A lot of “get your ex back” advice glosses over compatibility, assuming most people have an intuitive grasp of it and know why it’s so important to a successful relationship.
Instead, the advice focuses on the nuts and bolts of re-attraction: what to say, where to take your ex, when to kiss, how not to look needy, or how to implement no contact. This advice also caters to people in need of a “quick fix.” The people who want to know how to game their ex to get them back.
The reason discussions about compatibility are mostly ignored by conventional “get your ex back” advice is because compatibility can’t be faked, changed, or controlled. It’s either there or it’s not. And let’s be honest, no one wants to hear how they’re incompatible with their ex, despite a breakup being a literal sign of incompatibility.
For better or worse, the ignoring stops here.
Below, I’ll cover the four areas of compatibility and unpack the theory behind them. The more areas you and your ex align on, the more compatible you likely are. As you’ll find out, some of these areas are pretty cut-and-dried, and others lead into fathomless rabbit holes, overflowing with intricacies that even modern science can’t explain.
1. Values, Beliefs And Lifestyle Choices
Values are the goals and their measuring sticks that motivate our actions and serve as guiding principles in our lives. Beliefs are ideas and opinions we believe are true. And lifestyle choices, as the name implies, are the ways we choose to live our life.
All three areas have to be a good match for a relationship to blossom and stay intact among two lovers. And while they don’t have to be necessarily identical — even though it helps — they must be in optimal alignment.
Generally speaking, high achievers will date and be in relationships with other high achievers. Close-minded and unmotivated drunks will attract other close-minded unmotivated drunks. People who value family will get involved with other people who also value family.
Tension arises when two people have a conflict in values, beliefs, or lifestyles.
For example, if your ex was a reckless and overweight grifter and you’re an ambitious award-winning fitness model with good morals, things probably won’t work out between you. Or if they’re a dead-set Christian who values commitment and family and you’re someone who abhors religion and wants a polyamorous relationship, again, things probably won’t work out.
Does this mean that contrasting values, beliefs, and lifestyles make a rekindled and working relationship an impossible feat? Most of the time, yes. But there are exceptions. However, becoming the exception isn’t easy. Not only do you have to mend a broken relationship, which by itself is pretty unlikely to happen, but you also have to make it last despite the inevitable friction. Achieving this entails you and your ex mastering communication, boundaries, compromises, and, most importantly, yourselves.
The only time reconciliation is virtually impossible is when two exes are long-distance. Not only is this mindfuckingly difficult to pull off, but it’s also not worth the hassle. If you’re trying to rekindle a long-distance relationship with your ex, please, don’t bother. Move on instead. You’ll thank me later.
2. Physical Attractiveness (Sexual Compatibility)
I know this is obvious to most, but if you want to create something lasting with your ex, or even if you’re just interested in a hookup, you must be physically drawn to them — and they have to be physically drawn to you. This physicality threshold will vary from person to person, but it will also vary depending on where you are in your life and how desperate you are at the time.
It’s not very PC of me to say this, but physical looks matter. More to men than women, but they matter nonetheless. If my ex gained 100 pounds and looked like the front of a Fiat Multipla, I would not try to get them back. I don’t care if they went to Harvard, were a six-figure earner, and cured cancer; I would not attempt to get them back. Period.
What’s not so obvious about this topic is that there is much more to physical attractiveness than mere looks. There’s a reason physical attractiveness is also called sexual compatibility. You and your ex must also be sexually in tune to check this compatibility box.
So if your ex just doesn’t “do it” for you in the bedroom, you shouldn’t be so eager to get back with them. However, this is a minor sign of incompatibility. If you get together and are still struggling sexually, try communicating your sexual needs and work something out or try a new position or have sex in a new environment. As a last resort, consider the possibility of an open relationship.
3. Emotional Attractiveness (Chemistry)
Chemistry is an unconscious emotional bond that keeps you and your ex excited about each other. Think of it as a reaction of your personalities, emotions, and values aligning in a certain stimulating way.
