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Author Topic: Compatibility checklist?
Kabith
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Hello Scarleteen community,

So, I am stuck in the summer quarter, separated from my boyfriend for a few months until school gets back in. We are both doing fine with the temporary long-distance, and videochat frequently.

I've been thinking about our relationship (going on a year in September), and I've been poking through the various articles on this site just as a curiosity.

I do have a question though. I notice that you have a lot of articles about healthy relationships, sexual checklists/readiness, etc. These seem to focus and making sure that each individual is healthy and happy, and that there is good communication. I feel that right now my BF and I have those things, so right now we are doing pretty good.

I was wondering if there was an article, or topic somewhere that discusses long-term relationships and/or compatibility. I know my mom and dad worked on this in their marriage counseling that they did after a pretty bad fight. But do you have a list of things that are common compatibility issues in a long term relationship anywhere? Something that my BF and I could look through separately, then come together and discuss at some point in the future?

I ask because I've noticed that no matter how much you love another person, sometimes there are certain things that cause significant incompatibilities later on in the relationship (like for my mom and dad, who have been together for 30+ years). They may be things that are minimized, overlooked, or not noticed at all at the beginning of the relationship, but cause stress after living together/getting married/having kids/having stressful jobs etc. I would like to have an open conversation with my boyfriend about some of those things sometime in the future, if we decide to take steps to become more serious.

Hopefully I am making sense [Smile] If you do have something along those lines, could you direct me to that? If anyone would like to discuss the topic of long term relationships/compatibility, that would be fine too! I would love to hear opinions/advice/muses from all of you wonderfully supportive people c:

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Heather
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Personally, I think what's important to us and isn't with things we have in common and don't is pretty darn individual. We don't have a checklist like that, and I think we'd have a hard time coming up with one since we're all -- as are our relationships -- very different.

But we're happy to talk with you about this.

What things are YOU most concerned with? When you've asked your boyfriend about this, what things is HE most concerned with?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Kabith
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Well, I do have a few things that I'm not sure about. Things that aren't a big deal now, but I'm wondering if they would be a big deal in the future. I'll just start with #1, because it is a rather large issue I think...

1) Differences of faith. I consider myself Christian, though I do not currently go to church and I tend to think of things in a more liberal light then very traditional Christians think. He is atheist. We have had a few conversations about it near the beginning of our relationship (first 5 months), and I think we are at a point now where we accept each other's views and don't make each other feel wrong or guilty about them. My concern is that sometimes when we are in a situation where religion comes into play (someone says a prayer at a ceremony, we watch a movie that has a Christian message or point of view, etc) he becomes tense and sometimes sarcastic. Sometimes I think he just feels attacked and needs to be defensive when he is exposed to religious practices in real life (rather than in an abstract conversation). He never makes a huge deal about it, but his body language and attitude changes in a way that makes him not as pleasant to be around. I'm used to this kind of behavior, because my dad's side of the family is like this. But if we grow older together and become more serious, I want to be able to go to church or pray or have open discussions (either with him, or with him in the same room) without worrying about him feeling attacked. I am also worried that if we have kids, he may become unhappy or upset if I bring them to church. Because of the nature of my faith, I don't want to press my beliefs on others who do not want to hear about it. But it would be different with my children- I would want them to know exactly what I believe, and to have the chance to believe it themselves. I'm afraid that it would make my BF feel alienated, left out, and not have any control. I have brought up the kids thing before, and he seemed like he hadn't really decided on how he felt about the topic.

As you can see, our differences in faith right now are not an issue. But will it be in the future? How can we talk about it and compromise without one of us feeling like we got the short end of the stick?

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Kabith
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**Also, when I ask him what he is concerned with, he just kind of shrugs and says "I dunno, I can't think of anything." I don't think he really thinks about it as much as I do. Maybe that is because my parents almost had a divorce last year, so I'm just trying to be realistic about possible future issues without being fatalistic.
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Heather
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I'd say the best place to start is each of you taking a turn talking about this just like you have here, then also each taking a turn talking about what you'd ideally want, and see where you both stand, for now.

(And really, "for now" is all you can know. But you know that.)

So, for example, I hear you saying if you raised children together, you'd want to tell them about your own religious values and beliefs openly, and also do things like bring them to church. So, how does he think he would feel about that? What would he want? And do you both think you could find a place to meet in the middle?

Obviously, he or you might not know the answers to these things, especially when you're talking about situations not only in the future, but where either of you have no previous experience, like with parenting. But you could certainly get a feel for them and keep filling each other in as your thoughts and feelings around things like this develop.

