Three Questions Every Woman Should Ask a Potential Partner
It was a Saturday night in late summer 2012, and I was waiting in a velvet-roped line with my brand new boyfriend Ed at the hottest spot in Provo, Utah: the BYU Creamery on Ninth Street. Ed was clearly discombobulated; his eyes kept darting around at the sight of sweet elderly couples in dark suits and floral print dresses, young families juggling three children under the age of four, and wholesome blond-haired 20-year-olds glancing shyly at each other over their brownie sundaes and hand-scooped milkshakes.
"This is a college town?" Ed asked me again, shaking his head in disbelief. "Where are the bars? Where are the coffee shops?"
"Welcome to Provo, my love," I responded with a smile.
No computer algorithm would have matched Ed with me. Ed attended college in Boulder, Colorado, a place as ideologically removed from Provo, Utah as it is geographically similar. We both enjoyed mountain biking and hiking in our Mountain West college towns. But Ed's Halloween parties were legendary, and his college cafeteria was named after the American prospector convicted of cannibalism. I, on the other hand, managed to graduate with honors from Brigham Young University without drinking a single cup of coffee.
Though I am no longer a practicing Mormon, our cultural backgrounds can sometimes create awkward pauses in our conversations.
"Did you ever play that game where you watch the Bob Newhart Show and have to drink a shot every time someone says 'Bob?'" Ed has asked me more than once. I shake my head and reply, "Provo."
"Did you ever ask a girl to a dance by creating a poster board out of candy bars?" I have asked Ed more than once. He shakes his head and replies, "Boulder."
But here's the strange thing: though Boulder and Provo represent vastly different experiences, Ed and I just click.
We met at work, when I was a first-time manager trying to act like I knew what I was doing with an employee who had an MBA from a prestigious school and a Fortune-500 company-studded resume. I wrote Ed's performance evaluations for nearly three years, before I moved on to another organization. A few months later, Ed called and asked me out for a beer. He was just a friend trying to help me transition from one job to the next. But one beer "non-date" turned into another, and before I knew it, I was starting to question all the artificial reasons I'd articulated for not considering Ed as a romantic interest ("I was his manager. He's 12 years older than me. He's from New Jersey," etc.). And he was testing his own set of barriers ("She was raised Mormon. She spends so much time on social media. She has four kids," etc.)
At that point, I hadn't thought about love in nearly three years. In the immediate aftermath of my divorce, I rushed headlong into relationships that were basically my ex-husband, version 2.0. After the worst of these, as I picked myself and my belongings up from the snowy yard where we had been tossed out like so much trash, I realized that the common denominator in all my failed relationships really was me. I was choosing the wrong types of men -- or Match.com was choosing them for me. So I decided it was time to focus on my children, my career, and myself.
Ed was a surprise, in every wonderful way. And as our friendship blossomed into love, I came up with an algorithm of my own: three simple questions that can tell a woman everything she needs to know about a potential long-term relationship.
1. "Tell me about your mother." When Ed describes his mother, his eyes shine. He talks about her love of books, her resilience, her keen intelligence, and most of all, her love for her children. I've heard it said that a woman will turn into her mother; I would argue that a man will treat his wife the way he treats his mother. If your potential love match has nothing good to say about his mom, move on.
2. "Did you have a happy childhood?" People can overcome all kinds of things, including unhappy childhoods. But so many of our core values are shaped in our early years. Though our college experiences were different, Ed and I had similar childhoods, with parents who loved us and encouraged us to explore the world. If your lover describes an unhappy childhood and hasn't taken the time he needs to deal with those issues in therapy, you might want to rethink the relationship.
3. "What does camping mean to you?" My ex-husband used to joke that for him, camping was a three star hotel. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. But Ed and I have the same definition of camping: embracing the mud, packs strapped to our backs, to attain that million dollar view of the ocean in Washington's Olympic National Park. A person's attitude toward camping can encompass a whole spectrum of values, from love of nature to shopping at thrift stores to recycling. If your lover doesn't define camping like you do, chances are good that you'll disagree about quite a few other things.
Five years after we met and two years after our first "non-date," Ed and I decided to knot our relationship into a second marriage. He gave me the gorgeous art deco wedding ring his grandfather gave to his grandmother at a church in Boston nearly 75 years ago. I gave him permission to not wear a wedding ring because he thinks they are uncomfortable. We gave each other the space to be ourselves. Boulder and Provo are places we come from, not the places we will go together. But we're both excited about our second chance, with backpacks. And coffee. And hearts full of love.