Compatibility versus fun

Dear Alice,

I was wondering whether compatibility and dependability are more important than passion and fun, in terms of relationships.

— Learning

Dear Learning,  

Truthfully, compatibility, dependability, passion, and fun can ALL be crucial components in forming and maintaining a healthy, fulfilling bond. Whether it is a romantic partner or friend, relationships change and transform, and so do the priorities within that relationship. There’s no predictability in the types of connections people may have throughout their lifetime. That being said, compatibility and fun don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Some of the most fulfilling and long-lasting relationships can be built on a foundation of both attributes among a number of other factors.   

Compatibility and dependability often carry the connotation of stability and encompass such attributes as having similar interests and finding yourselves at the same phase in life. You may also find that there is a similar level of commitment in the relationship and comparable willingness to accept each other's differences. Fun and passion, on the other hand, may be based on enjoying similar activities but may not always involve a deeper connection or alignment. Likewise, fun and passion may often be more prominent elements of the relationship in (though certainly not exclusive to) the earlier stages of getting to know someone, when the novelty is fresh and there’s still an element of mystery and excitement.  

It’s also worth noting that relationships themselves can evolve over time or go through changes. What makes up that bond depends on the people involved, their values, and their choices. You might find that passion can wane throughout a relationship, and you may feel at odds in your relationships, but this doesn’t mean that these circumstances are permanent. Relationships take work from all participating parties in order to continue strengthening the connection.  

If you are trying to figure out what you value most in a relationship, whether it be compatibility or fun, both, or something else entirely, you might consider the following questions: What do you need from a relationship at this time? What can you offer in a relationship at this time? Do you have the time and desire to devote yourself to a long-term relationship? Or are you looking for something that requires less commitment?  Answering these questions may help give you a better idea of what expectations you have for the people you enter into a relationship with as well as what you want to prioritize. When considering starting a relationship try taking it slow so you have time to really get to know the person or people; you can do this by talking about your interests, family, values, culture, tastes, quirks, etc. This will give everyone a better chance to gauge their compatibility and help create a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship, while giving you all plenty of opportunities to try new things, enjoy the company, and have fun! 

Last updated Mar 03, 2023
Originally published May 18, 1995

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