Why Love Is NOT Enough! (And the 3 Things You Need as Well)

 

Is love enough to keep a relationship going?

You may have asked yourself this question when you’ve faced a difficult breakup. In today’s video, I go deep on this question, and talk about 7 compatibility tests that can help determine whether your relationship will last.

These are some of the most underrated qualities in a partner, and after watching, you’ll never look at compatibility the same way again . . .


Why isn’t love enough when it comes to finding a long-term relationship? In my new book, Love Life, I talk about how compatibility is an essential ingredient of a long-term relationship, and how many of us love someone we do not have compatibility with.

In this video, I wanted to talk about what compatibility actually looks like by going into seven key areas of compatibility. As I go through each of these areas, I want you to think to yourself: “Are we compatible in these ways, or am I just in love with them?”

Number one—are your goals compatible? In other words, do you want the same things as this person? Do they want the same things as you? Do you want marriage and they also want marriage in their future? Do you want kids and they also want kids in their future? Do both of you want to continue living where you live now, or do you want to move to a different city?

Wanting the same things is highly underrated when it comes to the dating process. So many of us focus on attraction, how great we feel in someone’s company, but we don’t actually focus on the fact that someone is telling us that they want very different things than we do. And if that’s the case, there is a real danger that over time, this person is going to make us incredibly unhappy.

Number two—the timing of our goals. In other words, if we want the same things, do we want the same things on the same timeline?

Now, people aren’t exactly aligned all the time. There are times where you might say, “I would like to get married in the next year,” and this person says, “I’d like to be married in the next two years.” 

It might be the case that one person wants a family now and another person wants a family a little way into the future. And in some of these cases, these timings can be resolved, because ultimately, neither one is going to have to truly sacrifice their ultimate vision. You’re going to be able to both achieve this thing that you want, and maybe you meet in the middle somewhere on your timelines. There’s a little sacrifice here or there. Or maybe just one person makes a sacrifice, but it’s not that big of a deal because you end up in the same place anyway.

But sometimes, our timings with someone are so different that being with this person risks too big of a gap in waiting for what you really want in life—too much delaying of your happiness, of the things that are important to you, or in some cases, it might mean that you miss your window altogether.

I mean, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where you’re 10 years older than someone and you have this incredible attraction, and you really love each other, and you want to be together, but you want children in the next couple of years because your biology dictates that you’re going to have to if you want to have a good chance at that happening, and this person wants children in seven years. And if that’s the case, you might both want the same things, but on completely incompatible timelines.

So it’s not that what you want is incompatible. It’s when you want it that is incompatible. And again, we have to be very honest with ourselves. If what I want is something that’s fundamental to my happiness, then no matter how much I love this person, if their timeline robs me of something that for me is a non-negotiable for my happiness, then we are still ultimately not right for each other.

Number three—are our lifestyles compatible? Am I a giant introvert and they are a giant extrovert and it means that the lives we want to live on a daily basis are completely different?

Of course, there are many relationships that work where one person is more extroverted or introverted, but if you are with an extrovert who wants to go out all the time and has no understanding of the fact that you want to stay in sometimes and you don’t want to go out as much as they do, then you’re going to have an area of constant conflict.

Are you extraordinarily messy and they are extraordinarily tidy? Can you negotiate the differences that you both experience there, or is it a constant source of stress and resentment? Are they a workaholic and you’re someone who works to live? And the hours they work and their commitment to their job or their business is something that you’ll never be able to truly understand or get on board with?

Now, not all of these differences on the surface are a reflection of fundamental incompatibility. We can see someone else living a certain way and be inspired by it. The introvert can realize there’s a real value to getting out of the house and being around people. The extrovert can learn that there’s a value to silence and being in their own company. It can be the case that the tidy person realizes they take everything a little too seriously, or the messy person realizes there’s a value to being more organized. The workaholic realizes it’s good to have a life outside of work, and their partner helps them do that. Or the person who doesn’t care about work at all realizes the value in having some goals and starts to push themselves in new ways.

Sometimes differences on the surface can reveal that we’re inspired by our differences, and we can even find ourselves beginning to talk more of the same language. Or our differences reveal fundamental deeper incompatibility because when those differences and the tensions that arise from those differences come about, what they show us is that we do not speak the same language at all. We don’t understand each other, we don’t have any desire or any ability to make progress in these areas, and these areas will always be a source of frustration, resentment, and even contempt long into the future. 

