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Compatibility is the achievement of love, rather than its prerequisite

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

In his TED talk, Alain de Botton wakes us up to a seemingly brutal reality, where there is no such thing as a "meant-to-be-perfect" relationship. His logic is surprisingly intuitive. Because everyone is a "work in progress", it is supposed to be difficult to be with anyone despite the fact that we have fallen in love with them. To be with someone, we need to recognize that, from time to time, we may love and hate them at the same time. It is the power of love, which allows us to accommodate both strengths and weaknesses of the other person.

Conflicts in a relationship

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The key to a functional relationship is negotiating our imperfections every day. Only through this negotiation, do we gladly accept the need to become more compatible with the other person. But how do we achieve this goal without humiliating each other?

First, we need to be great at communicating. Rather than assuming that the other person must intuitively understand what I'm going through, we should let them know about it skillfully.

Second, we need to see a small child in the other person. As soon as we see childish behaviors through the lens of a caring parent, who takes care of a 2-year-old child, we become more generous and accommodating. Small children have a right to stay as lovable idiots until they fully grow up, don't they?

By teaching and learning, we commit to helping the other person grow and more compatible with us. For example, if your household is struggling financially, you and your partner can sit down, define your financial goals, track the expenses, and map out a plan to grow your assets over time. You and your partner can brainstorm ideas to lessen the blow of high inflation and experiment with them to see which ideas work for you. What about cooking healthy meals more often instead of eating out all the time?

We grow in a relationship by teaching and learning.

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When we give up perfection, it becomes easy to see that compatibility is the achievement of love. I find this idea powerful as well as insightful as it hints at how to cultivate and strengthen my own relationships beyond romance. It is also liberating in that HOW to love may matter more than whom to love. When we acknowledge that we are supposed to grow and become better people in a relationship rather than being with a perfect partner, we can perhaps dramatically increase our chances of being in meaningful relationships. And that is music to my ears!

What was your journey to develop relationships that grow stronger over time? I always remind myself of three action points, which greatly reduce my anxiety and stress from relationships. Can you share your tips?

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