Following is a list of questions from my book Hindsight that you want to make sure to ask, ones that will support or add to your non-negotiable list. The more specific the questions, the better. Feel free to add to the list based on your own deal breakers. Pass the wisdom on. As you know from a previous chapter in this book, we have lost some of our beloved sisters because they, perhaps, did not have the courage to ask! And be sure to pay attention to what you hear and see.
Are you married?
Don’t ignore this one; it can be lethal! So many of us pass this one up because we think, "Why would he be flirting with me if he’s married?" Or, we don’t want to know, because we are so desperate for attention or love that we will take it wherever we can get it. This question, if not asked, will almost always be a cause of great pain, usually yours (and his spouse’s)! If he is married, please, please, please don’t fool yourself into thinking you can change this reality. If he is really going to get divorced, let him do so, and then give you a call.
Are you currently involved in a relationship, or seeing anyone?
Now, you may say, “What if he’s lying?” Good question. How do we know? This is why I recommend not getting physical until you find out if what this person says and what they do match up. Everywhere—at work, with his family, friends—it all has to make sense. You want to be sure they are living in integrity to a great degree, so you don’t get so attached that you become blinded to their character! None of us is perfect, but some things are just plain non-negotiable.
Do you want a real, lasting relationship (or do you just want sex)?
This is a GREAT question and, boy, how many times do we have to get burned before we find this out before we get physically intimate? So many of us fall for the chemistry, for being wined and dined, only to find out he is only with you for one reason…sex. Yes, it feels so good to get attention from someone we find attractive, oh yes, yes, yes! Some of us live for it. And in the first five minutes, we are busy fantasizing about our life together, how many kids we will have, where we might live, what we will write on our epitaphs…we get carried away. Wow, all that chemistry! It’s like a drug, isn’t it? We get weak in the knees, a dry mouth and a throbbing heart. Funny—these same feelings course through our bodies when we have a near miss on the freeway, or run into a bear in the middle of the woods! But these are just feelings and they will pass, so think it through.
Ask this same tough question of yourself before you drop your drawers. And ask more questions: Will he respect you in the morning, ask you to marry him and live Happily Ever After with you? How will you know, if you barely know him (and how will you know if you want him to marry you?). Why, oh why, would you leave the answers to these questions to chance?
Okay, maybe you just want casual sex yourself (in my experience, this comprises a miniscule percentage of women on the planet, if they are honest with themselves). Regardless of what you ultimately want, it still pays to ask the questions. What if all you want is casual sex and he wants Happily Ever After? It is still a recipe for disaster not to know. Just be honest with yourself. Take care to ask before you get involved and perhaps have your heart broken—or before you break someone else’s heart!
Do you believe in God or some power greater than yourself?
This is a question that made all the difference for me, and the answer that told me volumes about someone. In hindsight, the ones who did not believe in God or have some spiritual connection truly did the most damage in any relationship, to themselves and in life, in general. It is not a foolproof question, but it can tell you whether someone has a perspective on the greater reality: that they are not the center of the universe. Also that they feel a sense of responsibility to behave in alignment with their moral code! A hard question to ask, maybe; but critical. This is one of the most important questions I learned to ask!
For some people it is enough just to know that the other has a belief in a greater power, but for others it may be important that you share the same religion. Be really honest with yourself about what is actually important to you, and be sure to phrase the question so that it yields the answer you need to know. For instance, if you are Jewish seeking another Jew, this question may find you a devout Christian, which may not suffice. Be specific in your asking.
Why did your last, or other, relationships end?
There will be so many clues, in the answer to this question, about how this person relates to intimacy, what they value and what their priorities are. Also, they, too, have patterns, and there is a good chance this person will behave the same way with you. It is so common for us women to want to believe that we will be the one who changes them or that they won’t act this way with us, because his previous (or current) woman was, (fill in the blank) and we are not(as though getting this person is a prize). I can tell you, there are times when he is no big prize. Instead, the big surprise is when you wake up and find yourself in the same or similar position, receiving the same complaints he made about the last one.
How did you end your last relationship?