And I'd certainly talk about things that you feel are an issue right NOW, like the dynamics when you bring up religion.

You can also think about what you want in a partner: for instance, would you prefer a partner who has more similar beliefs to yours, or does that not matter that much to you?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Kabith
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I do not mind having a partner who has different beliefs in me. I think that a Christian boyfriend could potentially have just as many different opinions in faith as an atheist boyfriend, such is the nature of faith. And though we may agree on some things (like the existence of God, the importance of a positive church experience for our children), we may disagree on a whole slew of other things (what is right and wrong in the realm of sexuality, what kind of church we want to go to, etc.) So I've decided that I am not going to automatically disqualify anybody from being my boyfriend based on their faith, unless it runs so completely against mine that we wouldn't be able to interact in a healthy way anyway.

What really matters is respect and acceptance of my faith, and they way that faith influences my life. My BF accepts my faith and even admires the way that it plays into my life and morals, he just seems to have issues with it entering into his life at all.

As for the kids thing- We have talked about it once before, when I was expressing to him how faith /is/ important and influential in any relationship. Here is how our conversation went (as best as I can remember it).

Me: For example, when I have kids, I am going to want to take them to church. That would be really important to me. But how would that make you feel?
Him: ...I dunno. My reaction right now is that I wouldn't like it. It seems like Christianity is so family-focused. What if our kids started telling me what to believe? What if they wanted to pray at the table? I don't know. I guess I would want to take them to a different kind of church that expresses other forms of religion so they can decide for themselves what they want to believe.
Me: But that goes against what I would want for them, and it would confuse them. Other people can believe what they want, and I don't want to push my beliefs onto them unless they are curious and ask about it. But with my own children, I would want to raise them in a foundation of what I believe is a good faith. I think that is the right thing to do, as their mother, rather then confuse them with a lot of different things. If they grow up and choose a different belief, that is their decision. But childhood is delicate, and I would want to bring them up the same was I was brought up when it comes to faith. But I understand that you cannot quite understand or accept that, because we don't share that belief.

I think that he was raised into believing that religion is generally a manipulative and controlling thing, and he doesn't like it at all. While I agree that religion has been used throughout history to control and even suppress, I don't think that makes all faith and practices wrong. I think he thinks that letting his kids go to church is somehow going to push them into this controlling thing that will make them instruments of its desires. Perhaps that is why he becomes so rigid when people are open with their faith around him, because he thinks that in some way they are trying to manipulate him. Later on in his discussion he said "Well, you went to church and you turned out to be a really awesome person, so I guess it can't all be bad." I was glad to hear that XD

That is the extent that we have talked about it, and I haven't brought it up again because 1) we aren't having kids now, and even if we do have them someday that is in the distant future, 2) because I want to give him time to think about those things on his own, without me around to influence his thoughts, and 3) because I'm not really sure how to bring it up again, or if it is even wise to do so right now. The reason I use kids as an example is because I think is where our differences in beliefs would cause the most conflicts, and it is something that will be important to the both of us if we pursue that future.

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Heather
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So, how about this: what things are you concerned about, and feel you need to talk about NOW that are about something in the near-future, something tangible enough you feel you both could talk about it well, and something relevant to your relationship in the near-future?

I do want to add a caveat to this, which is that it sounds like some of this is about conflicts that came up with your Mom and dad after decades of being together: we often can't predict that stuff or magically see it decades earlier. especially since who we are now versus who we are 30 years from now can be radically different people in so many ways.

But it sounds like your folks, despite differences, had a healthy core of their relationship which led them to working through those differences in sound, caring ways. And really, there's a lot to take away from that, I'd say. [Smile] And that stuff: if we respect and care about each other, if we're committed to treating each other well and valuing our relationship even as it shifts and changes -- we can, I think, see that stuff pretty well within a couple years of being with someone, and in some ways, even pretty close to the start of everything.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Kabith
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That is true. I think one of the reasons I keep thinking about these things is that my mom keeps telling me to "watch out for this" or "Because of these things, this could happen." She seems to be concerned about my happiness if I end up with this guy. She is being protective over me because this is my first love, and she can tell that I am more serious about my current BFs than my previous ones.

That does bring up one issue, actually. I don't think my BF and my family mesh very well. And if my BF's family and my family were to meet, I don't think they would mesh very well either. This does stress me out a little bit, because I am a family-oriented kind of person, and I don't want one party or another to be unhappy. To be completely honest, I think my mom dislikes him the most out of everybody, and I think some of those things comes from issues that she is currently having/has had and a desire to shield me from some of the things that she has dealt with in her life.

