Mismatches that Create Red Flags

Additional Information for Chapter 11, pages 169-175

Early in Chapter 11 of The Compatibility Code the issue of Red Flags is introduced. We identify three different types of red flags. Sometimes red flags are due to a mismatch of personal characteristics or personal qualities. Sometimes red flags are due personal defects—issues discussed in Chapter 4 (dealing with emotional germs) and Chapter 5 (the straight truth about self). Finally red flags are sometimes due to external circumstances that may be outside of your control.

List of Possible Mismatch Red Flags

As the title of this prescript identifies, we are speaking of the first category here, red flags due to mismatches. Early in Chapter 11 we present 24 different types of mismatches that have potential to provide challenges to the success of the marriage. To save you the trouble, we reproduce the list of 24 here:

  • Intelligent vs. unintelligent
  • High strung vs. placid & laid back
  • Extraverted vs. introverted
  • Low psychic metabolism (low energy) vs. high psychic metabolism (high energy)
  • Extraordinary talent/accomplishment vs. ordinary abilities/accomplishments
  • Ambitious vs. content with status quo
  • Attractive vs. unattractive
  • Cultured vs. barbarian
  • Spiritual vs. unspiritual (or different styles of spirituality)
  • Philosophical vs. frivolous
  • Risk taker vs. obsessed with safety
  • Commitment to vigorous personal growth vs. content with the status quo
  • Visionary vs. lives in the moment
  • Scrupulously honest vs. morally flexible
  • Wealth-acquisition mindset vs. poverty mindset
  • Neat and organized vs. slovenly and disorganized
  • Logical thinker vs. emotional, reactive thinker
  • Couch potato vs. physically active
  • Regular exercise regimen vs. none
  • Involved in service outreaches vs. pursues only personal pleasuring
  • Argumentative Andy vs. non-confrontational Carla
  • Back packer Bert vs. five-star-hotel-connoisseur Connie
  • Frugal Freddy vs. Shop-‘til-you-drop Shelly

Identifying Your Own Red Flags

The list presented above (and The Compatibility Code) identifies some types of mismatches that are common, red flags that we have encountered during our careers as professionals in the field. This is, however, only a sampling. The list is good because you might pick a few of them that provide challenges in the relationship between you and your partner and assess them according the chart used in Chapter 11 of The Compatibility Code. But the list is by no means comprehensive. You need to look together to see if there are other areas that may provide additional challenges.

How is this done? During interaction between the two of you, be on the outlook for times when, in the context of the relationship, you feel irritated, upset, confused, or distressed. The emotions provide clues to some red flag areas. Sometimes the emotions you feel is just part of the process of being human and don’t indicate anything. But frequently thoughtful assessment of why you felt as you did will reveal areas that need to be looked at.

Recognize that we consider just “mismatch” red flags in this prescript. Your assessment may reveal personal-defect red flags or external-circumstances red flags. If you find personal-defect red flags go to chapters 4 or 5 in The Compatibility Code or the many prescripts associated with issues discussed in those chapters. If you uncover external-circumstance red flags, then go to the prescript in this chapter (Chapter 11) titled “Risk Factors from External Circumstances”.

Percentiles: Charting the Red Flags

The Compatibility Code addresses this issue by explaining how to use a percentile scale to provide a rough measure of the magnitude of difference between you and your partner. Let us take the time now to make clear on how to use the percentile scale to measure differences. We do explain this in The Compatibility Code, but we provide greater detail here for additional clarity.