This question is a spin on the previous one, because their M.O. now will likely be their M.O. again. Are they still friends; did he leave taking care that they both worked out their issues so they could, at a minimum, be civil, or is he angry and feels slighted? Just notice. Pay attention. His attitude may tell you that he is not yet ready for a new relationship, as he is still healing from the last one. Or it may indicate his level of sophistication when it comes to dealing with his feelings. Again, just notice what he does. Communicate, and trust your gut on what you make it mean. While not all past behavior is an indicator of things to come, most red flags are pretty obvious; for example, if he isn’t paying child support, if he dumped his partner without trying to work things out, if he uses foul or derogatory language to describe his ex, and so on.
How do you get along with your family of origin?
This will tell you about his family values and his existing wounds, or lack thereof. Especially, how does he feel about his mother? If a man hates his mother, look out. Make sure that he has done work on himself and has found psychological resolve, because how he feels about women in general stems from his relationship with his mother! Does he respect her, feel smothered by her, ignore her, resent her, feel obligated to her, hold her in high regard, feel grateful for her years of loving support, admire her? Pay attention here! And don’t forget to ask yourself the same questions about your relationship with your father. I have yet to meet someone who had a perfect childhood or a “normal” family, yet unresolved resentments can easily get projected onto a spouse or partner.
How do you feel about marriage?
If he’s had a string of bad ones he will likely be uninterested. And NO, this is not an invitation to be the one who changes his mind! Even if he does change his mind, you will always feel like you manipulated him and he may feel manipulated, thus never giving himself to you whole-heartedly.
I had a colleague and friend tell me that as soon as she knew she wanted to get married and have children, she decided to tell any man she was seriously interested in what her intentions were, right up front. She was seeing two men, both of whom she really liked. One told her that he was not interested in getting married for quite some time, but the other one said he wanted that for himself. She took care to mention to them that she had not decided on any man yet, but that out of integrity she thought each of them should know. I loved hearing that, and so appreciated her level of self-esteem, self-worth and respect.
Do you want to have children (or more children)? Do you already have children?
I have seen this topic rip people apart, especially now that folks are waiting longer to have children, and then find it hard to get pregnant.
If you are younger or older than your prospective mate, this will be an exceptionally important question, and ladies, LISTEN to the answer to this question. The last thing we need are more dads who are absent! If you have never had children, raising them by yourself is the hardest thing you may ever do. And unfortunately, our kids suffer even in the best-case scenario, where you love them and want them but are absent yourself, because you are away all day trying to make a living, stressed and unsupported! Your children absorb it all. For your sake and theirs, if you want children or don’t want children, say it; take a stand and don’t negotiate. You don’t get a chance to undo this one! Due to its level of importance in people’s lives, the answer to this one question can be a deal-breaker, so be sure to ask.
Also, when a man tells you he does not want children with you, getting yourself pregnant will not likely change his mind on the matter. Tricking people usually backfires, and the child will be the biggest loser in the end. Do not use your body or your child as a way to get someone, or to find someone to take care of you. Take care of yourself; then find a partner you can stand beside. In the long run, you’ll respect yourself for it, and have a better shot at finding someone who wants the same things you do.
Funny, but many people neglect to mention that they already have children. One case that comes to mind is that of a man who had said no to having children, but didn’t mention the fact that he was seeing someone who he had gotten pregnant. He didn’t mention it because he had no intention of marrying the woman, and the child wasn’t born yet. You just never know—unless you ask.
Have you ever been in jail?
You probably have not been in jail, but it doesn’t hurt to know if he has been there; it could be a deal-breaker, depending on the infraction. Perhaps, as in my case (when I finally asked), the person you are seeing has been in jail several times, including a DUI and for attempted manslaughter. The person I interviewed had hit and seriously injured a little girl, and had spent six months in jail. Does this make him a bad person? Heavens, no. In this case, he was the sweetest, most loyal, adoring man in many ways. But it did tell me that he was a sick person who struggled with an addiction. Which, given my background, was a deal-breaker!
And there are other legal and moral deal breakers, such as dealing drugs, addictive gambling, theft, violence, spousal abuse, being a sex offender, the list goes on. Refer to your non-negotiables. You will be surprised at what you can find out about someone if you genuinely care to know! By that same token, you may well be surprised what a quick Google search can reveal as well. A little effort can reveal a lot.
Have you ever done hard drugs or sold drugs?
Heroin, crack, meth? Do they have track marks? A history of rehab? Lost a job because they drank too much or drank on the job? Do they use drugs recreationally, such as cocaine or ecstasy? Does that fit in with your lifestyle and values?
