How important is physical compatibility in relationships? Well, it depends on the couple. For some people their physicality is of utmost importance to them. When it is, they often want their partner to engage in many of their activities with them. For some couples the physical nature of their relationship is not important to either of them. And for some couples, if one rates the physical aspect high and the other one doesn’t, happy satisfied couples have found ways to satisfy that physical element outside of their relationship.

I have done research with couples who self-identify as happy and satisfied after being together at least ten years. One area I ask about is their satisfaction in the physical area. This can encompass many things. It can mean sexual compatibility. It can mean being satisfied with each other’s overall health and level of activity. It can translate into satisfaction with romance or public displays of affection or lack thereof. It could mean satisfaction with one’s partner’s physical appearance.

The one aspect of physical compatibility that seems to be most important is sexual compatibility. The vast majority of the couples I interviewed reported not having other intimate relationships outside of their committed one. They also reported a healthy sex life, well into their later years.

As author, Kevin Lehman writes in his book Sheet Music, sex in a marriage is very important and necessary to a man. He believes a woman who denies her man enthusiastic involvement in the sexual act is like a man who refuses to talk to his partner. As a general rule, women need communication and men need physical connection. That is not to say women don’t enjoy sex and men don’t like to communicate. It’s just the general trend among the genders.

I also interviewed couples who both reported sex was no longer a part of their relationship and they were both at peace with that fact. I even interviewed one couple who were married as heterosexuals. He underwent a sex change operation and is now a woman. They have remained a lesbian couple and the wife also satisfies her sexual desires with a man and her partner fully sanctions that activity.

Other aspects of the sexual area to consider are frequency, duration and creativity. All of these are things that couples should discuss and come to agreement about. If one person wants to explore all manner of sexual activity with his or her partner and the other partner is interested only in the missionary position, then that relationship may be in for some rocky roads.

Romance, foreplay and public displays of affection are also areas where it is helpful to find agreement with your partner.

Compatibility in the sexual area is critical to relationship success but the level of activity is defined by the couples themselves.

Sometimes couples highly value the external appearance of their partner. They want the partner whose look is pleasing to him or her. I interviewed a couple who are both 88 years old, married 56 years. When they were married, the husband loved the way his wife looked. Her beauty was very important to him and he referred to her as his “pin up girl.” Do you know now, 56 years later, he still refers to her as his “pin up girl”? That is a man who was able to adjust and expand his physical expectations to match the maturation of their relationship. Contrast that with a person who gets together with his or her partner based strictly on external beauty. Once that beauty begins to fade, as it inevitably will, he or she will be looking for the next partner to replace the aging one. For some couples, the outer beauty of a person is not important for either of them. And for still other couples, external beauty is of the utmost importance and they are very conscious of their weight, nutrition and may have cosmetic surgery to assist in maintaining their beauty.

A final area to look at is health and fitness. What I found in my research is that for many people who value this aspect of life, they were attracted to partners who did also. This makes the relationship smooth in this area. They often engage in common activities of fitness. They may like to hike, bike, swim, lift weights, and go to the gym together. They may even engage in their activities with other people and that is fine as long as they are maintaining their overall health and fitness. They also generally agree on their nutritional choices.

If this is an area that is not important to either couple, then there is no issue here and they are compatible in their indifference to health and fitness. What challenges and potentially strains a relationship is when one person values this and the other doesn’t. I saw this more with older couples where one partner was perhaps more overweight and in poorer health. One person becomes worried about their partner’s health and mortality.

The bottom line is that different things work for different couples. While some highly value aspects of this physical area and want their partners to value it too, some couples are able to enjoy the aspects of their physical life that are important to them while allowing their partner to do what’s important to him or her. And there are yet other couples who do not value this area at all. The couples who reported being happy and satisfied with their relationship did not have conflict in this area. Either they were compatible in this area or they simply allowed each other to fully express themselves in this area as they saw fit.

For more information about relationships and compatibility check out my Relationships from the Inside Out products.

Author's Bio: 

Kim Olver is a life and relationship coach. Her mission is to help people get along better with the important people in their lives, including themselves. She teaches people how to live from the inside out by empowering them to focus on the things they can change. She in an internationally recognized speaker, having worked in Australia, Europe and Africa, as well as all over the United States and Canada. She is the creator of the new, revolutionary process called, Inside Out Empowerment based on Dr. William Glasser's Choice Theory. She is a public speaker and provides workshops in the areas of relationships, parenting, and a variety of self-growth topics. She is the author of Leveraging Diversity at Work and the forthcoming book, Secrets of Successful Relationships. She co-authored a book with Ken Blanchard, Les Brown, Mark Victor Hansen and Byron Katie, entitled 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. She works with individuals, couples, parents, social service agencies, schools, corporations and the military--anyone who will benefit from gaining more effective control over their lives. She has consulted on relationships, parenting, self-development, training, leadership development, diversity, treatment programs and management styles.