A percentile scale is an instrument that allows you to identify what percentage of people score lower than you on a particular issue and how many score higher. These values are measured in percentages. Let’s say you scored 23 on a scale of extroversion that is measures on a 100-point scale, If your score of 23 is placed on the 30th percentile of our scale that means that 30% of people score lower than 23 and 70% score higher than 23. In short the percentile value identifies the percentage of people who score LOWER than you a particular quality

Some examples: The list of 24 contrasts (above) Identifies different qualities that could be measured on a percentile scale. We use the last item on the list (Frugal Freddy vs. Shop-‘til-you-drop Shelley) to show how to plot values on the percentile scale. We may have a 50-point scale to measure this quality. A “0” might represent someone so frugal that they never spend money unless it is required to sustain life. A “50” might be someone who not only spends all the money they have but has run several credit cards to the limit and eagerly accepts other credit card offers with designs to run those to the limit as well.

Now that the scale is established, Frugal Freddy may score 12 on this 50-point scale. That “12” may place him at the 22ndpercentile. This means is that 22% of the population is more frugal than Freddy. Another way to explain it is that 22% of the population score 12 or lower on a scale of frugality. Another way is to say that is 78% of the population is less frugal. Shelly, by contrast might score 45 on the same scale. A norming process might place Shelly’s score of 45 on the 92ndpercentile. This means that 92% of the population is more frugal than Shelly. It could also be stated that 92% of the population score 45 or lower on the 50-point scale of frugality. Finally it could be said that only 8% of the population is more compulsive and excessive in their shopping habits than Shelly.

Percentile gap: That is simply the one percentile value minus the other. In the case of Freddy and Shelly the gap is 92 – 22 = 70. That is a 70-point gap between the two of them on the issue of frugality.

But how do you measure percentiles? There are a number of tests that measure just about anything you desire, and, many are scored on percentile scales. For sake of this exercise you will be making a self-rating. You simply think, “do I tend to be higher than average on a particular quality or lower than average. Am I much lower (or higher) than average or just a little bit.” Then you estimate where you think you might be placed on a percentile scale. We use a specific example to illustrate.

Take one of the qualities listed above, Neat and organized vs. slovenly and disorganized. Now you have viewed the neatness habits of 1000s of people during your lifetime. Do you tend to be neater than average, about average, or messier than average. I would consider myself (Darren) neater than average and would probably place myself on the 80thpercentile. You do the same for all qualities that might pose challenges between you and your partner.

But how do you know if your self-assessments are reasonably accurate? Two methods: 1) If you have access to testing, you might get tested. This would then confirm or disconfirm the validity of your estimates. The challenge with testing is that tests for certain qualities might not be easily available. For instance, I don’t personally know any test that measures a “neatness-messiness” quality. 2) Get an objective friend who knows you well to look over your list and see if they agree. Based on their assessment, you might change some of your ratings.

Percentile gap: We defined percentile gap a few lines earlier but we reinforce the idea again since what follows is all based on understanding the percentile gap. The percentile gap is the difference between your percentile rating and your partner’s percentile rating for EACH OF THE QUALITIES where a difference exists between the two of you. Examples:

Extroversion: you rate 70, he rates 40. The gap is 70-40 = 30
Spirituality: you rate 80, he rates 90. The gap is 90-80 = 10
Ambition: you rate 90, he rates 20. The gap is 90-20 = 70

What Percentile Gaps are Easy to Resolve, Which are Difficult

We again make use of the list of possible red flags to provide perspective. This includes the 24 mismatches listed above that are placed in a chart that identifies which percentile gaps are easy, moderate, challenging, or impossible to resolve. If you find the chart confusing, there are a number of explanations that follow.

Contrast Approximate difficulty of resolution

(Measured in percentile gap except for IQ)

easy

moderate

challenging

impossible

Intelligent vs. unintelligent (IQ-point gap)

0-15

15-25

25-40

>60

High strung vs. placid & laid back

0-20

20-40

40-60

>80

extraverted vs. introverted

0-25

25-55

55-75

>90

Low psychic metabolism (low energy) vs. high psychic metabolism (high energy)

0-20

20-30

30-50

>70

Extraordinary talent/ accomplishment) vs. ordinary abilities/accomplishments

0-20

20-30

30-40

>60

Ambitious vs. content with status quo

0-20

20-30

30-50

>70

Attractive vs. unattractive

0-15

15-25

25-40

>50

Cultured vs. barbarian

0-20

20-30

30-50

>70

Spiritual vs. unspiritual (or different styles of spirituality)

