It might sound strange, but have you ever considered how much dating is like doing a research project? I say this because at the beginning, when you are first getting to know each other, both of you are collecting data. You are learning about them and they are learning about you through the questions you ask each other. This is very similar to how scientists collect data to answer their research question, except in this case, the research question is: Are we a good match with the potential to have a successful long-term relationship?
This article isn’t going to give you a one-size-fits-all list of questions to ask everyone that you go out with, or a detailed schedule of when to ask certain questions. Instead, it will provide guidance on how to start by asking yourself some key questions designed to help you learn about yourself and what is most important to you. Once you get clearer about what you need and want in a partner, the information you should collect about them will also become clear.
Before we dive into some self-exploration questions, we are going to briefly cover which characteristics tend to be most important for couples to have in common. Research has shown that sharing characteristics such as attitudes, values, and background (e.g., social class and religion) tend to predict satisfaction, companionship, intimacy, and love in long-term relationships better than sharing personality traits (Gordon, 2020). In addition, researchers have found that when there was more overlap in the ideal preferences someone said they wanted in a romantic partner and their partner’s perceived traits, they were less likely to get divorced (Eastwick & Neff, 2012).
Before you try to make a list of questions designed to assess how much you have in common with someone, take some time to reflect on your own values, beliefs, and priorities.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What are your religious and/or spiritual beliefs?
- What are your plans for marriage and having children?
- What is your philosophy when it comes to money and finances?
- What are your career aspirations or plans for the future?
- Where do you want to live? Do you plan to stay in the same place, or would you like to move around?
- What are your political views and views on key social issues? Are they likely to change?
- How much time do you like spending alone, with friends, and with each other?
- What makes you laugh? How would you describe your sense of humor?
- What role does your family play in your life?
- Are you open to new ways of looking at things or do you tend to hold your ground when it comes to your beliefs?
- How do you feel about the use of alcohol and other substances?
- What are your values in terms of things like honesty, reliability, trustworthiness, etc.?
- What are your favorite things to do?
Next, rank or rate each one of these items in terms of how important it is that your partner shares your response and circle the ones that are “deal-breakers” for you. These are things that, at least at this point in time, a potential partner must have in common with you for your relationship to be viable. Remember to be true to yourself as you answer these questions. It doesn’t do much good for your long-term relationship potential if you aren’t open and honest about yourself, your values, your vision for your future, and what you are looking for in a potential partner. Also know that it is perfectly okay to decide that someone is simply not compatible with your current or future lifestyle plans. That doesn’t make them a bad person, it just means that there is a better match for you out there.
Working through this process should have helped you learn more about yourself, while helping you identify the most important questions to ask your dates. Now you just need to figure out how and when to ask these key questions during your next dinner conversation.
Eastwick, P. W., & Neff, L. A. (2012). Do Ideal Partner Preferences Predict Divorce? A Tale of Two Metrics. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3(6), 667–674.
Gordon, A. M. (2020, September 25). Does similarity matter in a relationship? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-you-and-me/202009/does-similarity-matter-in-relationships
By Lisa Schainker, Extension Assistant Professor
Categories: Relationships & Marriage