Thursday, September 10, 2009


Several people I know have gleefully come up with situations for courting couples to attempt. They've had entirely too much fun, as I did when I poked and prodded my guinea pigs for three weeks. So I'm asking you: what should couples do to determine compatibility before actually dating?

Best answer gets an autographed copy of my book.


Blogger Kristin said...

To determine compatibility, I think nothing beats taking someone to the Emergency Room. You learn a lot about someone when you are bleeding profusely, waiting for them to transport you to the Land of Lidocaine, watching them figure out what to do for you.

Are they the kind of person who is decisive enough to know when you need a doctor and when ice and a drink will suffice, and if it requires an ER visit, are they the kind of partner that can locate their car keys, your health care card, and some chocolate for the road, and has the forethought to grab change for the lobby coke machine, a book to read while they wait, and your purse and cellphone, or are they going to let you bleed half to death while they fumble around the house vaguely wondering if you 'need anything'.

Nothing proves whether or not you are meant to be a team like an emergency situation.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

OK, I'll start.


Applying or removing. Or possibly both. For removing, preferably the old kind of wallpaper you have to steam off with a heavy rented steamer, and then scrape off the last bits.

I once removed wallpaper from a house with scratchy rough walls - apparently my grandfather had trouble getting the wallpaper to stick, as he had added molasses to the glue mixture. A nightmare to scrape off. Especially because you kept hitting your knuckles on the rough, scratchy wall.

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have Sex First. Nothing like spending tons of time finding out you're mentally compatible and then spending 10 minutes to discover that sexually you are on different planets.
Chemistry NOW, compatability in the morning

2:09 PM  
Anonymous whitney said...

Be roomates for a couple of years. Worked for me.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Char said...

take a road trip overnight -

is either a nag about driving, speed, directions, etc? does your musical taste jive? can you sustain a conversation - or, can you handle the silence in comfort? what about sleeping accommodations? activities - lots of physical stuff, just eating, see the sites or relax in the room?

2:28 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sara is absolutely right. Wallpaper.

The only other thing I can think of is camping. Roughing it camping, where tents would need to pitched, fire would have to made, chuck would need to be wagoned...and facilities would need to be dug. Bonus points if it is raining.

Peace - Rene

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Host one of the couple's delightful nieces/nephews/younger siblings for a fun-filled weekend of pseudo-parenting. Bonus points if the guest is age two or under OR a sullen teenager. Must work together to provide meals, clothing, entertainment, and discipline to said youngster.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Cat Connor said...

I always found watching prospective partners of my best friend try to walk the mine field of joy that my children bring- to be quite a test, and for fun we add grandparents!

Let's just say only one has survived thus far. He's even survived the emergency room test, away for weekend test, overseas wedding trip test, have dinner at my house test... nothing speaks of commitment more than a grown man listening to me tell him to eat his tomatoes so his boy bits don't fall off when he's old. (He loves having dinner with us!) :-)

3:06 PM  
Blogger Runs Like A Gay said...

Invite 10-15 of the friends and family of the potential couple for a celebratory get together.

Tell the couple about an hour before had that they have to feed and entertain the guests.

The debate between cheese and onion crisps and pickled onions versus individually crafted bruscetta's or the wash/up as you go along/leave it all until the mornign dichotomoy should sort out which relationships have what it takes.

If it's still not clear, then the realisation that one of the couple would rather talk for three hours about the relative merits of different translations of the works of Victor Hugo whilst the other downs three bottles of wine, puts heavy trance music on full blast and then dances like they're on a TV talent show for the rest of the night should destroy any notions of romance.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

I like the roadtrip idea, well in part because I took one once with the love, ok "lust" of my life and my car broke down in the middle of nowhere. his way of helping out in the situation was to fall asleep until it all blew over which was many, many hours. I hated him for that.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Emergency room? Yes, my consort got a splinter in his fanny (long story) and got a bit ticked at me when I couldn't pull it out with tweezers. Turns out it took the doctor a couple shots of anesthesia and a small incision to extract an inch long splinter that slid in under the skin.

Road trip? Maybe. Our first road trip ended in me looking for a hatchet to bury in his head as he icily told me he'd wished he'd left me at home...ah, good times....

For a more doable test, I recommend antique stores and flea markets. If you can look through endless amounts of old, dusty crap and listen to each other say "I remember this" or "my mother has that" and the ever popular "They want $120 for this Acme widget? I donated that to Goodwill in the original box, arrrgh!" about 10,000 times in an afternoon, you're on to something. And if you can silently shake your head as he's looking at beer cans, bite your tongue when he purchases 12 really good ones, tell him they're great or pretty or interesting and still think he's awfully cute as he carries those nasty (but carefully wrapped) things out of the store, he's probably a keeper.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous josita said...