0-10

10-20

20-30

>50

Philosophical vs. frivolous

0-10

10-20

20-30

>50

Risk taker vs. obsessed with safety

0-10

10-20

20-30

>50

Commitment to vigorous personal growth vs. content with the status quo

0-10

10-20

20-30

>50

Visionary vs. lives in the moment

0-10

10-20

20-30

>50

Scrupulously honest vs. morally flexible

0-10

10-20

20-30

>50

Wealth-acquisition mindset vs. poverty mindset

0-10

10-20

20-30

>50

Neat and organized vs. slovenly and disorganized

0-20

20-30

30-50

>70

Logical thinker vs. emotional, reactive thinker

0-10

10-20

20-30

>40

Couch potato vs. physically active

0-20

20-30

30-50

>70

Regular exercise regimen vs. none

0-20

20-40

40-60

>80

Involved in service outreaches vs. pursues only personal pleasuring

0-20

20-30

30-40

>60

Argumentative Andy vs. non-confrontational Carla

0-20

20-30

30-40

>60

Back packer Bert vs. five-star-hotel-connoisseur Connie

0-20

20-30

30-50

>70

Frugal Freddy vs. shop-‘til-you-drop Shelley

0-10

10-20

20-30

>40

Now some explanations:

What do all the number mean? For all but the difference in intelligence the numbers represent a percentile gap. For intelligence it is IQ-point gap. For instance, for easy resolution we suggest an IQ difference smaller than 15 points. This might be a couple that contrasts, 140-125 or 105-90 or 125-110 or 160-145. Impossible resolution is a 60 point gap might be represented by 180-120 or 160-100, or 140-80, or 120-60. All the rest are measured with a percentile gap. Take introversion/extroversion. We suggest easy resolution with a 25 point gap.This might be represented by contrasts for each partner ranking on the following percentile scale: 85-60, 45-20, 95-70, 35-10. The gap we list as impossible (>90) might be 95-5, 99-10, 90-1 (percentiles don’t use 0s or 100s).

What do we mean by “impossible”? There are existing marriages with gaps in the “impossible” category. But I ask, “At what cost?” What is meant by “impossible” in this context is that although it is legally possible for people with such a gap to marry, a successful satisfying marriage is impossible. It will result in either parallel lives or constant antagonism or frustration.

How about if people change? If there is change in one or both individuals then they may shift into a different percentile-gap category. Interpret accordingly.

What is your source of information for the numbers that are listed? Pulled right out of my own fertile imagination. This is not an untrained imagination, however. It is based on many years of teaching, research, and clinical experience. If you don’t like my numbers, write in your own if that makes you happy. Notice that there is considerable variation on the percentile gap for the impossible category. Those differences reflect knowledge gained from a career as a psychologist.

What about the difference between the highest number listed for “challenging” and the number listed for “impossible”? Notice that for introversion/extroversion the challenging category is listed as percentile contrasts or 55-75 points. Then we list >90 as impossible. How about a 75 to 90 point gap? This is classed as a gray area, in all but the most extraordinary of cases, impossible.

Assessment-of-Red-Flags chart: size of the score; amount of concern

We have, in this prescript, discussed how to identify red flags, how to plot personal qualities on a percentile scale, and how to determine the percentile gap between you and your partner. The important task that remains is to determine the importance of each area-of-conflict and how much concern is appropriate for each item. To assign a level of importance to each red flag provides guidance for our response to the conflict. For instance a large gap between partners in an unimportant area may provide minimal challenge. By contrast a smaller gap in a very important area might prove to be a substantive barrier. Two examples follow:

If she loves to play Bridge and he hasn’t the slightest interest in playing Bridge and no desire to learn, there may be a 90-point percentile gap between partner ratings on “Bridge playing.” But if he is perfectly happy for her to take off once a week and enjoy a few hours of playing Bridge with her friends; and, she is not at all concerned that he doesn’t come along; we don’t have a problem. A 90-point gap, yes, but, who cares?