I don't want my family life and my life with my BF to be separate. I want to be able to bring him along for a visit, and have it feel the same was as it does when I bring my best friend over, or even how it did when I brought one of my ex-boyfriends over that meshed better.

It's not like they are at each other's throats.. they just seem awkward around each other. My family likes to interact a lot, and helps each other out a lot, and talk a lot. My BF is more reserved, sometimes stares off into space, and doesn't jump off the couch to help with the dishes. I think these things put of my family a little bit, and they don't know what to do with him. But I don't know how to talk to my BF about it without him feeling like he just isn't good enough (last time I tried to bring it up, I made him feel bad about himself, which was not my intention, so I haven't brought it up again.)

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Heather
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It sounds like your Mom, however well-meaning she might be, is probably projecting her own stuff onto you a little bit right now. And that wouldn't be surprising: we all err and emotionally leak out unto others sometimes. And parents who care about you also will obviously hope to help spare you from any pain they went through themselves.

But you have to know -- and hopefully she does, too -- that you can't predict what you and someone else will be going through, if anything, 30 years from now. She probably couldn't have either, unless she did have concerns at one time she didn't address or dismissed that became problems later.

You also can't approach your relationship at this time of life with the perspective of someone in your mother's phase of life: she couldn't have either, at your age.

It sounds like you're pretty serious about this relationship, so why not address some of these issues now and with everyone? For instance, how about talking about having your families meet soon? How about really talking to your Mom about the dischord you're perceiving?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Kabith
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I am thinking about having our families together for dinner sometime [Smile] Our families live about 2 hours apart, but we are thinking of meeting somewhere in the middle.

I have talked to my mom about the dischord (or rather, she talked to me about it.) She said that there are just some things that she doesn't like about my BF. In her words, he is lazy, doesn't help out, doesn't respond to me right away when I ask for help, eats unhealthy and doesn't exercise much (she is worried that it will rub off on me, because I have a health issue that requires me to be careful about the things that I eat and to be more active). This paints him out to be a bum... sometimes he is a bum, but then again, sometimes I like being a bum too, and i don't think he is a bum all the time. He just likes to relax is his spare time. Mom just says that until he treats me like I am a princess, and until he appears to want to put in some effort into building relationships with people in my family, she can't help but feel awkward or irritated around him.

I can see where they are both coming from. It would be cool if my BF put some more effort into finding a way to adapt to our family dynamic, like I have to his. But he also comes from a family where they don't do everything together, pays each other/strikes a deal when asking for favors (unless they are small), and are fine talking every couple of days rather than needed communication all the time.

My mom, right now, is very sick of having to maintain relationships where she feels like she isn't receiving much in return. I think she is just uninterested in pursuing a relationship with my BF, yet looks down on him for not pursuing a relationship with her. She wants him to make the effort, to "court" our family, so to speak, rather than just assume everything is cool.

I'm not really sure what to do with that. Do I tell Jake that he needs to try to "court" my family more if he is to gain their respect? That seems harsh. Do I tell my mom that he is who he is, and she is going to have to try and accept him the way that he is? That also sounds like a negative conversation. >.<

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Heather
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Yipes.

It sounds to me like there's some sound middle ground here, that involves your Mom being more accepting of who your BF is vs. who she wants him to be, and more accepting of this simply being the person you choose to be with now and your BF perhaps finding some ways he can comfortable -- even if it;'s a teeny bit uncomfy, or is unfamiliar -- grok with your family a bit more, like spending a little more time with them.

Of course, for him to do that, it sounds like your Mom needs to let up on him some. Obviously, if she's coming to him with these kinds of vibes or attitudes overtly, he's not going to want to spend a lot of time with her.

And it sounds to me like more of this might be in your Mom's court than his, really, unless I'm missing something here.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Kabith
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Yeah, I did tell her that if she wants to get to know him more she is going to have to let him come over more. I mean, yes, he could help with the dishes more or compliment her cooking more often, but I feel like that isn't the best reason to not have him around. She just doesn't feel like having people who over who cause her more work right now. (Understandable- is is suffering depression, a recent fight with my father and family members, and just started working again after a 5 year span of not working.) I keep feeling like it is just not a good time to ask for him to come over, or for us to do things together. But then again... how long do I have to wait?

I am trying to be sensitive to my mom, because she has gone through a lot in her life and is feeling some of the repercussions now. I don't want to come off as insensitive or selfish. I want to support her in building up her self esteem and self love. But I also want her and my boyfriend to get along. Bleh.