It’s chemistry that makes all the hours you spend together go by like seconds. It’s chemistry that deludes you into thinking your ex has the most seductive smile. It’s chemistry that causes your dopamine receptors to go berserk whenever you interact with them. It’s chemistry that makes sex with them bed-shatteringly amazing.
As fun as that sounds, there is a danger to chemistry. A lot of people assume that since they have it with their ex, they’re meant to be for each other. That’s sadly not the case. Chemistry is only a part of the compatibility equation.
What exactly does chemistry entail? Well, no one knows. Still, there are best guesses: shared values, vulnerability, and complementary personality traits. The more similar or identical values you share with your ex, the more vulnerable you can be with each other, and the more complimentary your personality, the more chemistry you should theoretically have with them.
A note on complementary personalities: Since many people have no idea what this means, here’s a personal example: I’m a very laid-back person — someone with low neuroticism. My girlfriend is a very anxious person, someone with high neuroticism. She’s constantly freaking out about something, and I’m always calming her down. This dynamic creates a synergy in our relationship and sustains chemistry. The same result is achieved within other personality domains: extraversion, agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness. (1)
4. Hobbies And Preferences
Most people believe that the more shared hobbies and preferences they have with their ex, or anyone for that matter, the better their chances of being compatible. This is only half-true. It helps, but it’s not as important as most people make it.
Take my girlfriend and me. I’m a huge bookworm; she prefers podcasts. I’m a lover of exotic food; she hates exotic food. I like to drive without music; she only drives with music. I like to play video games for fun; she likes to play with Lego blocks. I find meeting new people easy; she finds it more difficult. I prefer no sugar in my coffee; she needs to add at least 2 bags prior to drinking it. I hate the sea and beaches; she loves the sea and beaches. I never use my phone while strolling across a new city; she can’t help but stop every 2 minutes to take a damn picture.
The list could go on forever, but you get the point. I have pretty different hobbies and preferences than my partner. And guess fucking what? None of the differences are insurmountable obstacles in our relationship. We make it work in spite of them. In fact, we have so many other, more important commonalities (i.e., values, beliefs, lifestyles, life goals, etc. ) that things like hobbies and preferences become trivial and unimportant.
The same applies to you. If you and your ex align on all the previous areas of compatibility, you don’t have to have this one handled at all. You can have radically different likes and dislikes and still be just fine.
Are You And Your Ex Ever Meant To Be?
Spoiler alert: No, you’re not.
You will never be fully compatible with your ex — or just about anyone you get into a relationship with. There will always be something that will bother you about them and vice versa. Maybe you’d swoon every time they smile while at the same time get irritated about their slouched posture.
As a rule of thumb: attempt reconciliation only when you’re 70-80% compatible with your ex. Is there a way to measure this? Fuck no. The percentages come down to your subjective feelings. But aside from that, being 70-80% compatible is still more than enough to have a well-functioning, healthy relationship with your ex.
From there on out, if you’ve grown as a person, your ex still likes you, and your relationship wasn’t a toxic shitshow, cultivating a new one may actually be doable. And if you’ve got back together, forget about the remaining 20-30%. It’s actually dealing with your partner’s flaws, irritating quirks, and mild incompatibilities that will ultimately lead to your relationship feeling meaningful and fulfilling.
So stop looking for signs you and your ex are meant to be. Fuck flawless compatibility. Forget about them being the perfect fit. They’re just not. They’ll never be. And even if they are, there’s no guarantee that they will stay that way next week, month, or in the next ten years.
Chances are, your ex will change. They will let go of their old values and beliefs and replace them with new ones. They will deprioritize some goals and prioritize others. They will alter their lifestyle. They will become a new person in time. A person that, for better or worse, you may not even recognize anymore. And that’s okay. You’ll change as well.
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