in my analogy, I hope that it can provide a framework for determining if the time and emotional equity that every relationship demands are worth the investment. Dumping precious resources into an endeavor that will yield no positive results is an exercise in futility that has potentially damaging results. Relationships require maintenance and collaborative effort to be successful and rewarding. Compatibility ensures that the fruit and the labor are equally matched. Finally, fully and completely enjoying a compatible, fulfilling relationship makes us less susceptible to falling for a premature upgrade to someone shiny and new with features we don’t want or need!