Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Getting to Know Your Partner Better

In case you haven't already figured it out, I'm a big nerd.

For example, when I was in my "dating phase," I created an Excel document that had a list of 170 things I was looking for in another person. Each criterion was assigned a value from 1-5 (with 1 being "not that important" and 5 being "non-negotiable"). For every person I dated (and even for people I wanted to date), I would attempt to give them a rating. I would read through each criterion and give them a 1 if they met it and a 0 if they didn't meet it. The 0 or 1 would then get multiplied by the value (1-5), and I could get a total at the bottom. The Excel program would then calculate the total percentage that each person met my ultimate criteria. (Just for the record, Matt scored the highest ever--96%).

And, in case you're wondering, here's a small sampling of sampling of the list:
  • He has admirable principles and works hard to adhere to them.
  • He turns off the water while he brushes his teeth.
  • He doesn't want to discipline his children with spanking.
  • He's not racist.
  • He works hard.
  • He pursues goals relentlessly.
  • He has good grammar.
  • He has a witty writing voice.
  • He doesn't watch a lot of TV.
  • He's always reading a book.
  • He remembers birthdays and celebrates them creatively.
  • He doesn't play video games at home.
  • He doesn't let me boss him around.
  • He's intent on reaching his intellectual potential.
  • He doesn't draw a line between work and play.
  • He never makes up statistics/sources/information.
  • He likes to listen to NPR.
  • He doesn't prejudge people.
  • He's high on Kohlberg's scale.
  • He can occupy himself with his own thoughts.
  • He doesn't kill spiders.
  • He's fiscally responsible.
  • He doesn't spend a lot of time watching organized sports.
  • He has a decent sense of direction.
  • He doesn't have a lame username.
  • He thinks strip shows are degrading and sexually unsatisfying.
One more piece of evidence to support the idea that I am a major nerd: On our first date, I suggested that Matt take the Myer's Briggs Test.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the Myer's Briggs Test is a personality assessment that gives you insight into where you get your energy from, how you gather information from the world, how you make decisions, and how you use your time. You get a unique letter in each of the four categories, and your final personality type is one of 16.

I find the Myer's Briggs to be one of the most useful and insightful personality assessments on the market. It has given me a ton of things to think about in terms of my strengths and areas for growth. I think these kinds of tools are invaluable as we prepare for marriage. We have to know ourselves and know our partners. The more knowledge we have, the better equipped we are to navigate life together.

In case you want to take the test, here it is!

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Leah said...

What are your types? I was very into Myer's Briggs when my fiance and I first got together.
I'm INFJ, he's ISTJ. It works. :)

Victory Bird said...

haha, how ironic that "He doesn't prejudge people" is one of the criteria . . .

Anonymous said...

I agree that there are some things that are non-negotiable, but I'm often surprised in my life by how the right: house, job, partner, whatever, doesn't always match the strict list of guidelines I have in my head.

For instance, my pro-choice (that's non-negotiable for me) partner also loves football, which I used to consider a turn off, but I see how watching it calms his anxious mind and I can appreciate that. He understands that he can't spend all Sunday watching it, and I understand that we don't need to both feel passionate about the same things. It actually works out quite well.

Color Me Green said...

i feel like i get a different type every time i take myers briggs tests - and i just took the quiz you linked to and the description that came out doesn't sound all like me.

i also find your list very interesting...like anonymous, i wonder how necessary it really is for someone to match the "criteria" we set for mr. right.

Ms Bear Cub said...

sara, this is hilarious and awesome all rolled together :)
I heard that Darwin did a similar thing! In his "journal" he wrote down a list of pros & cons for getting married. Then he tallied them up, and decided it was logical to get married. and wrote QED. the nerd freakin QED'd his intent to get married :)
right on, nerds! :)

Unknown said...

This is so wonderful! I also want to know your MBTI type...although I feel like I could guess.

One Barefoot Bride said...

I'm often surprised by how what I need doesn't look the way it expect it to.

Anonymous said...

Although I find this list and your method of analyzing potential partners amusing, I worry about what would happen if every man and woman in the world made such a specific list as they venture into the dating world.
Obviously, I can't speak for you, but I see lists such as these as a slippery slope which may lead to the rejection of many viable partners because they do not meet one or two #4 (Really Need) or #3 Important) criterion.
Personally, I fear that when people begin to reject potential mates based mainly on things like the fact that they don't "celebrate [birthdays] creatively" or that they "play video games at home", they ultimately end up "prejudg[ing]" people that are actually well suited to them.
I just think that when we go into the dating world, we do need to be critical of the people we could be potentially spending our lives with, but only within reason. Not in excruciating detail.

Anonymous said...

Yeah... gotta be honest here, not trying to be rude, but I think a lot of people will find this post extremely off putting. I really enjoy your helpful wedding planning tips, but this post is just creepy.

Relationships and personalities and interests evolve together. Certain aspects of life don't translate well into 'job interviews'. I would even consider myself a quite headstrong and structured person, but this is ridiculous.

I know your intentions are good, but this isn't great advice. It reminds me of all the really nasty parts of a Virgo... and I am a Virgo!

jes [a mountain bride] said...


come enter to *WIN* an artistic sketch of your wonderful wedding dress!!


Sarah said...

Wow... this is really specific. I plan a lot of things out, but man, some things just happen. Also, I have to agree with the commenter above that said it's funny that one thing on the list is "doesn't prejudge people" and this list can be construed as pretty judgmental. Dunno though-- then again, if it's someone you're spending the rest of our life with, should be you be really judgmental?

I don't know-- I know you shouldn't try to change a person you're with, and I guess a way to avoid that is to make sure your partner scores a 96% on a test like this, but damn.

Michele said...

