Marriage Myth #1: "Compatibility" is The Key

by Jon R Anderson            

   In the 1990’s a new phenomenon sprang up, in our culture, called “Speed Dating”. The idea behind speed dating was that a person could save a lot of time, money, and energy by having several dates in a short time. An equal number of men and women would sign up for a speed-dating session for a designated amount of time. Each person would have a short date, usually sitting across a long table, with each other person of the opposite sex. A bell would ring and a timer would start. After 10 minutes an alarm would sound and the date is over. Everyone moves over one seat to the left and another 10-minute date would begin. Unlike traditional dating where the first few dates are spent talking about a lot of trivial matters such as: favorite food; favorite music; favorite movies, etc., the discussions immediately went to what really mattered… the so-called “deal breakers”. “What are your political stances?” “What are your religious views, if any?” “What are your thoughts on having children”? If you got a “wrong” answer to these BIG questions, you wouldn’t have wasted a bunch of time, money, and energy finding that out. Only a few moments were spent and you can now mark that person off the list of “potential mate”.

               Then the internet came along and took this idea of dating to another level. One could now save even more time and energy and find out much more before even making an effort to actually “meet up”. Science could even get involved by applying personality assessments and behavioral style profiles, along with an instant long list of likes/dislikes, hobbies, interests, life-goals, etc…

               Both of these modern dating approaches are based on the same assumption: What makes for a great, lifelong mate is “sameness”.

               “Joanna (my wife of 30+ years) and I have led over 80 intensive workshops for marriages in crisis. For this workshop, each person takes a well-known personality assessment. At nearly every workshop we will have at least one couple who has the exact same personality profile. They are the ones who met through an online service. They bought into the pervasive myth that “Compatibility is the Key”. This myth states that everyone can have their soul-mate by simply finding someone who is just like me. It ignores the fact that nobody is just like me. It also ignores the fact that many, maybe even a majority of us, are too immature or selfish or relationally dysfunctional to deal with differences in a healthy, loving manner. Any two people are going to have differences. How we handle our differences has much more to do with a successful relationship than our degree of sameness! We have seen many great marriages with 2 very different spouses, and many terrible marriages with very similar spouses. As a matter of fact, Joanna and I have been married through 7 presidential elections and have only voted for the same candidate one time… most would call that a deal breaker.

               Now, obviously, a certain amount of compatibility is important. An unequally “yoked” couple is going to have many difficult challenges. But being equally yoked doesn’t mean being the same. It has much more to do with being headed in the same direction. You could take a one-ton ox, have him cloned, and hook him and his clone up to a plow. However, if one wants to pull to the right and the other wants to go straight ahead, they are going to have problems. On the other hand, a 500 pound mule and a 1000 pound ox can plow together just fine if they are working in unison.

               True intimacy is achieved not by discovering sameness, but in accepting and celebrating what is different!

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