What Makes Couples Compatible?

Is there someone for everyone? While Choice Theory doesn’t answer that question, it does propose an answer for why some couples are more compatible than others. So whether you are in a relationship, considering a relationship, or questioning why a relationship didn’t work out, you might find this theory eye-opening.

Here’s some background: every one of us has five basic needs. Those needs are security/survival, love/belonging, power, freedom, and fun. It’s our special combination of the strengths of those needs that makes us who we are. Essentially, our unique combination of need strengths defines our personality.

What do needs have to do with compatibility? According to Dr. Glasser’s observations, some combinations of need strengths result in happier, more compatible relationships than others.

Which combinations lead to highly compatible relationships?  Here are some promising combinations.

  • Security/survival need: It’s better for the relationship if both people have similar strengths of this need. However, if the need for security is very high in one and very low in the other, differences can be negotiated successfully, especially the couple recognizes that conflicts are a result of differences in this need strength.
  • Love/belonging: Again, it’s better for the relationship if both have similar strengths of this need. Note that the strength of this need is defined as the amount of love that you are prepared to give (not the amount you want to receive.)
  • Power: If both partners have a low need for power, they will likely be compatible. If both partners have a high need for power and can’t find ways to satisfy that need outside the relationship, that relationship can be difficult. If one partner has a high need while the other has a low need, there is the possibility of a very satisfying relationship, or quite the opposite. The result depends on how they choose to conduct the relationship.
  • Freedom: If either, or both, has a very high need for freedom, then a satisfying relationship can be difficult to achieve. After all, a relationship does restrict your freedom, doesn’t it? However, all is not lost—if both people value the relationship and are therefore prepared to relinquish some freedom in order to maintain it.
  • Fun: As you might expect, two people who share a high need for fun will likely have a very satisfying relationship. However, there’s no problem if both partners have a low need for fun. Fun is a need that can be satisfied individually; folks with a high need for fun will find ways to satisfy it.  So even if the partners have quite different needs for fun, they can have a good relationship as long as their other needs are reasonably compatible.

This convenient checklist leads to more questions, doesn’t it? How do you figure out your personal need strengths profile? How about your partner or prospective partner? Can need strengths change? And what if you are in a relationship where the need strengths are not compatible; is there any hope?

We’ll take a look at these and other compatibility-related questions in future columns.  What’s your theory on what makes a couple compatible?

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