A healthy and harmonious relationship between a man and a woman should consist of love and respect. When taking a closer look it is inevitable that there is more to a relationship than love. Compatibility and understanding are crucial for a couple to survive the daily commodities of life. Some couples spend their entire relationship trying to change their spouse into a character they would be happier with, only to discover at the end that people or attitudes do not change.
During early socialization in childhood and adolescence we develop certain attitudes and behavioral patterns that are shaped by the environment that surrounds us, such as school, family, social groups one belongs to, and many more. These sets of attitudes and behaviors are deeply enrooted in us and are the basis to our character building. When in the proper age for a mature relationship, we are already stable and enrooted in our characters and personalities. Therefore it is too late to set expectations of change in essential character traits evident in the spouse.
Often people tend to believe that once strong love bondage exists nothing else matters. Well in some cases this might be true, yet in general it takes more than that. One must be able to differentiate between attitudes that drive certain behaviors or habits. By definition a habit implies an established custom or behavioral pattern acquired by frequent repetition. Habits, such as leaving the toilet seat up or the tooth paste open in the sink, can be changed bit by bit. Whereas attitude is defined as a complex mental state involving beliefs, feelings, values and dispositions to act in certain ways. When it comes to manifested attitudes that lead behavior into certain directions, such as "women shouldn’t work" or "I hate discussing politics with women", they never really change.
How can we distinguish between attitude and habit? Is it a thin red line only visible to the telescopic eye? No, it’s not at all. Once the basic idea of identifying habits and attitudes is recognized, there should be no problem at all in differentiation. Let’s say you are at your friend’s birthday party with your new partner, whom you are still getting to know better. At the party you two get into a conversation with another couple. During the conversation he constantly makes disturbing noises while drinking or talks with his mouth full or less gross; keeps on playing with his ear. All of these are habits he acquired by frequent repetition. Let us just keep aside judging about the habit. Well, that’s something that can be changed! Back to the same conversation again, imagine that suddenly you get into talking about work and his job, your job and so on. In midst he comes up with a something close to "yeah it’s ok for a woman to work in feminine jobs like kindergarten teaching, wedding decorations, etc but not as an architect, engineer, software developer or pilot” then another comment such as “women work only so they won’t get bored at home watching TV but it is not important at all for society” and the like. Here the red alert lamp should go on and you should let him elaborate on these rather discriminating statements in order to find out if he is just making silly conversation or if he is actually convinced by his sayings. Most of these statements are based on deeply enrooted attitudes that were indicted by his family, friends, way of upbringing, media and many other influencing factors. His attitudes are the driving force of his actions. It is rather likely that he would not take working women seriously and might expect his wife not to work. At this stage you should evaluate if his attitudes coincide with yours. If they do then, bingo! If in fact you are a successful mechanical engineer, then he has without doubt screwed up big time! Seriously, signs for lack of compatibility can be detected at all stages of a relationship, the earlier the better.
Being aware of these differences it should be easier to evaluate a relationship at any stage more objectively, if this should be possible at all. Long term thinking beyond butterflies in the stomach, should be able to assist you in answering yourself some of these questions:
- Will I be happy in the future with my spouse the way he/she is now?
- Do we have common grounds to found a family?
- Do we have a shared vision regarding our life together?
- Do we want to raise our children the same way? With the same values and beliefs?
- Can I talk to my spouse about anything and everything? (work, friends, politics, daily routine, etc..)
- Are we able to laugh together?
- Are we both willing to compromise without hurting each others feelings?
- Do we respect each other as individuals?
Some of these questions should identify the level of compatibility of a couple. Of course, there is much more to a relationship than calculus, but being honest to oneself has always been the key to happiness instead of crying over the “Road not Taken” (Robert Frost). Many couples, even after years of love and courtship, when faced with reality after marriage and exposure to daily life, they bear the results of their actions, some of them fail to continue and others find compromises in ways not satisfactory to both partners. Why not be preventive rather than reactive? It is always better to see and acknowledge the signs instead of ignoring them as we have only one life to live and that should be in harmony, health and peace of mind.