Do you have a sexually transmitted disease?
I have heard countless stories. As one might imagine, this subject is very delicate, and likely brings up shame and other related feelings, because people may have had an experience where someone left them as a result of telling the truth. On the other hand, herpes is so common now, there are pharmaceutical ads for treatments on television, like it’s no big deal—but for some of you it, might be.
Talking about STD is tricky. I’ve heard people say, “Well, she/he never asked.” And then somefolks don’t even know they have an STD. Especially if we are talking about HIV, which infects hundreds of thousands of women each year in this country. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Use protection if you are going to get physically involved—even if you asked and he said he doesn’t have an STD. Get a test, ask them to get tested, and practice safer sex until you know for sure! It’s the responsible, self-loving thing to do!
What are your goals for the next five, ten years?
It’s good to find out what people are committed to! This question will help you see what you both have in common. So often, when we merge as a result of chemistry, we end up feeling resentful when our partners don’t share the same interests we do—and I don’t mean fake interests. Some of us pretend to like sports just to get the other person to be with us. Or we pretend we are interested in camping, when in fact we hate dirt and would rather poke our eye out than sleep outside. This all comes to a head when you have recently had a child and he wants to celebrate your first weekend away together at Camp Borcunga, while you would far rather to go to the Ritz!
You also want to know if he has plans to go back to school, or travel around the world, or write a book, or give up his well-paying career to become a wildlife photographer in Africa. These are things you should know, and he should know about you too. Honestly, after the glow shifts and changes, as it does in all relationships, you want to have a good deal in common for a strong, healthy relationship. Unless, that is, you prefer not to see your partner often, and want to sleep in different rooms (or maybe different cities), because that’s what is at stake if you don’t take the time to explore this topic.
What are you passionate about?
This is a fun question to ask, and the answer can be equally telling! Listen up, there is a lot here. People can be passionate about politics, travel, their families, their work, finding a cure for cancer, athletics, literature, art, music, and so on. Find out how that shows up for the person your interested in, and if his passions are ones you want to share, support, learn about—or want nothing to do with. Because it’s not likely to change, unless he is the kind who gets passionate about something new every few months or weeks—and this, too, is good to know, especially if you are considering a more stable, quiet arrangement.
I have seen a number of people get torn apart here, as well, because they felt like a second fiddle, as if their partner’s passion was a mistress that they had to fight for scraps of attention.
How to Ask!
Knowing what to ask, and then asking, are worlds apart for some people. Unfortunately, we cannot reap the benefits of simply asking the important and tough questions, just as we are not judged by our good intentions. Here action counts! Yes, there is a lot to know, and yes, it will probably take a good amount of time to find out. It’s not likely you’re going to sit down with a pad of paper and rattle off your list like a journalist, which is probably inappropriate in most cases, unless you are practicing which, I do recommend (sans the pad)!
You will need to slow down, and why not? At the end of the day, you have you, your passions, your commitments and your life (which is rich and full); a relationship is just the cherry on the sundae of it all…right? If your answer is no, re-read the previous chapters. Spend more of your time and energy loving yourself, connecting inside with The Great Divine, and you will get there!
Here are a few tips and reminders to get you started:
· Love does not have a shelf life, chemistry does! If you think some, or any, of these questions will scare your potential partner away, than you have your information right there. Love, as my husband reminds me, is a verb, not a noun! Anyone who is partner material will appreciate your inquiry, and understand that you are a discerning person who is taking care of herself by inquiring!
· Asking tough question with heart is always a good place to start. While it’s important to ask, the way we ask is also something to consider. Take care to be gentle and graceful when asking tough questions. While this should go without saying, it is worth mentioning because sometimes, when we get nervous, we can seem too direct or suspicious. Be interested in this person; show your curiosity with respect and compassion.
· Take your time. If this person is who you think or feel they are, let it unfold naturally, keeping in mind you probably don’t want to drop your drawers (i.e., get physically intimate) before you know the answers to the most important things on your list.
· Don’t limit yourself to these questions, rather let these be the beginning of some thought-provoking and soul-searching discussions based on other topics of importance specific to you. Use your non-negotiable list from Chapter Six of Hindsight to guide you in developing your own personalized list of questions.