I never really ascribed to the belief that when looking for love you will "just know" when you've found "the one." Honestly, it sounded like a recipe for disaster to me. The first (but certainly not the last) time someone told me that, I'd already be in love enough times to know that I tended to fall for the wrong kind of men. If I experienced the feeling of "just knowing" with a particular love interest, it was probably a sign that the man had commitment issues or was emotionally unavailable (and not that he was "the one").
There was no sense of instantly "knowing he was the one" when I first met my husband. To the contrary, there were a lot of reasons that, at the time, he was completely wrong for me. In the end, however, my husband and I discovered that we are, in many ways, quite compatible. His personality is vastly different from mine, although I wouldn't go so far as to say we are exact opposites. We share many of the same goals and values; we'd be decidedly incompatible if we didn't.
So what is it that makes us compatible? What makes any two people compatible, for that matter? A book called, "The Love Compatibility Book: The 12 Personality Traits that Can Lead You to Your Soulmate" by Hoffman and Weiner attempts to answer this question. (Find it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Compatibility-Book-Personality-Soulmate/dp/1577312260). The authors suggest that there are twelve factors that determine compatibility between two people. I'm going to list them and share my thoughts but check out the book for more information.
1. Need for companionship: It helps for you and your partner to prefer about the same amount of companionship. If one of you hates being alone and wants constant companionship and the other needs a lot of alone time, this is likely to cause problems.
2. Idealism: Are you a dreamer or do you tend to be very practical? A dreamer with an extremely pragmatic partner might end up feeling like her partner is always trying to step on her dreams.
3. Emotional intensity: This is an area where the most compatible partners seem to balance one another out. It would probably create problems in a relationship for both partners to have the same level of emotional intensity -- imagine two hot heads always flying off the handle or two emotionally distant people who never share their feelings with one another. It is also probably difficult for two partners to have exact opposite amounts of emotional intensity -- imagine an emotionally intense person trying to evoke feeling from a partner who is distant and emotionally contained. As I said before, the key word when it comes to emotional intensity is balance.
4. Spontaneity: Do you like everything to be planned or do you enjoy doing things on a whim? This is another area where balance is the key.
5. Libido: How often do you feel like having sex? Differences between partners in how often they want to have sex is a VERY common problem in relationships, especially in married or co-habitating couples.
6. Nurturance: Do you like to take care of your partner or do you prefer for your partner to take care of you? Honestly, I don't think you can put this into an "either/or" category. Personally, I don't want to have to "take care" of my husband (every once in a while is ok, but not all the time); I also really don't like being "taken care of" (I can take care of myself).
7. Materialism: How much stuff do you want to have? If one partner tends to spend a lot of money on purchases that the other partner sees as wasteful it could cause problems. In my opinion, this category should be replaced with "shared financial goals" or something to that end. "Shared financial goals" seems far more relevant to compatibility than "materialism."
8. Extroversion: A person does not necessarily want a partner with the same degree of introversion or extroversion as he himself posesses. In my opinion, what is most important is that each partner allows the other to be his- or her-self.
9. Aestheticism: This refers to how much you enjoy art, music, or the beauty of nature. To me, this category seems way too specific. A more general (and, I think, relevant) category might be "shared interests." Partners should enjoy at least some of the same activities (and should pursue individual interests as well).
10. Activity level: Are you a "homebody" or do you always seem to be going somewhere or doing something? Activity level depends a lot on energy level. For example, my husband has far more energy than I do. After a few hours out and about I'm typically exhausted. My husband, on the other hand, is full of energy and ready to do something else.
11. Subjective well being: Are you an optimist or a pessimist? If you are a pessimist, are you annoyed by people who are too "peppy" or positive? If you are an optimist, do people with a negative outlook tend to bring you down? Do you want a partner that shares your outlook on life or do you want someone who can help you look at things differently?
12. Intellectualism: Do you keep up with current events? Do you read anything you can get your hands on? Do you enjoy a good conversation about public policy, world history, the state of American society (or whatever it is you happen to be interested in)? I think it is also important to consider intelligence. People tend to select partners with levels of intelligence similar to their own.
I know, I've said A LOT more than I usually do. So I'm done, for now;-)