You're showering together. Unlike those sexy movie scenes, the person who's not directly under the spray gets shivery: not "ooh-how-romantic" shivery but rather "I'm getting goosebumps on my goosebumps" shivery. Do you slip and slide around, risking life and limb to take turns soaking in the warmth? Do you postpone until you can order a second shower head? Do you give up on the whole sexy shower thing?

And just as you reach...uh, agreement, the bathroom doorknob rattles. A thin, young, hysterical voice shrieks from the other side of the door; the only words you can make out are "spilled" and "broken," plus gabble that sounds suspiciously like "blood." Oozing beneath the door is a puddle of apple juice.

If you can complete this scenario with everyone smiling, you win. Bonus points for cleaning up the juice so well that nobody's feet stick to the floor.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recommend attending a large family gathering in the hometown of one of the participants. This combines travel arrangements, dealing with family, dressing appropriately, and handling uncomfortable questions. For illustration:

I may not have told the entire truth about how long this family wedding was going to take. But my mother provided a very accurate timeline as we were leaving for the ceremony. Oops.

Where is this country church exactly? Oops.

No don't wear that, my mother will hate it.

Don't tell my mother about that one thing. Or about that other thing. Or that either. And no one mention that thing about my uncle ever.

No, I'm not acting weird. Why would you say that? I always act this way around my family. It's fine.

Are you sure you want to drink that much? My aunt's been watching how many times you go to the bar.

Why does my cousin want to beat you up exactly?

5:07 PM  
Blogger Trish said...

I think surviving "The Holidays" is a really good test of a relationship. "Your families house or mine?", "Big dinner at noon, or at 6:00/", "Can we squeeze in both, or is your families celebration an all day, can't miss a minute, extravaganza?", "Turkey or Ham?" "Open the presents on the Eve or the day?", " "Everyone, including crazy Uncle Joe is invited or just an intimate gathering or the immediate family?"

If you can survive the Most Wonderful Time of The Year, I say your golden!

5:27 PM  
Blogger houseband00 said...

Talk about your childhood. It would be great if there's a connection there. =)

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Tammy said...

Having attempted this feat more times that I would like to count, I am convinced that you should never, ever, choose a long term partner until you have attempted to assemble a piece of furniture from Ikea....

Your day begins around 10:30am, buy taking a trip to Ikea to pick out a desk, you know..the kind that has 50 faux wooden pieces that are attached together with 100 tiny pieces of hardware. First you must choose a desk, agreeing on the style and function. Once the desk is chosen, you load up your vehicle with the ten (or so) boxes. When you get home, you unload the boxes and sort the pieces, quickly realizing that you forgot to buy the hardware (sold separately). You are forced to take a trip back to the store to pick up the pieces.

Now back at home, a full 3 hours since you first embarked on this journey, you prepare to put together the desk. Since it is afternoon, you are both starving but are not allowed to eat until the desk is completely assembled.

You pull out the instructions and show them to your potential partner. Both of you look at each other, then back at the instructions which are full of pictures and arrows and confusing diagrams. Finally, you are able to plod through and actually succeed in assembling, oh, about a third of the desk. At that point, after searching and searching for a piece of hardware that is pictured on the instructions, you conclude that it is missing from the packages. You have no choice but to, once again, return to Ikea. When you arrive, you see that there are at least 10 other people in line at Customer Service. You wait and wait and wait. Once you reach the desk, you explain the problem and are told that, because you did not return all the original hardware (by taking apart the parts of the desk you had already assembled), you would have to re-purchase the entire set of hardware.

(I am exhausted and grumpy just typing this)

Finally, you return home...for the third time...with all the needed pieces now in your possession. Hours later, as the sun starts to set, you fasten together the last two pieces. Feeling a grand sense of accomplishment, you both carry the desk into the room to place it in what was already deemed... the PERFECT spot...only to realize that the desk you chose...and just spent an entire day entirely too big for the room.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Someone must vomit, and not from drunkeness.

I thought I was being helpful, and brought him a glass of cold water. Little did I know that I set it on one of those sink-indentations and actually poured cold water down his fevered back. His comment? Is this some weird family tradition of yours, pouring cold water down the back of the sick?

Advance a few years to find me pregnant/giving birth. While I vomited, he announced that if I wanted him to, he would pour a glass of cold water down my back. My comment? Is this your idea of 'funny'?

Thirty-one years of marriage and counting.