Number four—do you make a great team when it comes to hard times in life or arguments between the two of you? 

Often, people have such different styles when it comes to these things that it makes them incompatible. When the shit hits the fan in life, one person goes into a very resilient and proactive place, and tries to see the best of it, and the other person is unresourceful or doesn’t show up in the same way, or has a very, very negative attitude about it. And those two styles clash anytime things get hard in life.

When things get hard, we see whether we’re a great team with someone, and being a great team is at the heart of compatibility. Of course, this highlights the importance of not deciding on a first date that someone is “the love of your life” when you haven’t even been through any hard times with them. So, this is actually one way to stop yourself from getting too obsessed with someone being the right person, especially if you’ve never been through anything together.

But the other part is arguments. In an argument, do we have styles that really clash? Do I want to resolve this thing and you want to freeze me out for the next four days because you’re hurt?

And it’s not just about style. It’s about standards. Someone can have a really low standard for the way they argue, and you can have a really high standard. You might have a high standard for the things you say in an argument. In other words, you don’t say really spiteful things or things you can’t take back, and they may have a very low standard for the things they say where they’re willing to say absolutely anything to get one over on you in an argument, including things that are going to deeply wound you or are deeply spiteful.

So our style and our standards matter when it comes to compatibility in either hard times in life, where we need to be a team, or arguments, where we need to find a way to come together and resolve things. And when we’re incompatible in those two areas, we’re going to find that in hard times, we’re incredibly lonely, or in arguments, we are incredibly frustrated or wounded by the differences.

Number five—and this is an interesting question—would you be happy with this person raising your children if you weren’t around anymore?

I find this to be an interesting thought experiment even if you’re never intending to have children with someone, or if for any reason in life, you’re unable to have children with someone. “If we did have children, would I be okay with this person, with their values, their outlook, their behaviors, their habits, their way of living, raising my children if I were no longer around to participate?”

The reason I find this to be an interesting question is because it really highlights areas of incompatibility. All those things that make us frightened of that prospect, all those things that make us feel deeply uneasy with the idea of that happening, away from our view, are signs of incompatibility today with us.

The difference is, we’ll often ignore these incompatibilities when we’re on the receiving end of them. We just don’t ignore them when we think of innocent children on the receiving end of them. And isn’t that interesting? If the person you’re with has values, behaviors, or habits that you wouldn’t want to subject someone you love to, then why would you subject yourself to them today?

Now, let me be clear. This question has nothing to do with whether or not you want kids. You may never want kids. It’s a thought experiment designed to explore incompatibility in a relationship where there aren’t kids. 

Number six—are they capable of loving you in the way you need to be loved? And are you capable of loving them in the way they need to be loved?

Now, the words “capable” and “need” are really important here. If you need a lot of physical affection, it’s not something you want. It’s something you need, like a flower needs water and sunlight. Your emotional or psychological survival requires physical affection. It’s a need for you.

Well, let’s say that that need meets someone who is incapable of meeting that need, either because they are completely unwilling or they don’t have the tools to be able to do that. They don’t know how to be physically affectionate. They never learned. They’re a very cold person physically, or maybe they’ve been through things that have made it extremely difficult to give physical affection. Whether they can or can’t at some point is a different story. But if your experience of them is that they are incapable of giving that to you, then you are met with someone who is fundamentally going to make you unhappy.

If someone has a need to be told what they mean to you, and you are incapable of communicating in that way, then they are going to experience a very lonely and difficult existence in this relationship.

We all have our ways that we need to be loved in order to be happy. Is the person opposite you capable of loving you in that way? If they’re not, no matter how much you love them, you’re never going to be loved in a way that makes you happy.

Number seven—do you have the same vision of what commitment is?

Now, firstly, I want to say that it is an obvious but often unacknowledged area of incompatibility when one person wants a commitment, wants a relationship, and the other person doesn’t. There are so many situations where two people say they’re in love and one of them is saying, “Despite being in love with you, I just don’t know if I want to be in a relationship with you. I don’t know if I want a relationship at all. But I love you.”

This is a prime example of how love isn’t enough.

So, if one of you wants a committed relationship and the other one doesn’t, that is a fundamental area of incompatibility. That is not some kind of detail—that’s incompatibility. But even if two people want commitment, do they have the same vision for what commitment actually is? Do they have the same idea of what monogamy entails, or does one person want a very different kind of relationship? Do you have the same vision for what loyalty is or for what freedom looks like?

