Spiritual Compatibility and Personal Compatibility are two very important but not fully understood terms in the modern Catholic dating scene. What does each term mean, and how do they affect pre marriage and post marriage relationships?
As a single, unmarried Catholic male, I can only give you my observations from successful relationships I’ve witnessed, as well as potential pieces of advice. I do hope though that some of the advice I give can and will be considered useful by whoever chooses to read this article.
First and foremost, we need to define Spiritual Compatibility and Personal Compatibility.
Spiritual Compatibility – When two individuals do not share many of the same interests, mannerisms, and are not entirely personally compatible. However, they challenge each other, bring out the best in one another, and contribute to authentic intellectual and spiritual growth throughout the duration of the relationship.
Personal Compatibility – When two individuals share many of the same interests, mannerisms, and personal/political beliefs. However, they do not challenge each other, and no or very little intellectual/spiritual growth occurs during the duration of the relationship.
Perfect Compatibility – A perfect combination of Personal/Spiritual compatibility. This is very rare.
In the secular dating world, the emphasis is almost entirely put on Personal Compatibility as the defining feature of a “successful” relationship. On secular dating sites, the ideal for most women seems to be a white collar professional, 6ft plus, good looking and physically fit. There is of course nothing wrong with this, as it is in a woman’s nature to seek the healthiest ‘provider’ with which to start a family.
The problem however, is there is much more to a successful relationship than simply checking off a pre scripted set of boxes. This is especially true in Catholic relationships. It is my belief that authentically Catholic relationships have a different end goal than secular relationships.
In a secular relationship/marriage, the end goal is financial security, abundant offspring, and material “happiness” through the acquisition of things/experiences.
In a Catholic relationship the end goal is very different from a secular relationship. In a Catholic marriage, the end goal is not only financial security and abundant offspring, but also, a desire, and willingness to improve oneself, to live a more holy and spiritually righteous/pure lifestyle with the express purpose of moving closer to God.
In order for a Catholic relationship to be successful, Spiritual Compatibility is much more important than Personal Compatibility.
It is my opinion that “Catholic Dating” has become far too secularized and that Personal Compatibility is placed above Spiritual Compatibility. Furthermore, it is my belief that many single Catholic women and men are still unclear as to what authentic Spiritual Compatibility really is.
Women and men both want control over who they date, and why. This leads to many single Catholics becoming very selective and overly critical in regards to their potential partners. Many Catholic men are all too eager to overlook spiritual flaws in favor of good looks a la the “Catholic Barbie” idealization. Vice versa, many Catholic women are too eager to dismiss men who they don’t immediately like, or who don’t fit their pre-arranged ‘Personal Compatibility’ boxes. This of course has led to disastrous results in Catholic relationships/marriages.
The hard truth is that in order for a single Catholic to best determine if a potential candidate is Spiritually Compatible, they must be willing to put in the HARD WORK to authentically get to know the individual. It is also my experience that many times, we are most Spiritually Compatible with people we do not like at first, or quickly write off. There is a good reason for this, Spiritually Compatible individuals are often alike in their strengths, as well as their flaws. We so often dislike coming face to face with our own inadequacies, especially when they come from another person and not ourselves.
One of the main reasons so many modern day secular and Catholic relationships fail is due to a lack of knowledge by both parties that each individual in the relationship will undoubtedly change over the course of the partnership. The individual you marry will not be the individual that exists in five, ten, or twenty years from the time of matrimony. It is a fact of life that people’s personalities, interests, and value systems change over time which is why Personal Compatibility which is based on a compatibility that exists in the present moment is a faulty method of predicting long term marriage success. Spiritual Compatibility is the foundational structure of the marriage, and no matter how much each spouse changes over the course of time, the Spiritual Compatibility will always exist, and the marriage will remain strong and vibrant.
My friend Anna Basquez who runs Denver Catholic Speed dating out of Colorado shared a quote with me from a priest out of Our Lady of Willington Shrine in London.
“God is not some waiter that’s going to bring you everything you want. He brings you what you need.”
In the biblical story of Jonah and the Whale, Jonah refuses to listen to God and accept his divine mission. This unfortunately leads to Jonah being swallowed by a ‘big fish’ and undergoing three days of repentance within the belly of the beast.
Can the story of Jonah’s rejection of God’s will in favor of his own desires be compared to the Personal Compatibility/Spiritual Compatibility dilemma?
Pope John Paul II is famously quoted as saying,
“Love between man and woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial.”
The key words in this quote are ‘SACRIFICES’ and ‘SELF-DENIAL’. When we prioritize our own selfish WANTS over finding a spouse that gives us what we NEED to achieve our respective potentials, we are guilty of pride, and rejection of God’s divine mission for each of us.
When it comes to discerning if a romantic/marriage prospect is a good match, my advice is to pray to God to endow you with the foresight and fortitude to make the correct choice. Know yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses, look at yourself impartially, does your partner/spouse balance out your deficiencies? Does your partner challenge you and bring you out of your comfort zone? Are you the best version of yourself with your partner?
I would advise anyone reading this article to ask yourself, what do you NEED? Are you being selfish in your pursuit of what you WANT? Let God take the reins for a bit and see where he leads you, what is your gut telling you?
More often than not, your gut will tell you who you are Spiritually Compatible with, listen to it for a change.