“Oh, dear” I began, trying to sound serious.
“What? What’s wrong?” my husband asked.
“It says we’re not compatible.” I answered, raising my eyebrows dramatically.
“What says we’re not compatible?”
“This personality website! I put in our personalities and it basically says that we don’t get along.”
Perhaps you have trusted the fate of your relationship to a personality test? Being a fan of psychology and people, I often spend free time reading personality profiles and attempting to figure out the inner workings of all my friends. I am one of those believers in tests.
Whether or not you believe that personality tests are legit, chances are you do put a lot of stock in the compatibility of personalities. It seems to be our cultures obsession and relational goal to find someone who is compatible. I think of eHarmony, Christian mingle, and various other dating sites. These websites are based off of personality matches. They ask you about yourself, and introduce you to people who would, from a scientific standpoint, be compatible with you. This makes logical sense, and appears to be capable of producing happy couples. Still, the divorce rate is growing, and the discontent is rising. So what could be the problem? Why are seemingly compatible people breaking up all the time?
My husband and I would both agree that we have a “good” marriage. We feel that we are compatible, and we often hear other people commenting on our similarities. You can imagine our surprise, when several personality websites depicted our personalities (I am an ENFP and he is an ENTJ) as incompatible. After some advanced research (yes, I am that much of a nerd!) I stumbled across a website strictly dedicated to my husband’s personality type (ENTJ). From the author’s perspective our personalities had the potential to be very compatible, because of the balance we could bring to each other. It would be an ideal relationship for personal growth and thus make us more successful people as a whole. Strengths and weaknesses mirror each other to cover blind spots.
I discovered that the question of compatibility is more complicated than most people make it, because what constitutes as compatible differs from person to person. The websites that declared us less than ideal for each other had specific views of compatibility. They were coupling personalities that were like-minded, similar in strengths, and identical in problem solving strategies. Usually, they suggested that one person be extraverted and the other introverted or one person’s perspective be subjective and the other objective. These suggestions are logical, and I believe they work in some cases. If compatibility is only based on your likelihood to agree, then this formula is ideal. Simply getting along and avoiding confrontation isn’t everyone’s formula, though.
In secular circles the focus of relationships is on what the other person does for me. If you disagree, challenge, correct, or attempt to inspire change you are quickly labeled as “judgmental” or “intolerant”. Acceptance is an important part of relationships, but it cannot be the only goal. The Bible gives us a picture of compatibility that challenges popular belief. We are given instruction to live in unity with other believers, but it is not based on personality at all. It is based on a corporate purpose. The clashes of personalities, strengthens, weaknesses, and beliefs are used as essential tools to fulfilling that purpose.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3 (NIV)
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:16 (NIV)
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)
The most similar personalities will result in a failed relationship if the individuals have different purposes. When you both are working towards the same thing, your strengths and weakness quickly get organized in such a fashion as to enhance the overall performance of the couple, and efficiently press onward towards the goal. Christ was a perfectly balanced person, and He is our example as we work to iron out our personality’s negative tendencies. What a wonderful finishing school marriage can be!
If you want to just “get by” and “stay together” then having the same personality is good. However, if you want to “thrive” and “grow” then having different personalities is better. The Bible says that “the two shall become one flesh”. Imagine two left-handed people combining into one person. Their left side would be super strong and coordinated, but their right side would be weak, creating an imbalance. Sure, they would always agree on what hand to write with, and on what foot to put forward, but they will still be imbalanced. If their precious left side is injured, they are left weak and useless. On the contrary, imagine if a right-handed person combined with a left-handed person. If one side was injured, the other could pick up the slack. If one approach to a problem wasn’t working, they can try another. Sure, they will argue more, take longer to make decisions, and live baffled by the other’s way of life, but they will be working towards balance. They will eventually be transformed into an efficient, balanced, and successful team.
No matter how wonderful you may be, know that you are an extreme. You need some loving balance! No matter how awful you may be, know that you are needed to balance someone else’s extreme. So when you search for a “perfect” spouse, who always compliments you and makes you feel like God’s gift to humanity, consider your definition for compatibility. Focus less on those quirks, personalities, and self-serving qualities, and more on your purposes and missions.
The Bible says to “submit one to another”. The word “submit” can be defined as “to come under the mission of”. If you are a Christ follower, then you are under the mission of Jesus Christ. So as you seek a spouse, find someone who is under the mission of Christ, so that you can come under their mission. That is where true unity and true compatibility is found.