In a world filled with dating apps for every demographic and a surplus of souls to swipe through, deciding on a partner can begin to feel like quite a heavy task. Relationships are a lot of work and they require more than just attraction, so who you decide to put in work for depends on several factors. For example, how do you know if the home-owning accountant you went on a date with last week is a better fit for you than the fun and engaging bartender you've been texting back and forth with? Should you continue to entertain your ex that you once clashed so much with or is it time to finally call it quits?
What factors are most important when deciding who you should spend a life with and who you should spend one night with? When should you start thinking about defining the relationship and when is it best to keep things casual? Overall, what determines compatibility? And is there a secret to finding a soulmate?
As mentioned by relationship therapist Spirit, compatibility is about how well two people "fit". There are five areas of compatibility that can help us understand the harmony, or lack thereof, between two people. Each of the areas fits into one neat acronym, R.I.S.E.S. (Recreational, Intellectual, Spiritual, Emotional, Sexual), and it will help you determine if your situationship will fall short or rise to the occasion. We'll break down each, as well as provide reflection questions to help you assess the relationship(s) in your life.
Recreational is exactly what it implies — fun! Do you have fun together? Do you share the same kinds of humor? How do each of you spend your free time, and are there several ways you can spend it together?
Shared activities can be an incredibly useful element in strengthening connection and assessing compatibility. Play is important ~ at any age ~ and so is carving out time for joy and pleasure outside our typical day-to-day tasks. When interests aren't shared, it may mean that this play is experienced individually, and while some couples thrive within this dynamic, others may find one or both parties feeling a bit neglected from time to time.
You certainly can't sleep on shared intellect. Are the two of you able to stimulate one another? Does time seem to fly by in discussion? Does the exchange of ideas flow naturally, and are you able to keep up with each other when the convo gets real deep, real fast?
Intellectual compatibility means that both you and your partner align in terms of one another's knowledge and capacity for learning. Inequities in intellect can leave someone feeling unfulfilled if what they enjoy is being challenged and they're not getting that in their relationship. On the other hand, it could lead to a partner feeling exhausted or misunderstood while trying to meet their partner mentally. If sapiosexuality (sexual attraction towards intelligence) is something you identify with, then you'll want to be sure you find a partner whom you can geek out with on a regular basis.
Speaking of challenge, does your partner challenge you, make you better, grow with you? Do you have a shared faith and/or shared core values? How do each of you view your roles here on earth and do they align in the short-term and/or long-term?
Not to be confused with religion, spirituality is an important element in compatibility. As both you and your partner grow more into yourselves, you'll want to give support that's based on deeper understandings of why each of you are the way you are and what you hope to accomplish and experience throughout your lifetime.
Do they do a good job of comforting you on bad days and celebrating you on good days? Are they present and able to hold space for you in the ways that you need? Do they aim to please and find joy in bringing happiness and fulfillment into your life?
There's nothing worse than empty apologies, ineffective advice, lack of interest, feeling like you're too much or not enough for someone, feeling under-appreciated, etc. — you get the drift. Don't get caught up in the superficial. Partner up with someone who gets you and loves you for you who are, on your best and your worst days.
And last, but certainly not least, let's talk about sex, baby. Do they take the time to learn about you as a sexual being? Are you into the same kinds of sexual exploration, either continually inviting adventure into your sex lives or preferring a routine? Is the sexual chemistry between the two of you something that excites you?
When sexual compatibility isn't present, it can be a real damper on a relationship. Obviously, we recommend SEX TALK for assessing sexual compatibility more deeply. It's the only card game of its kind — a tool for expressing interests, preferences, and desires, as well as a date night activity for building sexual tension and creating a shared pleasurable experience.
Whether you're reflecting on past lovers or finalizing deliberation on a new relationship, it's helpful to identify how important each of these areas are to you and how to prioritize them accordingly. Fitting into each other’s lives is far easier when you understand each other, know each other, and trust the foundation you're building upon.
Ultimately you want to find someone who can meet the majority of your needs while you meet theirs. While it's not necessary to align in all five areas, identifying the areas in which you do and don't align can be massively beneficial for sustaining a healthy relationship. It may not be that you have to line up perfectly, rather that you feel seen and accepted for your imperfections every step of the way, and you are committed to growing into the best version of yourself — for yourself and for your partner.