A few weeks ago I received my favorite text message ever:
Since then, we've talked a lot about healthy relationships, pacing things, guarding hearts, et al. The only real difference between college and now is that today I have the benefit of having been married for seven years. So, GAME CHANGER.
One of the things I told my anonymous friend, and something I really believe, is that time and pace are just tools to make sure you get real answers to the right questions.
So - we're having this conversation and I'm feeling maybe a little too enlightened when my friend says,
"So, what are the right questions?"
Yeah. Here's the thing about that. NOBODY KNOWS.
But I spent a few days thinking about it, and I asked some married friends that are smarter than me, and so, together, we give you:
10 Right Questions to Answer About the Person You're Dating
1. Listen to him eat a bowl of cereal. Is that sound something you can tolerate for the rest of your life? THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Treat this issue with the respect it's due.
2. Does he exhibit self-control? You do not want to be married to someone with no self-control. Think finances, think housework, think fidelity, think EVERY AREA OF LIFE.
Look for: Does he put off or blow off other responsibilities to spend time with you? If so, it's easy to feel "Yay! Chemistry! I'm a PRIORITY." But it can be a red flag. Does he push boundaries physically? If he does, don't think, "Yay! He can't get enough of me!" Instead, ask yourself, "Is he exhibiting self-control?"
Now substitute "self-control" with another character trait - maybe kindness, or patience, or courage, or honesty. All the right questions will point you to character. Chemistry and compatibility matter just as much, but they're easy to see. After just a few dates, you know. The right questions don't answer, "Do we fit? Do we click? Is there something special here?" Because, duh. The right questions answer "What kind of character does this man have? What kind of habits? What is he made of, on the inside, through and through?"
3. Is he investment-minded? Relationships die if they aren't tended. Committed to stay and committed to work are two totally different things. It's very 2014 to "chill" and "hang out" and "do something." But listen - if someone asks your guy "What are you going to do this weekend?" and he says "I'm going to spend time with my girlfriend, because that's important," MARRY THAT DUDE.
Look for: Does he ask intentional questions? When you've told each other all your stories, will you have made your own, together? Is he relationally intelligent? (When I asked my married friends what questions they would recommend asking/discovering/settling at least 85% of them said: "DOES HE SPEAK HER LOVE LANGUAGE? DOES HE VALUE SPEAKING IT? WILL HE TRY TO LEARN HER LOVE LANGUAGE? IS HE EVEN PHYSICALLY CAPABLE?" So, that's kind of a huge deal.)
4. Do you respect his decisions and his decision-making skills? Not whether or not you can influence them, or whether he is willing to defer some things to you. I mean, THAT, obviously, but don’t stop there. Ask, as my very wise friend Sarah suggested, "Left to his own devices, does she trust him enough that she can respect and submit to the decisions that he makes? If not, don't marry him."
Look for: The things he values, the way he spends his time. If you can't get on board with his life decisions so far, do not pass go; do not collect bridal shower presents.
5. Does he apologize? This question is the one that garnered the most vociferous, vehement, visceral reaction amongst my married friends. Does he apologize? How? It speaks to humility, respect, self-confidence, and a willingness to work at relationship.
Look for: Does he apologize to other people? (I only recently learned that there is a "Languages of Apology" book/assessment, in the same vein as Love Languages. Worth looking into.) And listen: apologies are sexy.
6. How does he fight? Hot or cold? Right away or the next day? In straight-up specifics, or in softer generalities? Does he call names? Is he sarcastic? Because IT'S GONNA HAPPEN, LOVE BIRDS. And you need to know, is this the man I want to fight with for the rest of my life?
7. "It's no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn't even speak to each other if they met at a party" -Nick Hornby If you had to listen to his music on a road trip, how soon into the drive would you try to throw yourself from the window of a moving vehicle?
8, 9, and 10. The three things that couples fight about the most (and the worst) are money, sex, and kids. That's it. The trifecta. Money, sex, and kids. There are one million questions wrapped up in money, sex, and kids, and one million blog posts that explore them. I'm not adding to that number today. Google it, find a list, ask them all.
What you really need to know is, when you're all twitterpated, and in love, and your hormones come out to play, you can't think clearly anyway - so if you're reading this you're probably already screwed. But it's okay. It can be pretty wonderful. :)
What would you add? What do you think is the most helpful, absolutely-must-settle-before-progressing, dating question? My anonymous friend and I want to know!