From a reader: “You said what makes two people compatible is how deeply and broadly they connect. Intuitively, it sounds right to me, but what exactly does it mean? How does it play out in a relationship?”
To connect deeply we have to get naked, not just physically (that’s the easy part), but mentally and emotionally. We can’t skate on the surface chatting about the weather and expect to attract a soul mate.
We have to risk talking about religion and politics, spirituality and values, dreams we still dream, lessons we can’t seem to learn, and fears we still run from. We have to share from a deep place inside of us if we want to connect deeply. As simple as that sounds, it can be difficult just to face some of what’s in there, let alone pull it out and share it with somebody we’re trying to impress.
The irony is that once you’ve looked at what’s in there, you start to realize how amazing you are! That doesn’t mean everybody will connect with you. But whether they connect or not, if you’re trying to determine compatibility, rather than prove it, your mission is accomplished! And there need not be any hurt feelings.
When marriages were based — or arranged, as the case may be — on practical matters, rather than love, I think people were less apt to personalize compatibility. Agreeing to marriage based on such things as profession, resources, health and reputation may seem cold and calculating. But ignoring or personalizing such things is foolhardy, because they play into how we think and feel and behave and connect.
Once you’re naked, you can look honestly at how broadly you connect with somebody. It helps to consider five areas of intimacy, as explained by Michael Murphy, a psychologist at the University of Florida:
Behavioral — You like to do the same things.
Intellectual — You have stimulating conversation.
Emotional — You lay yourself out there emotionally and still feel accepted.
Spiritual — You have a common sense of purpose.
Sexual — You still feel sexually connected after climax.
Now, imagine connecting deeply with somebody in all five areas. If you can actually do that, you are exceptionally compatible! But you can connect to a lesser degree and still be compatible enough to live happily together. Decide how important each area is to you and number them 1-5, with 1 being the most important.
How you rank the areas is telling. And how your ranking compares with your partner’s is telling about your compatibility as a couple!
If spiritual intimacy is most important to you and least important to a partner (yikes!), you’re unlikely to accept, nurture and inspire each other enough to have a fulfilling relationship. If, on the other hand, spiritual intimacy is most important to both of you and you connect deeply in that area, you might forego a deep behavioral connection and still be very happy.
Keep in mind that the areas overlap. If you both like intellectual stimulation, maybe you’ll both like to frequent museums and watch documentaries, too — even if one prefers art and the other prefers science.
The areas also act to strengthen and weaken each other. If you both feel totally safe opening up emotionally, you’ll be more apt to try new things together. If he loves to sail and you’re afraid of the water, he just might help you to overcome your fear and enjoy sailing with him.
And intense sexual intimacy can make virtually any day together a “day in the park,” just the way it can make holding hands intriguing and exciting. And while sexual intimacy is difficult to create or explain, like the other four areas of intimacy, you can develop what you have.
You can deepen and broaden your connection in each individual area. And that means more understanding, more acceptance, and more love.