The Relationship Judge: Will Compatibility Alone Make a Relationship Last?

We received a last minute Relationship Judge submission to finish off the year with.  I think a lot of people are off this week, but hopefully you have a few minutes to chime in here and help out Amy on this one.  I’m interested to hear people’s opinions. Here we go…

The Facts:  “Amy” is 45 years old and has been dating her boyfriend “Jeff,” age 55, for 2.5 years. They have both been divorced (Amy once, Jeff 3 times).  Lately, Jeff has been wanting a greater commitment – living together or becoming engaged.  Amy’s answer has been, basically, “maybe.”  She says they get along well, their personalities seem to mesh and they resolve conflicts fairly easily.  BUT, they have different tastes, different social class backgrounds, different political views and enjoy mostly different activities (there is some overlap here as they can find some things to do together, but they aren’t really either of each other’s favorite activities).  Compared to Amy’s previous relationships, she admits this one “has less passion.”  They “get along like friends and (she does) enjoy the lack of drama.”

The Question: Amy wants to know if personality compatibility is enough to keep a relationship going long term.  I want to know what you all think about whether Amy should agree to a greater sort of commitment with Jeff.

The Relationship Judge Says: Amy – thank you for writing in and being brave enough to let us weigh in on your issue.  My gut reaction to your story is that it sounds like you enjoy the companionship of Jeff but you’re not in love with him.  If you were in love with him, you wouldn’t mind the differences in your personalities – you’d see them as complementing your own preferences and lifestyle.  Now, that said, you’re wise to consider these personality and socio-economic distinctions in advance of moving in together or getting engaged so let’s really consider them.  You’ve got different interests, tastes, political views and social classes.  None of these items individually will make or break a relationship.  Particularly since you resolve conflict well.  The real deal breakers in long term commitments seem to be over things like religion, money (one of you is in great debt, has different views on how to spend money, etc.), physical or mental health issues (addiction, chronic illness, etc.), desire to have children, meddling relatives, infidelity, etc.  Absent one of these items, you should also consider whether you’re “settling” for someone who you’re comfortable with just to have someone special in your life.  Particularly around the holidays, it can be extremely lonely to be single.

In terms of divorce, it is fairly common nowadays, but a 3 time divorcee may be a bit of a red flag for you.  Any insight on why his relationships ended? Is there any evidence to suggest that your relationship is different from his previous ones?  Also, a woman in her mid-40s and a man in his mid-50s may be looking for different things from each other than you would be if you were in your 20s or 30s.  Perhaps you are just looking for simple companionship.  But even a less passionate relationship should ideally be with someone who you enjoy the same things as.  If you combine different interests with less than desireable passion, I think that’s a formula for long term disappointment.

Put it this way.  In 10 years this man will be 65 years old.  What if you found out that he had a serious health problem? Would you be willing to take care of him?  Would you stick by him if he became disabled?  Would you want him to do that for you?  I know these are morbid thoughts, but true love, at least love enough for a lifetime commitment, should stand the test of time.  And going into it, you should have every thought and wish that the commitment will be successful.  Ask yourself some simple questions:  Does this guy makes you laugh?  Does he make you feel special?  Desired?   Is he your best friend?  When something funny or sad happens is he the person you want to share it with?  Do you miss him when you haven’t seen him in a couple of days?  When he says, “I love you,” do you feel it back?  Not every relationship is a story book romance, but you need something more than friendship to keep a marriage going.

If you really do find yourself not sure about getting engaged, perhaps you could try staying at his place (or have him staying at yours) for a few weeks and see how it goes.  Nothing provides quicker clarity on a situation than seeing the day-to-day routine of a potential mate.  A wise person once told me that if she wasn’t married to her husband when they first moved in together, there is no way they’d still be together now (it’s been 11 years and they are still together).  In other words – if you find less passion in your relationship now, think about how you’ll feel when you’re doing his laundry, he’s leaving dirty dishes in the sink and you get to smell his morning breath every day :)  In loving, long term marriages – there’s plenty of that, but the love you feel for your partner should more than make up for this kind of stuff.

Either way, please keep us posted on what you decide to do.  You’re still young and have lots of life before you – don’t settle for the wrong person, even if he is a nice guy.  For every day you’re with someone who’s less than you’d want for yourself, you’re missing out on being with someone who’s all you’ve wanted.  (They should print that on a fortune cookie).

Your Turn: Should Amy stick with Jeff?  Is there anything she could do to figure out whether he’s the guy for her? Can compatibility ever win out over passionate love?

I hope you all have a great weekend filled with lots of family and friends.

Until next time, you can receive updates if you “Like” my Facebook page ( or “Follow” me on Twitter (@OfficeStace).



  1. I am providing my comment before reading Stacey’s so I won’t be unduly influenced.
    It sounds to me that this person would be your roommate, rather then someone who you would be romantically involved.
    At 45 years old “you can still meet the love of your life” so why would you consent to an OK, not great, relationship.
    Be friends, and bide your time.
    And Happy New Year.

  2. Agree w/ first commenter. It sounds like you like him okay but if you are so uncertain about moving forward, there must be a reason why. Don’t waste your time and his, and most importantly, be honest w/ yourself. You won’t regret making the hard – but right – choice, in the end.

  3. Marriage is hard enough when you are crazy about your spouse – can’t imagine going through hardships with someone you only seem to like in a logical “I could do a lot worse” sense. Divorced three times would be the clincher for me, that is a MAJOR flaw no matter what the circumstances. Either he is a terrible spouse or has terrible judgement in choosing life partners. Either way, what does that say about you?
    Don’t settle. You’re thinking with your head only and leaving your heart out of the equation. The fact that you are seeking guidance seems to indicate you already know this man is not suitable for a long term commitment. Have fun with him until the pressure to commit becomes too great then bid him a swift adieu.

  4. UPDATE: Amy wrote in to let us know that she had a tough conversation with her boyfriend and they broke up. She says that just the act of writing her email helped her a lot because it forced her to clarify her feelings.

    We wish you lots of luck and fun endeavors as you start your new search for Mr. Right in 2013. Please keep us posted!

Add a New Comment