When it comes to picking a life partner, there’s a lot of options out there (thanks, Tinder). How can you sort through the millions of potential soulmates to find a partner you’re actually compatible with? According to the experts, it’s all about asking the right questions
Whether you’re vetting dates or evaluating your current relationship, asking questions that assess your compatibility, can help you figure out if you and this person could work long term. (They also make for some super interesting dinner table conversation, TBH.) “You want to ask questions to determine your partners’ preferences to get to know them on a deeper level,” says Rebecca Hendrix, L.M.F.T., a relationship therapist in New York. “This helps you to see where you match up.”
Hendrix and other experts dished the most important questions to ask your partner—and yourself—for the ultimate test of compatibility. Get ready to ditch small talk and get down to business.
1. How do you spend your free-time?
How you spend your free time seems like a pretty innocuous question—but it can be huge for determining your compatibility. “If they say they love sleeping ’til noon and going for a boozy brunch, while you’re more of a green juice and spin class gal, you may not be compatible in this area,” says Hendrix. Make sure there’s some common ground in your weekend goals or plan to make some big compromises.
2. What is your attachment style?
“Attachment styles are about how much closeness you can tolerate before your nervous system signals overload—and how much intimacy you can do without until your nervous system signals panic,” says Brandy Engler, Psy.D., a relationship therapist in Los Angeles and author of The Women on My Couch.
Some people are naturally more independent—meaning they’re totally cool with only hanging out once a week and might feel stifled by daily phone calls. Other people, meanwhile have an attachment style more suited to hanging out 24/7, Engler explains. “People on opposite ends of this spectrum are not very compatible—they cause each other a great deal of stress,” she says.
To determine where you and your partner fall, define concretely how much time you like to spend with an S.O., how physically affectionate you are and how much of those things you expect from a partner.
3. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read lately?
“Ask questions that help you to understand what inspires their intellect,” Hendrix says. “If you sign up to be life partners you will be spending a lot of downtime together and you want to be with someone with whom you can carry on stimulating conversation.” If reading isn’t their thing, ask what music has them fired up or what art show they’re dying to see. Whatever it is, you want to make sure you’re intellectually compatible and can keep up with one another.
4. What are your spiritual beliefs?
Differing religious views aren’t grounds for a breakup—there are tons of successful couples with inter-faith relationships. “Your partner’s spiritual beliefs don’t have to be the same as yours,” Hendrix says. “But if spiritual beliefs are important to how you view life and how you will want to raise your family, it’s important to know how close or far your beliefs are.
Ask if they believe in a higher being or power, if they believe in life after death, if they have a belief system that helps guide their life, and how important is it to them that their family be raised in this belief system.”
5. What’s your sex drive like?
If you want to get it on all the time while your partner naturally has a lower libido, that’s a recipe for compatibility disaster. “People with discrepant sex drives really struggle down the road,” says Engler.
While it might be easy to overlook during the honeymoon phase when you’re naturally more physical, “the lower sex drive person often can’t keep up with accommodating the higher driver person,” Engler explains.
This one can be hard to resolve, she adds, so talking about it up front is a super important part of determining your future compatibility.
6. What is your sexual style?
While you’re at it, ask your partner about their sexual style, Engler says. “It’s good to reflect on how each person approaches sex emotionally and erotically,” she says. If your perfect night involves some kinky S&M but your partner is more about rose petals and romantic music, it can be tricky.
“If both partners are open to expanding, this can work,” Engler says. “But if you are both rigid and fixed in your ways, you may end up feeling chronically frustrated.”
7. What will you do with your bonus next month?
Even if you have totally separate financial lives now, your attitudes about money can be a major factor in determining whether you and your partner are compatible down the road. “Every couple has one partner who is more of a saver and one partner who is more of a spender,” explains Hendrix.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder money is such a common topic to fight over. It becomes an incompatibility issue when you and your partner are on extreme ends of the spectrum. To save yourself more serious fights, “ask questions about what they do when they have extra cash in the bank, what money means to them, and how they view debt,” up front, Hendrix says.
8. Can you depend on this person?
Some questions needed to determine compatibility are ones you should ask yourself. The biggest one? Ask yourself if you can really depend on your partner. “This is a question that comes up over and over in couples’ therapy,” says Engler. “When you share a life together, from daily chores to major life events, you want to know you can depend on this person and they will not put all the responsibility on you.”
Ask yourself whether your partner pulls his or her weight, if they’re there for you when you’re upset, if they make you dinner when you’re working late. “This is an area that people don’t discuss and negotiate—but they do complain about it a lot later,” Engler says. “It’s wise to take care of this early and figure out how you will provide for each other. If not, someone will feel abandoned later.”
WHEN TO REASSESS
When you and your partner are super compatible, you’ll find yourself having similar answers to most of these questions—Hendrix says agreeing about 80 percent of the time is a good number to shoot for. “You want to reassess if you are starting to feel either a great number of things you don’t agree on or a great level of intensity when you disagree on something,” she says.
There’s no exact formula to figure out if you’re compatible or no single question you can ask to figure out if you’re doomed. Ultimately, says Hendrix, “it depends how important it is to you to be with someone who is compatible with you in that specific area.”