Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This Relationship Corner: Testing Your Relationship

There comes a time in most relationships when you put on a white lab coat, grab a clip board, and force the one you love to run through a maze. I'm being metaphorical (I hope) about the ways we test the relationship and each other. As we seek to find out whether this person is someone we see ourselves with long-term, we run various tests, just as our partner is testing us. And that's the way it's supposed to be.

The reason we test is simple. It's how we discover things. Just ask the Mythbusters. They test a myth to see whether it's true, false, or plausible, and no matter how it turns out, they know more about it coming out of the test than they did going in. Then they blow something up, which is why science is awesome. In our case, these tests help us discover what we want out of a relationship and whether this other person can give it to us.

But before you go racing to find the latest Cosmo quiz, let me assure you that I'm not talking about those tests, but ones that are actually useful. I'm also not taking about being sneaky and underhanded, trying to manipulate your partner into doing what you want. The goal is to see who your significant other truly is and whether the two of you are compatible long-term.

I'd like to profile three of the tests that we run in our relationships and why they are essential to your long-term health. After all, if you can weed out the riff-raff early, it will save you weeks, months, even years of time, time better spent looking for the right person.

Asking Questions

From the start, you two have been asking many, many questions about each other, because that's how you get to know each other. These questions are another level of inquiry. Unlike the get-to-know-you questions, these have a wrong answer. When you ask them, you're looking for specific responses, and if you don't get them, you have to decide what that means for the relationship.

There's no one set of questions you must ask, but I'm going to recommend a few that I think are important. If nothing else, there are questions that you should have answers for, because if you don't ask them, the odds are good that someone you're dating will.

Do you ever want to get married? - This is a rather important question if that's where you intend to take any long-term relationship. If your partner answers differently, than your feelings, perhaps it's time to move on.

Do you want children? - If you want them and your partner doesn't, don't assume that marriage, or being together, will automatically change that opinion.

What's your religious faith? - If it's different from yours, can you handle it? Can he/she? If you can get past religious differences in yourselves, what about children? The biggest issue facing couples of differing faiths is how to raise the children, and it's something you ought to work out.

What's your attitude towards pets? - If you love animals, have animals, and your partner hates them, that's a bigger issue than you may realize. One of you will be unhappy, and you both need to ask yourselves if that's what you want.

What are your long-term goals? - If you have goals that aren't compatible with your partner's, that will be an issue. Ask yourself if he/she is going into a career you can live with/be married to. Some jobs are stressful on relationships: police officers, military, ministers, doctors, lawyers, to name a few. Can you handle it? Can your partner handle it if you have one of those jobs.

What's your relationship history? - I wrote last time about talking about the ex. This goes further, because your partner's history will give you a good idea about your future together.

How do you feel about my hobby? - Whether you are into sports, video games, comic books, community theater, or anything else, your hobbies are a part of you, and if your partner can't accept it, and has no interest in ever joining in, then you two might not be so compatible. The same thing goes for your partner's hobbies.

What are your expectations for our sex life? -  Sex is important to a long-term relationship; it's what bonds you, keeps you close, and forges the most intimate connection you can have with another person. Whether it's talking about birth-control, likes and dislikes, and even when to introduce sex into the relationship, the two of you need to be on the same page when it comes to your sex life.

What's your financial situation? - Money problems are a huge stresser in relationships, especially when one or both of you aren't honest about your own financial situation. Until you have an honest talk about money, and until you are happy with what you hear, don't link your lives together.
If your partner is a gambling addict, whatever you do don't get married or have any kind of joint accounts. A gambling addict will destroy you financially.

These are a few of the important questions, and I'm sure you have a lot more you'd like to ask. Remember that these answers are important and aren't insignificant. If you don't like what you hear, you need to put serious thought into whether this relationship is going long term. Of course, questions aren't the only tests.


Sometimes the best way to figure out if you should be together is spending time apart. It's counter-intuitive, I know, but time away from each other can give you a lot of valuable data. The first thing it will help you figure out is whether you like being with your partner.

Separation gives you some perspective on the relationship. Ask yourself how you feel when your girlfriend/boyfriend isn't around. Do you miss him/her? Or do you find that you don't miss your partner. Sometimes we get so caught up being in a relationship we don't know whether we actually like the person we're with. When you finally have some time to yourself, you can figure out how you really feel. If you find you're happier with your partner, you have your answer. If you prefer not being around your partner, that's also an answer.

This will also tell you a thing or two about your significant other. For example, if he/she can't even go a day without you and calls once an hour and texts every five minutes, that's a sign of an unhealthy relationship brewing. There's missing you and basing his/her entire life around you. If your partner has no outside interests, no friends, no way of spending even a day alone, that spells trouble. A healthy relationship requires two healthy people, and being able to spend a little time apart once in a while is a sign of health.

The oposite extreme is also problematic. If your partner doesn't miss you, or even notice you're gone, that isn't promising for a long-term relationship. If your significant other starts dating someone else when you've only been apart for a day or two, that's also a sign that you two don't have long-term prospects.

Separation is an important test, whether to gauge how you'll fare apart, or whether you even want to reunite. When you're together, though, there are still more tests to run.

Third Party Analysis

The two of you aren't dating in a vacuum. There are other people involved, both your friends and family networks. Before you started this relationship, you had many people in your life, and they will always be important. A good way to test your romantic relationship is to see how well your significant other fits with your already established circles, as well as how you fit with with his/hers.

Naturally, neither of you will get along perfectly with everyone, and that's perfectly normal. What you both are looking for is whether you get along with the people who matter to you the most. It could be your family, or perhaps a close-knit group of friends. Whoever it is, you need your significant other to get along with them, and it would be even better if they actually bond.

It's more than just because you all will see a lot of each other, though that is part of it. It's because there's a reason you get along with your friends, especially those you've known for a very long time. If your partner can't get along with them, that points to a serious compatibility problem in your relationship and does not bode well for long-term success. Your friends and significant other should share some of the same interests. They should be able to enjoy time spent together.

This happened when I introduced my wife to my friends from High School. She was down for the weekend and we all went out for a night of bowling and karaoke. And no, I don't care what you think because it was a blast. It was also a valuable step in our road to marriage, because she got along very well with my oldest and dearest friends. In fact, she got along too well and they started telling stories on me, which is totally unfair, but that's another article.

There's another reason you bring your partner by friends or family. Your friends and family can be the canary in the mine. Just like old-fashioned miners would keep an eye on the canaries to see if they were still alive deep down in the earth, you should keep an eye on how your friends and family react to your partner. If the people whose judgement you trust the most try to warn you away from this person, you really should listen. They might be able to see what you can't in your love-struck gaze, that this isn't a great relationship and you're headed for trouble.

Likewise, if the people who know you best tell you not to screw this one up, because they like your significant other, that's a positive sign. Your friends aren't just a check against bad decisions, they can give you the all clear to one of the best choices you'll ever make. That's what happened with me, and ten years later my friends were right on the money.

These aren't the only tests you can run, but they're three of the most important. This is why rushing into long-term commitment can get you into trouble. You are making what could be a life-altering decision; it will be a good idea to make sure it's the right person, and that's what testing will teach us. 

What are relationships like in a fantasy universe? Find out in the book I wrote.

Previous Relationship Corners

No comments:

Post a Comment