If a couple ranks spirituality at the top of their charts and there is, say, a 20-point gap between partners on spirituality. The gap is relatively small, but differences are exacerbated by the importance of the topic. Let’s say both partners are Christians from the same denomination. Let us further consider that the 20% gap is manifested by:

  • She wants to pay 10% tithe on gross income, he would prefer to pay tithe on net
  • She thinks they should both attend the Wednesday evening prayer meeting, he doesn’t
  • They both think that daily devotions are important but he is much less disturbed when the clatter of life intrudes and crowds out the devotions

Now, many may consider these trivial issues but I have seen marriages torn apart by similar contrasts. Most scales would rate these two people as no more than 20 points apart, but due to the importance they place on the issue, those differences provide serious challenges.

So we introduce our chart. The chart is found on page 189 of The Compatibility Code and a larger version of this chart is available under “tools” for Chapter 11. We reproduce a portion of the chart here to help clarify the discussion that follows.

Assessment of Red Flags

We have already established how essential it is that we determine the relative importance of the various mismatches we have that may cause difficulties in the relationship. As we view the partial chart (above) portions are already clear due to the previous discussion.

  • You know how to identify and list red flags in the column to the left.
  • You know how to determine approximate percentile values for you and your partner on each of the issues listed on the left
  • You know how to plot those values on the little percentile scales provided
  • You already know how to calculate a percentile gap

All that is left then is to:

  • Gauge the relative importance in each area
  • Multiply the gap times the importance to yield an Amount-of-Concern score

Since mathematical precision is NOT the issue for establishing the percentiles and the percentile gaps, precision is also not the critical issue for establishing importance or the “amount of concern”. What IS important is being able to identify key concerns that require thoughtful consideration and discussion to either a) establish methods of resolution, or b) determine that the issue represents a disqualifier that will effectively end the relationship as a romance.

The Compatibility Code suggests a 3-point scale to determine importance.

3—vitally important

2—important

1—moderately important

Items that are unimportant (like the bridge playing described earlier) deal with differences in interests and are not discussed here

To determine whether an item is vitally important, important, or moderately important is based on essentially two issues

1. To what extent does the issue affect your daily life and activities?

2. Look into the future: To what extent does it affect the course of your life over time?

Some examples:

The messiness/neatness contrast would 1) affect your life every day—in fact many hours of every day and 2) tend to get worse over time as the neat one suffers under the scourge of an environment foreign to him or her.

The risk-taker/obsessed-with-safety contrast would 1) probably not have daily implications since during the week normal activities may ensure (work, getting kids to school, etc) and risky activities might be more likely on weekends or during times of leisure, and 2) may or may not have increasing challenges over time. For some it may be more like the “Bridge” example where from time to time he goes out and does his thing and she does her thing. However, if one of the partners is an ‘adrenalin rush” addict who frequently risks his life jumping off cliffs and hoping the parachute opens, you may have a problem. If you want a vivid image, think of the Spielberg movie Twister and consider the tornado chaser married to the soft-spoken therapist. Discussion of the issue would sort out the details of how important or influential this issue might be.

These two examples provide a model for determining the importance in other areas of concern.

Once you have identified the importance on a 1-2-3 scale, then enter that number on the chart.

The final (Amount of Concern) column is determined by multiplying the percentile gap with the importance score. A hypothetical chart is reproduced from page 173 of The Compatibility Code.

