Relationship compatibility: it’s not as simple as 10 signs

Compatible couple happy to be together

The secret chemistry behind relationship compatibility has long fascinated lovers and fighters alike. Can you ever know what makes two people compatible? And can it be quantified or is it unique to each individual relationship? We investigate the elements in relationship compatibility, and as it turns out, it’s really quite complex…

What is relationship compatibility?

Although there are key factors which we can try to break compatibility into, much like falling in love, compatibility can be different for each couple. Consequently, defining relationship compatibility is better done in broad strokes. So what is at the foundation of relationship compatibility, below the obvious factors? To understand relationship compatibility at its core, its outcome rather than its components gives clue to the magic that committed couples share.

Psychologist Dr. Lisa Firestone explains, “Relationship compatibility exists, first and foremost, when a couple relates with equality and respect”1. Relating to each other on equal footing creates a healthy and secure environment for each individual and for the unit, a couple, to flourish in the long run.

In a similar vein, couples therapist Robert Taibbi says: “Feeling safe is ultimately what all these other issues come down to: both partners being able to say what they think and want without fear, without holding back”2. And here we discover a great but hidden truth about compatibility – it is not only about sharing similarities or having differences, but rather about how you make each other fundamentally feel.

Do you accept your partner for who they are, and do they do that for you? At its very nucleus, relationship compatibility is actually acceptance, warts and all, of each other. The secret about a lasting relationship is that security generates the freedom for two individuals to create a compatible life together, and this security is born in radical acceptance.

Relationship compatibility test: calculate your compatibility

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Relationship compatibility: it’s more than what zodiac signs go together

At its center relationship compatibility is about creating a secure environment for both individuals. Let’s examine the different elements that are used to build that security and areas you can focus on developing as a couple.

When considering compatibility sometimes people choose to look at love compatibility by birth date, measuring relationship compatibility by zodiac signs and horoscopes. Looking at your horoscope, it’s fun to ask which star sign match, asking astrology to decide who is most compatible for a Virgo or a Libra, for instance.

Another popular approach is tests and tools, like Myers Briggs, searching out relationship compatibility for an introvert or extrovert, and trying to find your match. However, while these are fun and even useful to point out certain general compatibilities, there are a few fundamental elements which contribute to compatibility. No star signs or personality tests needed!

Let’s outline 5 significant factors in relationship compatibility.

Relationships compatibility meter:

Values are valuable

A fundamental driving factor in behavior and attitudes is a person’s values and beliefs. So although a couple can have different viewpoints, for longevity in a relationship, one should be able to respect your partner’s values and beliefs and they shouldn’t contradict your own.

Interests are not that interesting

Much emphasis has been placed on partners having shared interests and hobbies. However, this is a misconception. Spending time apart in a relationship is healthy, and having your own separate interests is good for individuals in a relationship. Although sharing a hobby or interest can give your relationship a boost and it is fun to enjoy activities together, it is not necessary. Being interested in each other’s lives and spending quality time together is far more important than how you spend that time.

Fighting fair

This may come as a surprise, but being able to fight with your partner and come out the other side is actually a key component in a compatible long-term relationship. Fighting is an inevitable reality in any relationship and learning to fight fairly, communicate honestly and overcome challenges together is an essential factor in a successful and happy relationship.

Future alignment

Some issues in life work out as you go, but certain topics are a fundamental part of the future we envision. Have you spoken about children, marriage, location, and lifestyle? For example, if you don’t want children, but your partner wants three, or they believe in marriage and you don’t, these can be serious stumbling blocks to building a compatible future together. Can you bring your futures together to create a unified one as a couple? Mutual future goals are a strong indicator of the compatibility of your relationship.

Family and friends

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves, and we’re born into a family we don’t have a say in. How your partner interacts with your friends and family speaks volumes. Your friends and family also tend to know you the best and, equally, how they respond to your partner is a good indication for you to consider in how they fit into the broader picture of your life. Connecting with your nearest and dearest can be a make or break moment with a life companion.

In the early stages of a relationship, it can be easy to confuse chemistry and compatibility. When considering relationship chemistry vs relationship compatibility, be clear that compatibility is about existing together comfortably in the long run, whereas chemistry is more about the spark that gets the fire started. Considering your compatibility, dig a little deeper, and ask the tough questions. Compatibility can ask for a compromise on everyday issues, like who does the cooking and cleaning, and when it comes to real matters of the heart, love should come naturally.

Relationship compatibility issues: the bigger idea

What does compatibility mean for you? Each couple creates their own relationship and in that space, you have your own priorities. Maybe compatibility for you means that your partner goes with you to classical music concerts, or makes an effort to get to know your mom, or forgives you for regularly leaving a wet towel on the bed.

At the end of the day, compatibility is about the bigger idea of acceptance. Do you feel secure with your partner, safe in the knowledge that they see you and love you anyway? And do you love them for who they are right now, not what you want to mold them into? The truth about real relationship compatibility is that it comes from honest acceptance and genuinely putting the ‘ifs and buts’ aside when it comes to how you give and receive love.


1. Dr. L. Firestone.(2016). Relationship Compatibility. PsychAlive. Found at:

2. R. Taibbi. (2016). What does it mean to be compatible?. Psychology Today. Found at:

About the author: Zoe Coetzee

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