Marriage Builder - How compatible are you?

Sep 28, 2007 at 9:29 p.m. ET

We fall in love with a personality, but we must live with a character. How compatible are you with that character you fell in love with? How have you changed since you were first married? Research reveals that as we learn to adapt to each other we actually become more compatible. In this new column, marriage experts Claudia and David Arp -- founders of Marriage Alive! -- share an exercise that may prove you are more compatible than you realize!

Changing and adapting
You can't change your basic personality, but you can change your behavior. In reviewing our marriage history, we realized we really have changed and adapted to each other over the years. What about you? Why not look back in your memory archives and see how you have changed and progressed toward compatibility.

How to evaluate

  • Take two sheets of paper and list the ways you were similar when you first married. You might list attitudes, believe system, interest, desires and so on.

  • Write down the areas in which you were different -- the areas you were less compatible.

  • Now, think about which of your differences have given you the most trouble over the years. Have you made progress in resolving, or positively accepting, these differences?

  • What changes have you made in adapting to each other?

  • What reasonable changes do you still need to make?

Growth is born of conflict

Take some time to share your lists with each other. Discuss how you have worked on your differences over the years. Have you grown and changed for the better in the process?

You may find that while your similarities provided a foundation for your life together, real growth has come mainly from working through your differences. The key is to remember that wherever you are now, you can keep adapting and moving closer to your mate.

Remember, compatibility is not a state of being, but rather a goal to work for!