6:33 PM  
Blogger said...

Have a talk about ethics! I know. It sounds boring, but it's important. hehe

6:45 PM  
Blogger Melissa C Morris said...

spend 10 mins in a two person kayak. it's make or break almost immediately.

6:48 PM  
Blogger icydietcoke said...

Playing board games together is a great way to test compatibility. If you are able to play scrabble, uno, agggravation or any other competitive game and be able to walk away laughing and still wanting to kiss and hold hands you know you have a mtch made in heaven!

7:22 PM  
Blogger sherry stanfa-stanley said...

A few options:
1) Ask him to clean your cat's litterbox.
2) Ask him to buy you tampons.
3) Ask him what he bought his mother on her last birthday.

The right answer one any of these? He'd pass the test for me.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Debbie St.Amand said...

Canoing. The person in the back steers. The person in front has no control over where you go (and yet, they're going to get there first!)

Biggest stressor in our relationship was a weekend canoe trip. (We've decided we're more of a kayaking couple, with each of us in a separate kayak!)

Debbie in Florida

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Jen in SF said...

I vote for attending a family wedding as a couple. The wedding should be on the woman's side if she is over thirty and/or has several brothers. Attend a wedding from the man's family if he is particularly close to his mother and/or has several sisters. It's important that the evening include several events: encounter a very drunk and overly affectionate cousin who hits on your date. A slightly creepy uncle or friend of the family who repeatedly asks to dance with the woman. A grandmother pinching the checks of one's date. A minimum of 4 older women must ask the couple "So... when is YOUR big day?" and finally, yes, she must catch the bouquet.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Kirsten said...

challenge the couple to refill an empty toilet paper roll. seriously. paper over or under?

12:22 AM  
Blogger rachaelgking said...

In one word; ROAD TRIP.

Crap, that's two. Do I lose? It's still true... in fact, let's up the ante. If you can do a cross-country road trip with someone and, beyond not killing them, actually have fun, I'd say it's safe to go ahead and get hitched then and there.

4:33 AM  
Blogger StaceyEsq said...

Babysit someone else's children -- the brattier, the better.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Pamela said...

The bathroom is a really good place to start. Does he/she squeeze the tube of toothpaste from the middle or the end? Do they leave the cabinet door open? Do they clean up after themselves or do they leave towels all over the floor (a personal pet peeve)? Do they replace the toilet roll? Do they FLUSH? Yeah, the bathroom is a good test.

7:33 AM  
Anonymous thelittlefluffycat said...

Backrubs. Can they give a good one? A properly thorough one that goes on until you've fallen asleep? and then cover you with something soft and tiptoe out without checking to see if it was "okay"? Are they complimentary about your backrubs, while understanding that really, you need one a lot more than they do virtually always? Do they have warm hands?

8:15 AM  
Anonymous sherry said...

Here's a test: how does a prospective partner handle you grieving over the loss of a sibling?

Also agree with wallpapering or almost any home improvement project; two person kayaks; and camping.

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give each other greeting cards on the first date. The choices will say everything you need to know about each other's tastes, world outlook, humor style (or lack thereof), and will save you a lot of time and money.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Lori said...

Do a DIY project together!

9:46 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

Babysitting someone else's children is a great suggestion, as is the emergency room visit. I always say that your respective approaches to the end of a long trip or the aftermath of a party should be the same: you should both be "let's unpack/clean this up later" OR (and better) "let's unpack/clean up now" people.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

I have three suggestions:

1) Host Thanksgiving. For one set of relatives, or both, or for your most snobby and judgmental friends. Who will be a martyr and stay up all night? Who will google search "brining a turkey?" Who will want to show off by baking a homemade pie? Who will be the first to admit they have no idea where gravy comes from? Who will spend the most time on the phone with his or her mother? How to deal with the fact you don't have all the dishes/silverware you need? What of tablecloths? What about the ten zillion dishes??

Then, when its over, write letters to mothers or grandmothers, or whoever threw down your big dinner when you were a kid, expressing gratitude to her for making it look so easy, and also expressing shame for not having bothered to help one bit.

2) Have the stomach flu at the same time. In a location with ontly one bathroom. Hard to be awesomely sexy or perfect in this situation.

3) Garbage Jenga. Oh, you've never played? This is when two people ignore the garbage when it needs to be taken out. If your intended partner is a well-adjusted, rational person, he or she will remove the bag, and take it out to wherever the garbage goes. The other 99% of humans just keep balancing trash on top until the whole thing spills. Battle of wits or battle of twits? Find out in a hurry.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, I don't want to be too picky here but but if you think about almost all of the suggestions offered you'll realize that they are just not things that people who don't know each other would ever consider doing--at least not in the real world. If you haven't begun dating yet and maybe have never even met, why would you do anything that requires your family, over-nights,etc.? you wouldn't.