One person’s version of loyalty might be: “I can message as many people as I want online as long as I don’t sleep with them.” Meanwhile, the other person’s version of loyalty is that “I don’t emotionally betray you in the things I say to people or the way that I acknowledge people online.” Or one person’s version of freedom might be that “we trust each other to not only exist together but also have our independent lives and friends and go on trips and be able to do all of those things and be happy for each other,” and another person’s version of freedom might be, “You’re allowed to leave the house looking hot, but only as long as I’m standing next to you.”

At the essence of this point is: Does being with them make you feel safe in the ways that you want to feel safe, and free in the ways you want to feel free? And, of course, the same is true for them.

What this video is really about is widening our lens for how we assess compatibility. Too many of us think of compatibility simply as, “I feel very strongly for them and they feel very strongly for me. We have a great time when we’re together. We have some shared values. We can talk for hours on end.”

We feel like these things mean compatibility. And they do, by the way, in a sense. But they’re only talking about compatibility on one or two frontiers. And the truth is, the kind of compatibility that makes a relationship work over a lifetime is compatibility on many different frontiers. It’s a much more holistic view of compatibility.

If someone doesn’t want the same things as us in life, that’s not like, “I’m so great with this person, we’re so compatible, but for these pesky circumstances that they don’t want a relationship and I do.” Or “I want children and they don’t want them for another 20 years.”

Those aren’t simply circumstances or details that get in the way of a compatible relationship. They are compatibility by another name. We have to start seeing it as such. There’s no such thing, for example, as “right person, wrong time.” Because the wrong time makes them the wrong person, at least through the lens of compatibility, because timing is part of compatibility.

So we have to start recognizing that it’s possible to love someone and simultaneously accept that loving someone isn’t enough. And there may be many times in our lives where we have to walk away from someone we love because we don’t have the compatibility that will allow us to be happy.

None of the things I’ve talked about today in these seven areas of compatibility should be seen as something intimidating or unachievable. Instead, they should be seen as a great qualifier for the extreme desires and attractions that we feel—for the obsession that we can feel in dating or with someone who never chooses us but we’ve been really attracted to or we’re really smitten with. These areas of compatibility are actually a great pressure valve for those feelings in lowering the temperature and realizing that someone might not be as right for us as we originally thought after all. 

If you haven’t yet, sign up for my free newsletter that I release every Friday, The Three Relationships. If you enjoy my writing, I promise you will enjoy this newsletter. It’s something that hundreds of thousands of people are looking forward to every single week now, and it’s free. So come join us at thethreerelationships.com.

Thank you so much, everyone. Be well and love life.

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8 Replies to “Why Love Is NOT Enough! (And the 3 Things You Need as Well)”

  • This is one of the videos I will save and watch again each time I date someone new.
    Often we are focused on the short-run romance and overlook the long-term aspects of sharing life with another person. This is how we waste precious time with the wrong person.

    A special remark for Matthew: I have been following you for over a decade but stopped at a certain point. Your content seemed superficial to me. I’m happy to see more depth in your most recent content.
    This is part of the transformation a man experiences when he finds the right person to have on his side (my personal opinion).

    Cheers to Audrey and you and thanks a lot for this valuable video!

  • This is an extremely helpful and clarifying video. Thank you.

    1) touch and affection that is intimate and loving and creates a deeper connection.
    2) conversation. Great conversation. Someone who wants to hear about my day and talk about his day.
    3) a sense of humor, laughter, play and silliness
    4) someone who wants to go do stuff together; like bicycle touring, seeing, experiencing new things and places together

  • This video was so ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT. Thank you SO much Matt for doing this. This was SO necessary for so many people. Including myself. I hope you get this. Thank you

  • Thanks Matthew. That is one of the most helpful videos I have watched. I have been in a relationship that is moving at a snail’s pace for 3 years and could not figure out why or what to do about it. So the “timing” element of this compatibility test really hit home. He says he is “working on” clearing up several personal items that have legitimately kept us apart. But I am tired of waiting and have come to realize that while it might happen one day, the “one day wager” is rearing it’s ugly heard and the compatibility issues are shouting out at me. So how about a followup for tips to “have that hard conversation” about ending an incompatible relationship when you know it is the right thing to do but they want to hang on and don’t want to give you up.

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