Assessment of Red Flags

Example Chart: (Images percentile scale)

Red Flag Plotting the Percentile ScaleLow                                           High Gap times Importance equals Amount of Concern
Extraversion  


 

 

 

 

 

(70 – 40)

30

X

2

=

60

Spirituality  


 

 

 

 

 

(90 – 70)

20

X

3

=

60

Personal order  


 

 

 

 

 

(90 – 30)

60

X

3

=

180

Risk taking  


 

 

 

 

 

(90 – 50)

40

X

2

=

80

Physicallyactive  


 

 

 

 

 

(90 – 40)

50

X

3

=

150

Enjoys Outdoors  


 

 

 

 

 

(60 – 30)

30

X

1

=

30

Argumentative  


 

 

 

 

 

(70 – 40)

30

x

2

=

60

As suggested in the book the amount-of-concern numbers have no intrinsic meaning: just, the larger the number, the greater the concern. Now, all of the items on the chart should be discussed between partners. But the issues with small amount-of-concern scores can typically be resolved more easily than mismatches with higher scores.

The big items on the chart include the 50 point gap on “Physically active” (resulting in 150 concern points) and the 60-point gap on personal order (180 concern points). Based on our experience, the physical activity issue is more likely to resolve than the personal order issue.

Number of Red Flags

Before we turn to the topic of how do you bridge the gap or resolve differences we consider another factor associated with the likelihood of a thriving relationship that includes red flags.

How many red flags can a couple have and still enjoy a rich relationship?

All relationships include red flags. Even the most perfectly matched couples will have some differences that cause challenges. When in a dating relationship you will discover some of them and through engagement and marriage more will emerge. This might seem disquieting except for the reality that differences (identified as red flags here) are simply a part of life. If, early in the relationship, you develop the skills associated with resolving differences presented by red flags, in the future the groundwork is already laid for dealing with new issues as they emerge.

Major life transitions typically reveal new differences: moving from dating to engaged, from engaged to married, from married to married with a child, then two, then three. Change of job or moving to a new location will reveal unexpected things about your partner. This is part of life and a healthy relationship can weather these changes without undue stress.

“But, how about the number?” I hear you cry. OK. If in the dating through engaged phase of the relationship you identify between five and ten red flags, consider yourself fairly normal. If you develop the skills of negotiating these differences, then a healthy relationship is quite achievable.

If, however, the numbers keep piling up and you discover between 10 and 30 red flags then the potential success of the relationship becomes increasingly at risk. If every time you turn around you’re trying to negotiate some difference between yourselves, the joy eventually gets drained out of the relationship. Yes, in the early phases you must do your homework, you must practice due diligence, but there comes a point when the “flow” takes over and you can enjoy the relationship without continually thinking about it. If you never get to the point of flow, then it may be wise to consider terminating the relationship and finding someone who is more compatible.

Let’s consider again John Gottman’s 5:1 ratio. Recall that Gottman has found in his exhaustive research that relationships that maintain a 5 to 1 ratio (or better) of positive to negative interactions generally thrive. As the ratio dips to 4:1, 3:1 or lower the relationship becomes increasingly at risk. Negotiating differences is not necessarily “negative”, but it does take energy and, for most people, is not a positive event.  So, even if the two of you are skilled at resolving differences, if it seems that you are “always” doing it, the relationship will suffer.

Conversations, Bridging Differences, Decisions

So, in discussion, how do you resolve differences?

The first word in the heading for this section is “conversations”. As we have been reinforcing throughout the fairly lengthy discussion, the purpose of much of this work, much of the filling-out-of-charts, is to stimulate productive conversation.

You see, what we have done is take the fog out of your efforts to resolve issues. For instance, an average, inexperienced couple may experiences 12 different mismatch red flags. They don’t know that there are 12 of them. They have no idea how to resolve their many issues. Each issue arises with disquieting frequency and at times these issues appear random and unpredictable. This is fog. These issues can leave them forever frustrated and overwhelmed with their differences, and, it never occurs to them to take their issues one at a time and seek resolution for each one.

When you consider the methods we have established here, you:

  • Write down the topic of each area of difficulty
  • Rate how far apart the two of you are on each issue
  • Gauge the relative importance of each issue
  • Determine the amount-of-concern points.