Although you might have sex before dating, this isn't really he best way to determine anything more than physical compatibility. You can't assume the couple has had any contact with each or are willing to jump into heavy duty life situations with someone they don't know. Real world or fantasy word? You decide.

So, it may be a cute game but how about ideas that actually would be possible and are likely to be carried out given the question? Most of the answers are things to consider after you are dating and want to intensify knowing each other.

With that preamble in mind, here's something that would be both revealing and that two people deciding whether to date might actually be willing to do:

Take a personality profile and see how compatible you are. This cuts through some of the verbal "putting the best foot forward" stuff and in scoring and comparing profiles, a lot of good discussion will take place, allowing the couple to begin to know the ways they are both similar and different. In addition, it isn't too threatening, requires no big commitment of time or energy, and gets both thinking about issues that are easy to avoid if left up to the couple. Taking a personality profile is standard procedure for all those going on some of the online dating services, so it is proven that people will do it BEFORE actually dating.

Yes, I know it isn't as interesting as some of those juicy suggestions offered but in the real world, a couple very well may take an innocent profile that helps them determine capatibility but they're not going to play with wallpaper together or anything else until they actually have enough interest to spend time together. And that means they're already dating and wanting to know each other in new ways.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

Wow, I had no idea that wallpapering, kayaking, assembling furniture, going to a family gathering, exchanging greeting cards, playing board games, discussing ethics, babysitting, or going to the emergency room could be considered juicy - all in fact, you could easily do before dating.

For that matter, you can also be completely platonic roommates, go camping, or go on a road trip before dating.

I irrevocably decided against dating one person after seeing the state of his bathroom - I still remember it. Shudder. Glad I saw it in the pre-dating phase. So I'll add that as a first, easy compatibility-test: Take a look at the other person's bathroom.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Delightfully Healthy said...

Introduce your pet to your prospective date. Bonus points if s/he has one, too. Especially if one's a dog and one's a cat. Animals can be fabulous judges of character.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course you could do them, but my point was how likely are you to actually do them with someone you have not even met? How likely are you to actually go to an emergency room with someone you don't know? Maybe you would play a board game and perhaps you would exchange greeting cards. But babysitting? Family gathering? Think about your own experience and see if you've ever gone to some guy's family gathering before you began dating. The guy isn't even going to want to bring you home unless he's already into you, right?

So the issue isn't whether these things are possible to do but whether they are likely. But you're welcome to roam around in Fantasyland if you wish.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Vodka Mom said...

hell- stick them in a kindergarten room with 25 brand new kindergarten students- five of whom don't speak English, and one that only quacks.

Lock the door.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

Dear Anonymous:

I don't think the contest stipulated that you hadn't met the person yet. Many great relationships start with knowing the person as a friend or colleague first. And perhaps I am odd, as I have done many if not most of these things with people I was not yet dating (and often subsequently decided not to date). Yes, I have dragged male friends home to family gatherings. Yes, I had a male friend hang out while I was babysitting. Yes, I have gone to the ER with a male friend. Board games, yes. Assembled furniture, yes. Greeting cards, well, I don't do much of that.

Respectfully yours
Sara in Fantasyland

3:37 PM  
Blogger stash haus said...

I think all of these tests are great. Definitely home improvement and holidays. We tried once to fit both families in on Thanksgiving and on Christmas. Never again.

The only problem with a bathroom test is that one rule would be that you cannot change your regular habits. Funny how the toilet seat was never left up, he actually replaced an empty paper roll, and the batheroom was always clean while we were dating or living together. Now? Not so much. And don't even get me started on the toothpaste tube. It's why we each have our own.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Attend a sporting event. If he shows up at your door in a hat with two beer cans attached by straws, face paint and a belly shirt so you can see a large letter painted on his torso....

5:05 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Picture it: a lovely cabin in the woods, isolated just perfectly from the rest at a resort. Not too far, not too close. Blizzard comes in and completely isolates the cabin for at least three days. The food supplies are limited: think Vienna sausages and crackers with plenty of water. The air is foul (who keeps farting?). The entertainment is limited and one of the party keeps seeing a huge rat that the other denies even existing. Heating supply of a moderate amount but the loving couple doesn't know when they will be able to get out of there.
Now dance, my monkeys, DANCE!

6:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go to an Open Mike night at a comedy club to find out what the other person laughs at. Sex and household chores and cooking can be taught, but humor and laughter can't be learned, taught, or faked.
Susan, who loves to laugh

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Naomi B. said...

Take a strenuous hike together and reach the top of the mountain still happy.
Does one person need to take frequent breaks? Do you stay together, or does one person get tired of the slowpoke and move on so that the slowpoke can barely keep them in sight and can't gasp loud enough that they need another break and would you please bring back the water?
Does the slowpoke whine and complain about being tired, sweaty and out of breath or do the square themselves for the challenge while being admittedly less accustomed to hiking than the other?

9:10 AM  
Blogger EGE said...

Blowing my unexpected severance pay on a spontaneous two-month backpacking trip through Europe worked for me & Johnny. It wouldn't have, but when I left him on the train platform and told him to find his own way home without me, I discovered that our Eurail passes were only valid as a pair. Twelve years later, here we are...

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Jen said...

Deal with your prospective partner's food poisoning that is the result of a family gathering at your parents' house. Oh, and the only remedy is suppositories, which he is too sick to insert himself.

12:09 PM  
Blogger said...

Interesting to read other people's entries. I think mine was the most boring. hahaha

In any case, I love the triple blog post. :-) I couldn't agree with it more.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Karen from Mentor said...

When I'm interested in dating a man I just give him some of the erotica that I've written. Then if the dating works out when I get to the point of bedding him, it keeps me from having to draw all of those pesky diagrams.....


5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like what the late Richard Jeni said: get a card table instead of a dinner table. And get out a stack of cards where you write out your problems which you reveal to your date.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Load up in a vehicle, preferably one that has very little dependability, and head out for an 8-hour road trip (which turns into 14 hour road trip) to 'possible' in-laws for some type of high-stress holiday (thanksgiving, christmas, wedding, groundhog day). car malfunctions, bad bathrooms, greasy off-name fast food, and assorted, unsavory relatives are absolutely included. if you are still speaking after this trip, make it legal (or at least semi-permanent)...
(p.s. LOVED the book, quinn)

11:53 AM  
Blogger BiPolar Wife said...

In my humble opinion, and having been with the same cute guy now for almost 23 years, the best test of a person's true character is how they:

1) Act at the airport when the flight is late/delayed/cancelled.

2) Are the recipient of crappy services at a restaurant.

3) Have a problem with the cell phone/cable bill and have to talk to someone at the 800-number "customer service" line.

A man who throws a fit, verbally berates flight attendants/waitresses/customer service representatives is going to have NO patience when it comes to kids, family members (yours OR his) that he does not like and basically anyone who throws a slight glitch into his day or does something to inconvenience him.

I married someone who had been a waiter and I likewise was a waitress in college. We KNOW what it is like to be on the other side of the counter and be treated rudely. He blessedly is always respectful to people he doesn't know and of course, to me and everyone else he does know.

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two tests early in the dating process -- how does he treat the waiter/waitress, and does he turn off or ignore the cell phone or BlackBerry on a date?

8:27 AM  
Blogger happyhubbub said...

You need to move and he's the only one that shows up to help. It's snowing and you live on the second floor. You've had the stomach bug and haven't packed but you but DO happen to have 3 laundry baskets. Did I mention it's New Years Eve? Load the baskets and dump the contents in the new house (letting socks, silverware and toothpaste mingle). Repeat approximately 300 times. The car needs to break down at least twice and require being the the dead of night. Sometime during all of this you share the stomach bug with him. Don't forget the furniture! The big, bulky horrid furniture that causes you to slip down the stairs!
End the night by ringing in the New Year over a shared puke bucket and package of saltines.

If you manage to actually laugh together at the end of the night - keep seeing each other!

I also have to agree with DIY projects and tending for each other when sick (needs to be the high-maintenance kind of sick though!)

12:50 PM  
Anonymous hollienne said...

I loved Quinn's hilarious,tortured journey of two perspective mates and I truely agree that such a sojuorn would certainly give each food for thought. My test,however,is not humorous. This test is from personal experience-the couple must endure going through a serious medical condition together. I met present husband soon after a divorce which was 9 years of pure hell. Shortly after we started dating,I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid/Degenerative arthritis which was severe enough to force me to quit my job. This man stepped up to the plate and he took care of me and my son. We have been married almost 17 years and now it is my turn. At 45,he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. With such a diagnosis,it has made me realize how lucky I am to have this wonderful man in my life and each day with him is a gift. (He feels the same.) No matter what happens,we have been blessed with 2more children and 17 years of a happy marriage and that's more than many other people ever have.

4:56 PM  

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