I'm also worried about how she will feel about his family. I think they are fine. Maybe I wouldn't have pursued them outside of a relationship with my BF, but they have always treated me kindly and made me feel welcome in their home, which is huge. But I know that my mom will want to like the people she shares grandchildren with, and I'm afraid of that being a bit of a stink of that ends up happening someday. It's not that they are bad people, or my mom is a bad person, they just have different personalities and ideas of what a family should/can be like. If I introduce the two families now, and my mom doesn't like them, I'm afraid that will give her more reason to disprove of my relationship.

(sorry for taking awhile with my replies, I'm trying to express myself clearly. Also Heather, you are really awesome for listening to my drama and helping me sort it out. It means a lot to have another adult listen to me and respond with helpful thoughts, suggestions, and questions. You really are super c:)

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Heather
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How about talking to her about this, recognizing and acknowledging all she's going through right now, but making clear you want more peace with this, and hope to brainstorm ways together to get that that DO work for her?

And for sure, I don't think it's asking anything huge to ask that a partner please offer to help with a cleanup after dinner, and say thank you for a meal someone else prepared for them. Ideally, you wouldn't have to ask that at all, but if they're not offering, I don't think it's out-of-bounds for someone to remind them that stuff is basic common courtesy. Because it is.

Really, some of this stuff with your Mom, though, sounds like her own growth process she's either going to make or not. People have to learn to accept people in their lives they wouldn't choose to have in them, especially people who become parents. It's just part of the deal.

But you can't control that with her, nor try and choose or not choose people to try and control it. You can ask for that leeway, and be as supportive of everyone as any one person can be, but some of this just isn't yours to do, since it's not all about you, you know? For instance, if your Mom and boyfriend are having dischord, it's on them just as much as you -- if not more -- to work that out, including WITHOUT you. You also can't make this be important to them: they need to do that, too.

(thanks for such lovely compliments! I'm glad to do what I can to help and be supportive.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Kabith
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Alright, that sounds like a good plan. I'll see if we can have that conversation if she still seems tense around my BF. I'll also let her know that everyone's happiness means a lot to me, but there is only so much that I can do on my own.

So, in regards to my boyfriend, should I just express to him how important it is that he feel comfortable around my family, and that they feel comfortable around him? How should I tell him that it would really mean a lot to me if he had more of a relationship with my relatives as time goes on, even if it's not right away? And how do I let him know that even if he thinks he is doing enough to be considered relationship upkeep in his family, it might not be enough necessarily for my family? Is it alright for me to tell him these things, or is that putting too much pressure on him? Did any of that make sense just now? XD

I don't want to make it sound like my mom is the only problem. I personally don't think it would kill him to work a little harder, and would actually really impress my whole family (including myself), not just my mother. But I also don't want to make him feel like his personal character is inadequate to my needs or my family's expectations.

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Heather
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I think it all makes sense, it all sounds good, and you just say what you're feeling with kindness and care, which it sounds like you are probably good at without trying too hard.

Really, I think some of the undistilled essence of this is just, "People, help me out a little with this, would you?"

Now, obviously, you might not choose to say it that way, but this is stuff that involves some effort from everyone, rather than you trying to engineer it all yourself, or you being the only person to make it a priority.

But no, I don't think telling a partner offering to do the dishes wouldn't kill him dead or a Mom that a teeny bit more acceptance would help you out a lot is asking the sun, moon or stars of anyone. For serious. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Kabith
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Whew, alright, sounds good. I'll see what I can do. Sometimes I have a hard time bringing up these kinds of conversations, especially if nothing really seems to be bothering anyone at this particular moment. Thanks again for the advice.

So, what I've learned from this conversation:
-It is really hard and nearly impossible to predict future issues, as people and circumstances are constantly changing. Instead of focusing on the far future, think of issues that are happening now or that may affect the near future. Focus on things that are relevant now. Have open discussion about those things in a loving and caring way, and brainstorm ways to make everybody feel satisfied.
-Ask for a little bit of help from everyone involved when it comes to harmony among my relationships. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. There is only so much that I can do on my own. My mom is going personal growth right now, which may be affecting her opinions and reactions, and that is out of my control. Brainstorming ways to bring everybody together may be a positive thing to do with my mom.

Cool. Did I miss anything of particular importance, or do you have any other thoughts? I'm feeling pretty good right now about my options and things that I can do [Smile]

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Heather
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It's bothering YOU though, so it matters. [Smile]

Your takeaways sound right on to me! I hope this goes well for you, and by all means, feel free to ask for more support or help here if you need it!

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Kabith
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Thank you so much! I will definitely return if I need more guidance or support.
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