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  • Naaz Eshtehardi

What Drives Compatibility?


Most people have a general idea of what compatibility means to them, but it often takes some probing and reflection for people to fully articulate what this looks like in practice. I wanted to better understand what people thought truly mattered when it came to finding a companion, so I decided to conduct interviews asking a range of questions on the topic.


I sent out an anonymous, online survey to some direct contacts in March 2021. These contacts then shared the survey with their respective social media networks. In total, 70 people responded.

The survey contained eight open-ended questions:

1. Age

2. Gender

3. Relationship status

4. What do you believe is the single most important quality in determining compatibility?

5. In current or past relationships, was there a defining moment where you knew there would or wouldn't be a future with the person you were seeing? If yes, please explain.

6. What was OR is your biggest challenge in finding companionship

7. What are the three most important qualities in a life partner to you?

8. Is there anything you wish you knew about your partner earlier on in the relationship? If yes, what?

The respondents’ ages ranged from 27-73, with nearly equal numbers of people identifying as female or male. Almost all respondents had a four-year college degree or higher and lived in major metropolitan areas. Just under three-quarters (72%) of survey takers reported being in a relationship or married.

Here is a set of key findings from the survey:

1. The most important quality in determining compatibility was Shared Values (35%). This was followed by Communication (20%) and Compromise (20%), which topped the list for an equal proportion of respondents, followed by Respect (17.5%). The fifth most important category was Trust (7.5%). Some reported answers were “similar moral compass” or “same core values” and “open mindedness.” One respondent said the “flow of conversation” is the most important quality in compatibility

2. Ambition, relationship with family, and political views dominated the things they wished they knew earlier about their significant other. For example, “I wish I knew more about his relationship with his mom,” said one 41-year-old female respondent.


A few more notable responses were knowing more about their partner’s past relationships. One respondent reported believing that their partner would change and one thing they wish they knew was that they would never change.


3. The most common challenge in finding companionship was lack of similar values. One 39-year-old male respondent said his biggest challenge is “finding someone you can have fun with but share the same values when it comes to serious items.” One 33-year-old female respondent answered “Different value systems and different life trajectories as people she has dated” Many people also attributed difficulty finding companionship to working and/or traveling too much “I don’t stay put long enough,” while others mentioned some variation of “too many things wrong with them” or “finding someone with a sense of humor.” Finally, fear of dating and wasting time with the wrong person came up a few times as well as “making the same mistakes as past relationships.” One respondent felt things are no longer simple and people have too many options.”


Shared values emerged as the fundamental relationship need

The common thread across responses appeared to be the importance of a common set of values. But critically, none of the respondents reduce values to commonly perceived ones like ethnicity, race, culture, religion, socioeconomic status, family structure, et cetera. The concept of values articulated in the responses was far more nuanced. People were more focused on ambition levels, political beliefs, and their potential partners’ relationships with others, such as their family and friends. Respondents were ultimately most concerned with questions like people’s views about the world, who is important to them, and what their personal and professional passions are.


The results ultimately showed that people continue to desire a deeper compatibility, which gamified app-based dating and curated match-maker profiles simply cannot deliver.


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