Have you ever been with someone who seemed ideal in the beginning of your relationship and then later—sometimes much later—you realized were definitely not meant to be together?
Several years ago I was in a long-term relationship with a woman I was convinced was my soul mate. I told anyone who would listen that she was “the one.” We laughed at the same jokes, listened to the same music and enjoyed the same movies. On paper, we were the perfect match.
But as time passed, I noticed some pretty serious incompatibilities in our personalities. Whereas I was Type A and needed to hit the ground running in the morning, she preferred to ease into her day. That meant that, quite often, I found myself waiting impatiently. I swear the more impatient I became, the slower she moved.
In addition, I’m a hardcore extrovert while she was a self-described introvert. I deferred to her. My resentments piled up. In the end, our fundamental incompatibilities eclipsed the awesomeness and we broke up.
I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could test your compatibility before wasting years or decades on a relationship that is probably doomed from the beginning?”
So, I made it my mission to discover how to evaluate compatibility before getting too invested in a relationship. I’m not saying it will workout perfectly, but it’s kind of fun to play with.
What Science says: Good Couples Are Made of This
I found that relationship experts at a major university used the acronym FACES to test a few components of compatibility.
- Family Background: Our upbringing is a big indicator of how we’ll deal with relationships later on. Our families influence how we handle conflict, communication, and gender roles. While people shouldn’t be blamed for their family dynamics, they provide an important point for you to consider.
- Attitudes: Attitudes include everything from how a person differentiates right from wrong to how much empathy a potential partner has. Pay attention to any red flags and don’t let someone’s “best side” obscure their real side. For example, if a person is polite to their coworkers but rude to waiters, servers, landscapers, and other people “below” them, then that’s an indicator of their personality.
- Compatibility Potential: This is where those likes and dislikes, goals and values and questions of extraversion vs. introversion come into play. Early on in a relationship, you may be inclined to overlook some pretty serious incompatibilities. Don’t. No matter how great the sex is, no matter how attractive this person is, consider not throwing out your core values and personality traits just to suit them. For example, if you can’t stand the smell of cigarette smoke, don’t date someone with a two-pack-a-day habit. Or, if you’re committed to a life of freedom and adventure, don’t date someone who immediately wants to settle down into a traditional lifestyle.
- Examples of Previous Patterns: Your past doesn’t always equal your future, but it can sure be a good indicator. If your partner (or potential partner) tends to have nasty breakups or can’t main friendships it may be a big, bright red light. Proceed at your own risk
- Skills for Relationships: Good communication skills and the way you handle conflict are an excellent indicator of how you will fare as a couple. Do you talk things out or tend to yell and/or throw things?
With those university-researched components in mind, I set about devising a questionnaire to determine my compatibility with a date. These questions also make for a great conversation topic as you’re getting to know each other. They show that you’re interested in getting to really know someone and that you look beyond the superficial.
Qualification Test: Are you girlfriend material?
Start by saying that entering into any relationship is not to be taken lightly. And you could say that you learned these questions from a friend who has studied relationships for a long time (true!):
- “If I asked your past partners about your honesty and trustworthiness in the relationship, how would they answer?”
This question helps gauge a person’s integrity. Of course, if someone has a pattern of dishonesty, they may not answer this question truthfully. If possible, follow up with an ex or talk to their friends—hopefully they are one and the same; the ability to maintain friendships with past lovers is a sign of integrity and maturity in relationships.
Let’s be clear that this does not mean you go around interviewing anyone you can find from her past. But look for clues as you socialize with that person’s friends. Do people roll their eyes whenever their past relationships are mentioned? Do they refer to all their exes as “crazy”?
- “What have you learned about yourself in the past five years?”
It has been said that a rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out. If one or both of you isn’t committed to working toward personal emotional growth, the relationship may be dead before it even begins.
- “In what area of your life do you find you’re the most irresponsible?”
Losing the car keys is one thing but not being able to keep a job is quite another. This is a question to determine someone’s maturity and responsibility. Listen closely to the answer.
- “What is your philosophy of life?”
You’re looking for answers such as Thoreau’s “live the life you have imagined” and not “it sucks and then you die.” Positive people make better partners—always.
- “What’s your biggest sexual fantasy?”
The person with lowest libido in a relationship will determine the frequency of your sex life. If it isn’t enough for you or you’re just not into the same things, it may be best to cut your losses.
Sexual incompatibility is one of the main culprits behind both infidelity and breakups. Don’t minimize sex’s importance when screening potential mates. Plus it’s a fun topic.
- “Do I admire this person?”
If you respect someone and perhaps even strive to be more like them in some way, you’re on the right track.
- “Would I want to have children with this person?”
While you may not know the real answer to this for years, it’s worth a moment of consideration. Depending on your circumstances, you just might. Would this person make a good co-parent? Even if you’re not thinking about children in the near future, this is still a useful query to pose. Think ahead, and think what qualities you hope a parent would possess. Then, see how this person stacks up.
- “Would I want a child who is like this person?”
Your kid just might be. Think about it.
- “What if this person never changes?”
Gambling on someone’s potential is a sucker’s bet. If you can see yourself with this exact same person five, ten, twenty years down the road, there’s a good chance she’s the one—or at least one of the ones.
How to Ask These Questions
It’s imperative that you do not interrogate someone with these queries. This is not a prime-time interview with a presidential candidate. You’re not trying to “catch” this person.
Instead, you’re trying to get to know them. These are questions to stimulate a conversation, not play gotcha. You can pose all these at the same time, rapid-fire style and make a “Truth or Dare” game out of it.
Or ask in other ways: during a quiet moment together, maybe during a nice meal or a walk, ask one of these questions. Truly listen to their response and let the conversation go from there. Simply because they answered doesn’t mean you move on to the next topic.
Also, be prepared to answer these questions yourself. Whether you’re single and approaching in a bar or in a committed relationship of ten years, never ask a question that you’re not prepared to handle if the tables are turned. Share your background, thoughts, and philosophies honestly.
These questions will help you get to know this person and start off your relationship with some solid information. And you’ll never look back and think, “I should have known better,” again.