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11 Reasons Why “On Paper” Compatibility Doesn’t Guarantee Chemistry In A Relationship

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Getting to know someone “on paper” is usually the first step in establishing a relationship.

The problem with this is that although people may be ideally matched in theory, there’s no guarantee that there will also be compatibility as far as romantic leanings go.

In this article, we’ll touch upon 11 reasons why a high theoretical match may not guarantee real chemistry in person.

1. What is said isn’t necessarily 100% true.

When people are trying to impress or attract someone, they may be dishonest about certain traits in order to endear themselves further.

This person is pretending to be something they aren’t in order to get the object of their affection more interested in them.

They may not be lying entirely, but they may embellish upon or stretch the truth a little bit.

For example, someone who says they’re “outdoorsy” may be into chilling out and drinking outside on a patio rather than cross-country skiing or backcountry camping.

These embellishments will only become apparent after the two of you have spent a fair amount of time together.

Some people count on the emotional bonding that inevitably ensues to keep them together even if they weren’t wholly honest about their interests to begin with.

This is essentially cultivating a relationship based on a foundation of half-truths rather than sincerity.

2. That which is great in theory may not be great in reality.

In other words, although you may seem ideally compatible, that may not lead to the type of relationship you’re eager to have.

There’s a reason why opposites attract: we’re often drawn to people whose traits and abilities harmonize with our own. Furthermore, when people have complementary strengths, they counterbalance one another. This is why you’ll often find an extrovert with an introvert, or a chef dating a lumberjack.

Although it might seem great to have absolutely everything in common with your partner, having too many shared traits can eventually lead to tension and discord.

Issues may arise if neither of you is great with finances or if you’re both conflict-avoidant introverts, for example.

3. Self-delusion or false narratives.

What people think about themselves may not be entirely accurate. A lot of people may claim various traits and interests, but that doesn’t mean they’re correct.

In fact, they either cling to delusions or are in complete denial about life’s realities because holding onto their fictional identity is easier and far more comfortable than accepting the facts.

For example, someone might claim that they’re really into health and wellness when in fact they eat poorly and never get any exercise, but drink smoothies and eat energy bars daily.

Alternatively, they may describe themselves as holding certain physical traits that fall short of the mark when they’re met face to face.

People who create these types of false narratives are usually deeply unhappy, and they don’t deal well with those who force them to focus on reality instead. As such, they’ll often find reasons to push away potential mates who don’t enable their self-delusion.

4. Irreconcilable personal traits and habits.

You and the person you’re getting to know may have everything in common, get along remarkably well, and even find each other devastatingly attractive, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to tolerate each other’s company.

Most of us have quirks or traits that can either attract or repel others, depending on their personal leanings and sensitivities.

In person, traits like the way someone moves, how they laugh, how loudly they snore, their table manners, or the sound of their voice can be tremendously off-putting to either potential partner.

While some of these may be considered cute, others can grate on us to the point where we can’t bear to be in the other person’s presence.

Although some traits can be adjusted over time, it’s not fair to ask—or expect—others to change a fundamental aspect of their being to suit our preferences.

Some folks simply are not compatible in the real world, regardless of how well they should theoretically get along based on their shared interests and personality traits.

5. Incompatible coping mechanisms.

Many relationship therapists suggest that before you get into a serious partnership with a person, you should either go camping with them or travel to a different country with them.

This is because both of these scenarios usually involve some degree of stress, as well as coping with unexpected setbacks or hardships.

People generally show each other all their best traits when establishing a relationship, so they don’t get to know how either partner deals with stressful or even traumatic situations.

If the unexpected occurs and your partner either flies off the handle and becomes irate, or collapses into hysterical crying and becomes nonfunctional, that’ll give you a solid idea as to how they’ll deal with any stresses or conflicts if you end up spending your lives together.

Should this person fall apart at the first sign of difficulty, you know that you won’t be able to count on them to stand by you (or even stand upright) in a crisis.

Similarly, if you see them freak out and get abusive at someone for inconveniencing them, or for not being able to solve an issue immediately, that’ll give you some perspective on how they’ll treat you in time.

Few things can destroy potential chemistry like realizing that your potential partner turns into a nightmare any time life gets challenging.

6. Differing values that become apparent over time.

When we’re in the process of getting to know another person, some details will inevitably be left out. This is because we don’t necessarily cover every aspect of our existence in one go, but instead, those facets reveal themselves a bit at a time.

