Confusing 'I'm like him' with 'I like him'

ANNABEL ROSS
Last updated 14:56 12/12/2012

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My friend Kate is recently single after her boyfriend cheated on her - and not for the first time. Kate and I were at a music festival over the weekend, got a little drunk, and went for a wander around the grounds, as you do. Feeling a need to a) seek validation after having been wronged again and b) wreak revenge on her boyfriend, Kate was on a mission to pick up, and so would stop every attractive young man we passed on our walk and engage in a bit of banter with him.

One guy in particular was Kate's type to a tee. Long hair, tattoos, looked a little bit like the grunge rocker Kurt Vile, only hotter. We climbed on top of his retro ute, shared a beer with him, and were finally heading off on our merry way when Kate, clearly smitten, turned around to ask him one last question.

"What's your favourite band?" she said. I laughed, trying to drag Kate away. I knew exactly where she was heading with her question.

To Kate (and to me, and to many people I know) good taste in music ranks pretty highly in terms of desirable qualities in their significant others.

Part of the reason she's stayed with her cheating boyfriend for so long is because he's a musician, and has what she thinks is great taste in music. Kate's a hippyish rock chick at heart, and the fact that her boyfriend's iPod is filled with songs that she loves, and that they can listen to and enjoy together, is a significant part of why she's been with him for so long.

"It's dumb, I know," she says. "But it's really important to me."

I get it, to a point. When you meet someone new and they're into the same sorts of things as you are, whether it be music, film, or TV shows, it's encouraging. You know, that at the very least, you'll have things to talk about and share together.

But is it a deal breaker if you like dance music and they loathe it? If they love Big Brother and you watch nothing but news and current affairs? If reading is one of your favourite activities, and if the only thing they "read" is Playboy?

American cult filmmaker John Waters once said, "If you go home with somebody, and if they don't have books, don't f*ck 'em!" I must admit that one of the first things I check out in a prospective partner's home is their bookshelf. If their collection is limited to a few sports magazines, Richard Branson's autobiography and Shantaram, the future doesn't look bright.

According to online dating profiles, our cultural tastes and interests certainly count for something. Those looking for love on the net are usually asked to divulge their favourite books, movies, and films in their profiles, and are doubtless judged by others on account of their choices. Kate is certain that a guy rejected her a while back because she didn't share with him his love of rock band My Bloody Valentine. She actually got them confused with My Chemical Romance (easy to do), but that's beside the point. Personally, I doubt I'd date anyone who admitted to liking Nickelback, or Creed. Call me superficial, but it would somehow diminish the value of whatever feelings they had for me.

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In her book Is He Mr Right?, American psychotherapist Mira Kirshenbaum calls horsesh*t on the importance of compatibility in a relationship, arguing that just because both parties like early hip-hop and late Beatles, this doesn't make for the foundations of a strong union. Confusing I'm like him with I like him, says Kirshenbaum, is a big mistake.

Rather, she argues that for a relationship to work out, there need to be five dimensions of chemistry, listed as follows.

1. You feel comfortable with each other and it's easy to get close. By this she means that you can be open, honest, and talk freely with each other, and feel comfortable doing so.

2. You feel safe being a relationship with him. You don't feel like you're about to be cheated on, lied to, abused, or in any sort of emotional, physical or financial danger.

3. You feel it's fun to be together. You can laugh and have a good time in each other's presence.

4. You have real affection and passion for each other. This isn't limited to sexual chemistry, but includes everything from compliments to cuddling.

5. You feel there's real mutual respect. You both respect each other for who you are and what you're doing with your lives, and this mutual respect helps you to bring out the best in each other.

I'm not about to get married, but if I were considering it, I'd think that Kirshenbaum's five dimensions of chemistry would make a pretty good starting point for a checklist. If someone ticked all of these boxes, I'd almost be able to excuse them for liking Nickelback. Almost.

What do you think, does compatibility play an important part in finding the right partner? Could you date someone with completely different tastes and interests to your own?

- Sydney Morning Herald

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