Getting back into the dating game can be tough, especially if you just got out of an LTR. From the very beginning, you’re stuck wondering if you should try to become one of the many online dating success stories, or meet someone “organically” like your parents and grandparents probably did. When you finally do land the all-important first date, you’ll probably spend a lot of time wondering if you’re saying the “right” stuff or if the other person thinks you’re as awkward as you feel. Quite frankly, it’s a miracle that many of us actually end up in serious relationships with all the hassle it takes to get there. But what should you know before you date someone?
Whether you’re gearing up for your first date with someone or preparing to take things to the next level with a person you’ve been seeing for a while, it’s always good to ask yourself what you really want out of this. Maybe you’re looking for your soul mate, or maybe you’re just hoping for a quality fling, but either way, you should always look for someone who is, at the very least, a decent person with whom you’re reasonably compatible. And to do that, you might need to ask them a few questions… or at least do some thorough Facebook stalking.
It’s obviously not necessary to approach your current flame as though they were a job interview candidate, but by the time you’ve hung out a few times, there are some basic things you should know about them before deciding if you want to make things a bit more serious. Since a study by Breakthrough for a Broken Heart author Paul Davis says that it only takes an average of six to eight dates for couples to become “exclusive,” you might want to cover all your bases pretty early on, too. It’s completely up to you to decide what you can tolerate and what constitutes a deal breaker, but no matter what, you should be armed with the information you need to make an informed decision about your love life.
- Their Current Relationships with their Exes
The obvious reason for this is that you don’t want to be involved with someone who is still hung up on someone else. The less obvious one is that how a person describes the people they’ve previously dated says a lot about them. Occasionally, people do have really bad luck with relationships, but more often than not, when a person describes all their exes as being “psychos” or “bitches,” the exes weren’t really the problematic ones in the relationships. If your person of interest says something like “They’re a good person, just not for me,” or, “This one cheated on me, but I’m actually still on decent terms with that one,” then it’s a good sign that they’re mature and are emotionally ready to start dating again. Just try not to bring this one up on the first date.
- Their (Short-Term) Plans for the Future
You don’t need to talk about baby names the first time you hang out, but you should know if the person you’re interested in is going to move across the country within the next three months before you get emotionally involved. It’s perfectly reasonable to work together to accommodate your lifestyles to fit your relationship once you’ve been together for a while, but when you first start seeing someone, you need to make sure that your future and their future are going to be aligned long enough to actually be able to get to that point.
- Their Day-to-Day Schedule
There are loving relationships that succeed despite one person working the day shift and the other person working the night shift, but they are few and far between. If you’re hoping to start a relationship with someone whose schedule is completely incompatible with yours, you’d better be OK with spending lots of time apart from your new beau. There are some couples who do really well with only seeing each other for an hour every week, and there are others who would prefer to spend every waking moment with their S.O. Just make sure you know what you want before committing to anything serious.
- Their Stance on the Things that Matter to You
It’s pretty much impossible to find someone who agrees with you on every subject. However, if you know right off the bat that you could never date someone who believes that your dogs shouldn’t sleep on the bed with you, then you should probably figure out their opinions on pet co-sleeping before you get too emotionally invested in what you have going. After all, chemistry is great, but it becomes irrelevant when you and the person you’re dating disagree on fundamental issues.
- Their Criminal Record
Are you going to discover that the person you’re seeing is actually running an underground league of super-villains? Probably (and unfortunately) not. Are you going to discover that they have a bit of a reputation for domestic violence or sexual assault? Maybe… and that “maybe” is a good enough reason to check. It’s your call to decide whether or not you’d want to date someone who was once arrested on a serious drug charge or has a habit of not paying their parking tickets, but if you think you’re going to be spending a lot of time with them, you should know what you’re getting into first. Lots of the time, a background check will come up with a squeaky clean record, but being as 20 million people in the United States have been convicted of a felony, you could do yourself a big favor by running one just in case.
- Their Physical Activity Level
As someone who has been both the lazier and the more active partner in relationships, I feel pretty confident in saying that if there’s a massive exercise disparity between two romantically-involved people, things will usually not work out in the long run. It’s not an issue of weight or physical appearance, but how you spend your time. A person who spends hours at the gym every day is going to get frustrated when their S.O. wants to spend all their free time watching TV, and a person who hates to sweat is not going to get the same enjoyment out of an all-day hike as someone who constantly wants to be moving. If you’re willing to change your whole lifestyle for someone you’re dating, more power to you, but most of us will prefer to date someone who neither holds us back, nor leaves us in the dust.
- Their Relationship with their Family
Despite what many people think, you can figure this one out without getting all Freudian in the middle of a dinner date. It’s important stuff to know, too, because the way a person interacts with their family is a good way to gauge how they’ll interact with your family… and with you. For example, someone who calls their mom every day is probably someone who will treat your mom with respect and help out if (dare I say “when?”) you have kids of your own. But someone who still brings his laundry over to their mom’s house every week is one that will expect you to treat them the same way that their mother does.
- How they Treat People in the Service Industry
Some people like to shoot down restaurants as being a cliche first date, but I pretty much insist on going out to eat the first time I meet someone. Reason number one is obviously because food, but reason number two is because I can pretty much always tell whether or not I’d be willing to go on a second date with someone based on how they treat the server. You can learn a lot about someone based on how they treat people whose job it is to do whatever the customer wants, and even if your date treats you like a princess, it’s important to remember that a person who is nice to you but isn’t nice to the waiter is not a nice person.