When it comes to that first phase of dating someone new, one of the unspoken tasks at hand is feeling out your compatibility. In other words, do you and your boo make sense together? But here’s the thing about compatibility: It’s a complicated matter. While you can be totally in sync in one area, you may not quite be on the same page in another. Case in point: If you and your partner are compatible for sex, but not love, you may feel conflicted AF about the future of your relationship. Experts say that this is actually a super common conundrum and fortunately, there are some easy ways to tell if you’re dealing with it.
According to Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of Training Your Love Intuition, many of us separate the notions of sex and love, and since they are not intertwined, it is indeed possible to feel a connection with someone in one and not the other.
“And to complicate the situation even more, our fears of falling in love are often greater than our fears of having sex with someone,” she tells Elite Daily.
As a result, you may find yourself in a situation in which you’ve let your guard down in the bedroom, but still have walls up around your heart. Because when you’re subconsciously afraid of rejection or failure, that can certainly hold you back from falling in love.
“For many people, it is easier to have sex than to risk falling in love,” explains Dr. Wish. “If you want a meaningful long-term relationship, then you have to be willing to make mistakes. The greater your fear of love, the more likely you will accept and hold onto a ‘sex-only’ relationship.”
But what if you’re open to the idea of falling in love, and yet you still don’t feel compatible with bae in that regard? Experts agree that you’ll know this is the case if you have misaligned life goals. For example, Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples therapist in Los Angeles, notes that if the sex is great, but only one of you wants to have a monogamous relationship, get married, or have a family, and the other doesn't, then you may not feel like you sync up in the love department.
It’s not only normal but healthy to have some differences from your partner. However, having separate hobbies and interests and having conflicting values or morals are to separate things. That’s why board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman says one of the easiest ways to tell if you’re compatible for sex and not love is to examine what you and your boo want out of the romance. If one of you wants a committed, monogamous understanding and the other is content to have no-strings-attached casual hookups, then that may make it challenging to pursue a relationship that goes beyond sex. For instance, Dr. Wish notes that if you’ve tried to have “the talk" to define the relationship, and your partner tries to change the subject or avoid the conversation, then that could point to incompatibility in regards to love.
If you suspect you're compatible sex-wise, but not love-wise, experts say the best thing you can do is to take a step back to clarify your needs, priorities, and intentions. Dr. Brown recommends asking yourself the following questions — and being “rigorously honest with yourself” about the answers: "Is there some part of me that wants to explore any relationship potential beyond sex?" "Has my sex partner indicated that they may be more interested in something more than sex?" "What are the most important things to me in this relationship?" "If I don't think we are compatible, why?"
Dr. Wish also recommends asking yourself: “Do I agree with their worldview? Can I feel I could confide deep things about myself in them and feel understood and accepted? Could I trust this person to help me with my own personal challenges?" She proposes writing the answers down in a journal and then revisiting that entry once you’ve had some time to evaluate your romantic situation and consider your compatibility from all angles.
“Don't let great sex steam up your glasses so much that you cannot see this person for whom he or she is or isn't,” explains Dr. Wish.
It’s important to note that there’s nothing wrong with being compatible in regards to sex and not love, provided that you and your partner are both on the same page about what you want. If sexual satisfaction is enough for both of you, then you can certainly enjoy those perks without advancing your relationship to another level. On the other hand, if one or both of you are seeking true love, then you’ll need to address your incompatibility head-on.
Dr. Edelman recommends identifying why, specifically, you feel incompatible, whether it’s due to mismatched goals for the future, or differences in terms of your priorities or personalities. Once you've done that, launch an open, honest conversation with your boo about them. You might want to start by reinforcing how much you’re enjoying your time together and giving them some positive feedback about how you feel satisfied sexually before bringing up your concerns.
Just because you and your partner are compatible in the bedroom doesn’t necessarily mean you’re compatible when it comes to love. That said, you can still enjoy a fulfilling connection with someone in one area and not the other, as long as you’re not seeking a long-term committed relationship together. If your primary goal in dating is to find your soulmate, then it’s worth ensuring that you’re compatible in both departments. And here's the good news: Even if you’re not 100% compatible for love right off the bat, it’s definitely possible to get there — provided both people are willing to meet each other halfway, and of course, master the art of compromise.