And how do I find out?
Linda: There really are some mismatched pairs. I am remembering a woman I saw for counseling after a breakup. She had fallen in love with a man who she adored. They had so many interests in common, wonderful sexual compatibility and laughed a lot together. So for many months, she just assumed that because they both enjoyed their relationship that they would go on to marry and have children, but she didn’t ask him about creating a family. When the truth finally came out that he had no intention of ever having children, she was devastated. After their break-up, she grieved for a long time. With an issue of this kind there is no compromise. You can’t have half a child.
There are insurmountable differences too when one of the pair is committed to monogamy and the other partner must have polyamory so that other sexual partners are available in addition to the primary relationship. The values around commitment and freedom of choice are too discrepant for the relationship to thrive on a long-term basis.
Another example of a mismatched pair occurs when one partner is uncomfortable with emotions and avoids conflict. If the other person enjoys expressing the whole spectrum of feelings from anger, fear, guilt, sadness, affection and joy with great intensity, the low expression person will feel threatened and overwhelmed. And the passionate person will feel abandoned and rejected by what they experience as their partner being distant, cold, shut down and unavailable for connection.
People often fall into believing that they are a mismatched pair when they experience discomfort in their relationship. What can actually be true is that they are lacking in the SKILLS required for a working partnership. There are some skill sets around communication, negotiating to have our needs met, resolving power struggles, managing conflict well, learning from each other, and becoming graceful in expressing the whole spectrum of emotions.
So if you are in mystery about whether you are truly a mismatched pair, dig in to doing your own work to become accomplished in the skills that characterize great relationships, and you will have your answer. If you do your work and your partner is joining you by also cultivating these skills, one of two things will happen. One result is that will discover that indeed you are mismatched and that the only kind thing to do is to free each other to go on to find someone who is a good match.
The other finding is that you truly are different, but not in the deal-breaker category. It was the lack of skills that was causing the painful arguments and disconnections. You can come to understand how tempting it was to jump to the conclusion that you were mismatched because at the time, you didn’t know how much you didn’t know. And now you realize that you were actually a good match all along and just needed more skillful ways of giving and receiving the care, respect, listening, kindness and love that great relationships are made of. Isn’t it wonderful sometimes to be wrong?