As such, although we may cover the essentials on paper, we won’t necessarily divulge what we think or feel about every topic under the sun.

As a result, although we may theoretically get along perfectly with someone, we may discover something about them during the “getting to know one another” process that upsets or even horrifies us.

Suddenly, you realize that the person you thought you were ideally suited to is incredibly racist toward a particular ethnic group, or has a serious lack of empathy towards animal cruelty, for instance.

Any chemistry that may have been percolating before will undoubtedly fall flat if and when you see a different side of them than expected.

7. Problems with communication styles.

If one of you is quite direct and straightforward and the other is passive and indirect, that can lead to a lot of miscommunications (and by extension, arguments). The passive one may consider the direct one aggressive or demanding, while the direct one may not understand the passive one’s subtle nudging.

Other issues may arise when it comes to conflict resolution. For example, if one person wants to clear things up as soon as they arise, and the other prefers time to cool down and then regroup, that’s going to cause a lot of relationship tension.

The person who wants things sorted immediately will end up pestering and hounding the one who just needs a few minutes to chill. In contrast, the one who needs to go for a walk to release some excess energy will cause the other to feel unheard, invalidated, and even disrespected.

8. You can’t argue with pheromones.

I once made an incredible connection with someone online—one that I thought would translate amazingly into an in-person relationship.

He and I were compatible on every level: loved the same books, music, foods, and even had the same leanings as far as spirituality and politics. When we met in person, however, we both realized that the potential for a romantic relationship was absolutely impossible.

Why was this, you ask? Well, we smelled like siblings.

Although we found each other aesthetically pleasing, we likely shared too much similar genetic material to be compatible as potential mates.

As such, although we got along perfectly as the best of friends, there was no way we could ever be intimate. This is apparently nature’s way of ensuring genetic diversity, but it’s seriously disappointing to discover when a connection seems so promising.

9. There’s no guarantee that you’ll connect emotionally.

Have you ever really wanted to like something but simply couldn’t bring yourself to do so?

Sometimes, something seems so good—even perfect—in theory, but you don’t end up having a sincere interest or connection with it.

Some people romanticize a locale that they think will be their dream home location, but after moving there and living there for a while, they simply don’t feel like they’re “home.” They may not even be able to put their finger on why their expectations fell short of the mark: they simply can’t cultivate a sincere connection.

This type of scenario can happen between people as well.

If you simply can’t connect with another person, then that isn’t a moral failing on either part. There’s no guarantee that we’ll get along with everyone we come across, whether as friends or partners.

Sometimes it just comes down to clashing personality traits or behavioral differences, or something we can’t quite explain, but falls short of the mark as far as connections go.

10. Incompatibility with physical intimacy.

This goes beyond pheromones or emotions and can come down to physical compatibility. Sometimes people are literally not a good “fit” when it comes to sex.

There may be size issues involved, or what one person considers pleasurable may be upsetting to the other. In other cases, one may have a very high sex drive while the other doesn’t.

Similarly, there may be physical traits that can be off-putting to either partner. If someone has sensory issues and they can’t stand the texture of their partner’s skin, sex is going to be off the table. Even the sounds that someone makes during intimacy can either attract or repel another.

You might seem made for one another on paper, but if sexual incompatibility means intimacy causes one (or both) of you physical or emotional discomfort or distress, that’s going to be very difficult to work around without potentially damaging each other.

11. People aren’t kits to assemble to suit one’s whims.

Some folks seem to seek out partners the same way they’d shop online for a new pair of shoes or for real estate: by determining a list of traits they want, and then “shopping around” for one who ticks as many boxes as possible.

In addition, if they think that a potential partner seems promising, they may approach them the same way as the aforementioned real estate, i.e. with the assumption that they can simply change what they don’t like to better suit their preferences.

If they don’t like the paint job (or hair color), they can just change it, right?

Hmm, no.

An important thing to remember here is that people aren’t objects. Every individual is a sovereign being who deserves to be respected and loved for who they are, not despite.

Furthermore, a healthy relationship is unlikely to unfold by someone going over a shopping list and asserting that the other person is ideal because they meet their needs and wants, without even considering what their partner may want in turn.

Nobody exists for our benefit. If we’re entering into a relationship, then it should be with the goal of both people being as fulfilled and supported as possible, while creating a harmonious life as a couple.


It’s great to hunt around to look for someone who shares as many interests and values as you do, but remember that theoretical compatibility may not result in great chemistry in person.

We’re too multifaceted to have our essential natures reduced down to mere details on paper.

About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.