Sara, I adore nearly everything about you, but this list is CRAZY! Even crazier is that this list is just a sampling of the 170 total items. Yowser!

I believe wholeheartedly that love is a choice, but I also know from my own experience that there's not always a rhyme or reason to WHY we choose to love the people that we do.

Almost everything on the list you posted appeals to me - in that I value them as traits in my friends and family...but my husband embodies very few of them. He watches tons of sports, plays tons of video games, never reads, never listens to NPR, has terrible grammar, kills spiders and loves strip clubs (as do I).

But you know what? I love him anyway. I love him so much that I often feel like my heart might explode. He's not perfect (in fact, like me, he's far from it), but he's perfect FOR ME, even though he's quite different from who I *thought* I'd end up with when I was young and dumb.

Becca said...

It's not my process ( didn't know people were more analytical than I am!), but I'm thrilled you found someone you love and who works 95% with your own nerdy neuroses! I did a lot of work on defining my own non-negotiables, my own absolutely-nots, and things I might really like, because I think that's critical in a healthy search, but I never put it in an excel. (then again, I hadn't discovered my love affair with excel before I met J, so you never know what might have happened in other circumstances.)

Off the bat, he met so many of my non-negotiable needs an I'd-like-that-wants that I was open to how he made me reassess my "nots." But so long as you're flexible and open to learning about a person, you can learn more about yourself in the process. And you certainly found your match, so who are we in internetland to question how you went about it?

Anonymous said...

Here's my problem with Myers-Briggs: isn't one of the most wonderful things about humanity our ability to surprise, to transform, to change? This test puts everyone in a slot, an sociological research shows that if you are labeling as being something, you're more likely to think of yourself that way. How depressing to think 'this is who I am,' instead of letting life show you who you could be.

Anonymous said...

/ agree with Anonymous and Michele !
"Relationships and personalities and interests evolve together. "
"Almost everything on the list you posted appeals to me - in that I value them as traits in my friends and family...but my husband embodies very few of them."

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this. as a fairly laid-back bride to be, I used to feel a bit lazy and unorganized after reading about all the binders, to-do lists, instructions, blogs and DIY projects that went into your very creative and lovely-sounding wedding.
but now, after reading this post about your mega-list, I realize that you are this meticulous and type-A about everything..not just weddings. And that has it's ups and downs..
Maybe I don't have our wedding checklists made, but I also don't have a perfect mate excel sheet.
and boy am I okay with that.

Amy said...

Sara - I love this post. I know love is an "emotional" reaction to someone, but I really believe that unless certain core values are shared, it's not going to work. I had "that spark" with a few people I dated before I met The One, but on a logical level I knew that some qualities in a person would just never work with what I consider to be my "ideal" mate. I think that not enough people use logic as well as emotion when deciding who they'll marry - if it's not a combination of the two, it's probably not the best you can do.

I also recognize the importance of differences - and actually some of the criteria I had in choosing my husband were that he would be different from me in some crucial ways so that we would balance each other out.

And finally (before this turns into a novel), I took the Myers Briggs and it pretty much nailed my personality on the head, so much so that it surprised me. But it gave me some insight into myself that I've been needing lately. So, really. Thank you for this post.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Okay, okay. I admit it was a poorly written post. I was trying to say that one idea for building stronger relationships is to get to know your partner as well as possible, and tools (like the Myers-Briggs) exist to facilitate that process. I never pigeon-hole myself or others with such assessments. Sometimes the results resonate with me and other times they don't. My Myers-Briggs type (INTJ) is super-analytical, which, of course, has its benefits and drawbacks. These kinds of tests help me understand how the same personality trait can both help and hinder my development as a person. I never feel trapped by the results of such assessments. Instead, I feel more empowered to recognize my positive and negative attributes and harness them to help myself continually develop. I mentioned my obsessively and neurotically long list of criteria as an anecdotal tangent, but I neglected to give you the full context. Before I dated Matt, I was primarily attracted to guys who were really bad for me. I always went after unattainable love from guys who honestly didn't deserve my attention and affection (which likely stems from the fact that I never knew my biological father because he didn't want to have anything to do with me). Even though my logical side could point out that they weren't good for me, my emotionally side was completely smitten. I thought to myself, "If I feel this good, how can it be bad?" The list was my way of reclaiming my self-worth; it helped me communicate to myself, "Sara, you deserve better." (The fact that it was in Excel and had formulas and crap was just a result of the fact that I was learning how to use Excel, and it was fun. Yes, I am a nerd.) Soon after I started dating Matt, I broke up with him (I think because his love was so attainable.) That's when I pulled out the list and realized he met so many of the criteria. We started dating again, but our initial time together was rocky. He wasn't everything I was looking for (just as I wasn't everything he would hope for in a lifetime partner), and I had to realize that we can't expect someone to be perfect or to be our everything in a relationship. Making "a list" isn't for everyone. For me, however, it helped me articulate my own core values and find someone who was pretty aligned with those values. Being overly-analytical is both a positive and negative attribute in my life. It helps me excel in things like educational consulting, but it makes me a difficult person to be in a relationship with sometimes. As an INFJ, Matt tends to make decisions based on feelings more than logic. Understanding our fundamental difference with regard to decision-making has helped us navigate our relationship better. That's why I recommended the Myers-Briggs as a tool for getting to know your partner better (as well as yourself).

Anyway, I appreciate all of your thought-provoking comments. Just so you know I know, I am (and will always be!) a work in progress. This blog is a place for me to capture my thoughts and ideas at the time. I will inevitably continue to evolve, and my thoughts will change as a result.

Anonymous said...

I love your list that you had written about Matt. When my boyfriend (now fiance) and I went out on our second date, he asked me if I recycled. I said "yes" it was a deal braker! We've been together ever since than... :)

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