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Right Person, Wrong Time Or Just Not Compatible?

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One of my favorite shows of all time is ‘Living Single’, a beautifully executed black ‘90s sitcom set in a Brooklyn brownstone occupied by three quirky roommates—Khadijah, Regine, and Synclaire—and frequented by neighbors and friends Maxine, Overton, and Kyle. While others focused on the central romances between the eccentric Synclaire and Overton, and love-haters Maxine and Kyle, I was tapped into the subtle will-they-won’t-they of Khadijah and her childhood friend Scooter. Their love was playful, nostalgia, and full of chemistry that we could feel through the screen. It was also annoying to watch, because no matter how perfect the love seemed, they could not make a relationship work! Things kept cutting their courtship short, and after a few seasons I was ready to throw my TV across the room. It got me thinking, though . . . why didn’t it work? They had attraction, a deep connection, and a willingness to commit. What was the problem?

This question comes up a lot beyond our TV screens. We date people that we’re attracted to and invested in, but for some reason it doesn’t stick. We don’t want to quit the situation, so we investigate, wondering what we need to do to finesse fate into letting us win. For Khadijah and Scooter, life got in the way: demanding jobs, poor work-life balance, long distances, conflicting schedules, and bad pacing made it seem like they would never live happily ever after. Many of us have had this same issue—having work, school, personal struggles, and random drama continuously come up that screams bad timing when trying to be with someone we really want. When a couple is repeatedly tested and pulled apart by their circumstances, it begs the question . . . is it just bad timing, or is there a deeper level of incompatibility at work? How do you know whether to keep trying or not?

  • If it's the wrong time: Your or your person's current circumstances hinder your ability to date in a healthy and mutually fulfilling way. It could be due to work, family issues, illness, emotional or mental health, or any other outside factor that negatively impacts how you show up and what you can offer someone else.

  • If you’re just not compatible: If what you both bring to the table don't mesh well together. This could be lifestyle, personality, future goals, values, or relationship expectations. Any combination of these can mean you and your person disagree about really important factors, or can't get along day-to-day because you're just too different.

Timing versus compatibility is a really nuanced question, as they change as people do and often overlap. For example, how a couple navigates bad timing can say a lot about compatibility, because not being able to collaboratively troubleshoot bad timing is a disconnect in how they approach adversity. Similarly, a change in someone’s personality over time informs bad timing. It can get complicated, so all you can do is use your best judgment when deciding which is holding your relationship back. Wait and hope that the timing or compatibility changes if you’d like, but be realistic about your odds. Betting on fate or drastic change to save a relationship will have you losing more money than a drunk trip to the strip club, because they aren’t a sure thing. Khadijah and Scooter betted on their love despite their differences, and succeeded in staying together as the series ended. Unlike TV characters, however, real people aren’t as lucky. It’s emotionally taxing to stay in a relationship with never-ending hurdles to jump, and will preclude you from finding someone you can have something healthier with. So, take a second, think it through, and do what is the healthiest for you. And remember, whether it’s bad timing or incompatibility, like the title of the show, there is no shame in living single and letting you and your partner’s series come to an end.

Written By: Eden Carswell (@locs_on_the_rocks, IG)


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