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What Predicts a Great Match?

There are nine crucial areas that predict compatibility.

RANDI GUNTHER Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when finding a soul mate was not such an evasive endeavor. If you stayed in the neighborhood in which you grew up, you knew everything you needed to know about your available choices.

Today’s dating world is a far cry from those more predictable and secure times. Families and friends are often scattered over long distances, with widely diverse experiences. It is almost impossible to maintain the continuous connections people once depended upon. And, despite dozens or even hundreds of Facebook friends, many people feel that there are far fewer people upon who they could depend.

Without that “comfort map,” people are now forced to rely on dating sources that often only provide thumbnail sketches of potential partners. And, sadly, much more often than relationship seekers wish, those presentations are unreliable or false representations of the person behind the profile.

In addition, people are continually adding new experiences to their lives that change them both negatively and positively. Who or what they needed in their twenties can change radically as their lives unfold. Commitments they may have made in the past may now seem foolhardy and future dreams harder to imagine or make happen. Too often, without a clear understanding of what they need or can offer in return, they often don’t know how to successfully proceed.

In addition, whether or not past relationships have left partners more confident and positive can make a significant difference in how they view future adventures. A fulfilling relationship-past encourages people to stay open to possibilities. Multiple disappointments can bias people to expect failure.

So, how can a relationship-seekers today have a better idea of what creates a successful short-term or long-term match? And, equally important, how can they know if the people they choose, would choose them?

Though the ultimate outcome cannot be easily pre-determined in any potential match, there are three crucial variables that can make the difference:

Compatibility: How well will we get along in the most important areas of life?

Flexibility: Can we roll with the punches?

Anthropological exploration, acknowledgement, and acceptance: Can we enter the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual world of another without judgment or the need to change him or her?

The First Variable: Compatibility

There are nine crucial areas that predict compatibility.

Future hopes and desires are part of everyone’s wish list for life. They can be fantasies or genuine possibilities, but they must be shared. How do both of you feel about philosophy, the way you think works in the world, or why people behave as they do? Dreaming allows people to go beyond the limitations of their lives and think about what could be possible.

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How are you at just being silly, or looking at things in new ways from a lighthearted place? Playing is more than just fun, though. It is also about letting go of the challenges of your adult world, and freeing the child in you.

Emotional Safety

Everyone needs a place and time where they can be totally open, vulnerable, scared, sad, or distressed, and know the person on the other end of them will offer a safe harbor. It’s harder, of course, when you are facing criticism from the other side, but it is still possible. Learning to listen without needing to defend or fix, is crucial to trust.

Whether you are religious, a new-age transformer, or just believe in something beyond self you can’t clearly define, you need to know if what guides you is something your partner can respect. And vice versa. These are sacred attachments and should not be challenged or minimized.

Friends in Conflict

How are you in resolving a dispute amicably? Can you listen to a different point of view and take it into account? Can you hold on to what you believe in without needing to be defensive or offended when your partner doesn’t see things the same way?


Successful teams are not ego-bound. Roles are not rigid. There is a mutual commitment to relationship over self, balanced with mutual support for individual needs. Whoever can run the show the best in any situation is automatically the leader during that time, and the other partner is glad to support.


Sparkle. Elan. Aliveness. Enthusiasm. Energy. Commitment.

How do you express all of the things you feel passionate about? Can you be free to live them in the presence of another? Can you support your partner as well in whatever spontaneously excites and motivates them?

Resentment-Free Sacrifice

Every relationship partner, at one time or another, will need the other to generously and willingly put themselves aside. Neither person takes advantage of that availability but knows it will be there if needed.

Think chivalry, not martyrdom. Finding that place in you that has nothing to do with keeping score or resentment. Giving as the right thing to do, with the joy that comes with that kind of service.

Crisscross Symbolic Parenting

If you cannot love the child in your partner or trust his or her symbolic parenting when you feel small, you cannot heal the childhood wounds in each other. Those disappointments or disillusionments from childhood will always work their way into any relationship and, if met with recurring heartbreak, will deepen those earlier traumas.


Rigid, locked-in people find it difficult to accept and embrace anything that Is foreign or uncomfortable to them. They may truly love many things about a particular partner, but their inflexible attachments can become the deal-breakers that will overrule the positives of the relationship over time.

Flexibility doesn’t mean that all things are okay or that you have to transform yourself in an unnatural way in order to “fit” with another. But you must have the willingness to look at why and how your locked-in expectations and patterns came from and if they have kept you from the openness to change that might make your relationships more successful.

New love offers the opportunity to look at yourself from a different perspective. It’s a time filled with passion and trust that allows you to break away from your past limitations. It is the time to look deeply at who you’ve been, what has worked, and what has not. A time to reclaim what you do love about yourself, and jettison what you do not.

Trying out a new way of being expands the mind, body, and soul. You always have the right to return to whom you’ve been and look for a match who feels akin to the same old patterns.

Anthropological Exploration, Acknowledgement, and Acceptance

Imagine, for a moment, that you are on a train going from one unexplored place to another. You’re not sorry to leave where you’ve been and not attached to where you are going. You meet a total stranger on that train and, in three hours, you feel closer to that person than you have to many others in your life. You’ve shared deep secrets that you rarely have told others about, and feel total mutual interest and trust.

You are curious, without pre-expectations, respectful of that “culture” that is him or her, and have no need to judge. Your role is to observe, to understand, and to respect. You can choose what you want to take with you from the experience, and what you leave behind.

You must also hold on to what is sacred to you in the midst of that exploration. Who are you at the other end of this open-ended interaction? Does what that person’s way of being in the world intrigue you? Is he or she open to who you are as well? Do you find yourself wanting more?

Those are the possibilities that relationships open to us if we see them as adventures into new worlds, rather than ideal fantasies There is true wonder in not having expectations, being openly curious, and allowing what is to happen rather than what you need to control. You are free to allow your future to unfold without the baggage of your past.

If these three behaviors are in place, you have the best chance of creating a great match. From those perspectives, you and your partner will both be free to explore each other without obligation or judgment. If you can hold on to that combination of compatibility, flexibility, and deep respect, your relationship will not only work, but will continue to deepen and grow.

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