Then you discuss ONE of the issues that you have listed. Which one? If an issue high on the scale is difficult for you to address, start out with an issue that is not so emotionally charged.Once you have identified the issue, then two of you discuss it to resolution. If you have trouble discussing to resolution on your own, include a wise and objective third person to assist you. If you are still defeated, work with a therapist.

Now what outcomes might you expect?

  • You work the issue to resolution and it is no longer a problem
  • You come to resolution on an issue but it will require continues input over time to keep it resolved
  • You uncover a disqualifier.

If worst-case scenario emerges (a disqualifier), at least you know and don’t continue in a fog of confusion and indecision.

If either of the other two outcomes occurs, then you go on your way rejoicing and a week or two later begin work on issue #2.

Over the course of time you come to understanding and resolution on each of the issues and can learn to live life much more comfortably than when you lived in the fog.

Even more important, you now have a model of resolution that will stand you in good stead when different issues emerge over the course of time.

What factors, then, do you consider in your discussion? What changes might occur to bring the two of you to resolution. There are two areas, simple to state, but encompassing almost an infinite number of paths to resolution. Further, they are not mutually exclusive. You can work both together to assist in resolution. They are:

1. The percentile gap remains the same and you determine ways to thrive in a relationship despite the gap

2. One or both of you work to reduce the size of the gap

The story told in The Compatibility Code about Elizabeth and my response to a 50-point percentile gap on extraversion illustrates the first principle. Extraversion is largely genetically determined and is not subject to major shifts. The gap has remained essentially the same during our marriage but provides no challenges because of the way we have resolved this issue. The story is told on pages 176-177 of the book.

The second principle (reduce the gap) is based on whether a) the gap can be reduced, and b) how motivated the partners are to move toward each other. On the personal-order issue described above it is mandatory that the gap be narrowed for the relationship to work.Elizabeth and I have seen too many marriages destroyed because the neat one simply could not handle the chaos of the messy one. Fortunately the issue of personal order is NOT a genetic issue; personal disorder is learned and, with effort, can be unlearned. It is death to the relationship, however, to think it is unimportant.

The final word under this heading is “decisions”.

1. We have identified our red flags.

2. We have thoroughly considered how to resolve the differences

3. We have, on rare occasions, discovered that some differences are not resolvable.

If #3 is the result, then we must determine a response. Again, we hope that you are not married if you uncover irresolvable issues, and, if they really are irresolvable, you need to choose to break off the relationship. This is rarely easy and takes courage. But a miserable life is the alternative.

If #2 is the result, it means that we have discovered what is required to resolve the issue. Then we need to determine is if the effort required for resolution is worth continuing the relationship.

For instance, let’s say he loves watching a variety of sporting events on TV and you despise professional athletes (and their horrifyingly inflated salaries) and professional athletics in general. Let us further say that your “resolution” involves him restricting himself to watching no more than three athletic contests a week and spending no more than 5 hours a week reading about athletics in the papers or on the internet. Let us further say that your part is to never nag or criticize as long as he stays within the limits and to watch one game a week with him.

This is a tricky situation. If the (future) wife monitors his three games and five hours or fewer, you end up with a guard/prisoner type situation—hardly a marriage! If the wife continues her seething discontent about athletics and athletes she would be unable to cover her irritation. Perhaps he simply cannot live with the 3/5 restriction but finds himself miserable because his joy has been taken away from him. Yes we have come up with a resolution on paper but can either partner make the changes to implement it?

This simply underlines that the resolution must be something both partners can fully embrace—not enter in to grudgingly.

Think present. Think future. Can you fully embrace the solution now? Can you fully embrace the solution indefinitely? While we can never perfectly predict the future, you are asking the right questions, and in the vast majority of cases, this will guide to continued success in the relationship.

As always, if you have specific questions, send them to us in the Ask the Expert section of The Compatibility Solutions web site.

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