The Dating Entrance Exam

The right fit

So you want to take me out to dinner?  You want to flirt with me and make my heart go pitter patter?  You want me to hand you my heart, body and soul on a shiny platter? If you want inside my heart (among other things, yes, that’s what she said), I will need you to answer a few questions before we can proceed.  In other words? If you want to tap this, you need to take an entrance exam first.

No.  Seriously.

A few years ago, I stopped dating.  I was exhausted from basically dating the same person over and over and over.  I was repeating patterns and I knew something had to change.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know what exactly had gone wrong in the first place.  So I took a Dating Time Out to figure out how to avoid repeating negative patterns of behavior in the future.  My last relationship ended in 2007.  Since then, I’ve been able to figure out the root of why all my previous relationships failed.

A friend and I joked back then about how we wished we had an appropriate entrance and exit exam for every relationship we had in the past. If we could just ask a series of questions about a potential lover before launching into a relationship, we could have saved ourselves quite a bit of trouble.  And we could have learned so much about ourselves and the other person in the relationship if we had concluded a break up with an exit exam.

Think about it.

Often times before you can launch into a graduate program of some kind, a program assesses your skills in that field with an entrance exam.  Or you take the GRE or LSAT or some other entrance exam before you can begin that kind of commitment between two parties.  Some jobs require extensive interviews in which a supervisor assesses your skills, knowledge and abilities before selecting you as the right job candidate.

When you choose to part ways with a company, you generally complete an exit exam to determine the hows and whys of your exit.  To earn an advanced degree, you must sit through a painful qualification exam consisting of oral and written exams to determine if you actually are an expert in your field and are capable of exiting the program.

An entrance exam enables one to enter the right program or job for him or her.  A company and an employer (or a program and a student) must be the right fit for one another for the relationship to be successful.  An exit exam allows the program or company and the exiting individual to have piece of mind, to understand what went wrong and what went right and to part ways in a professional manner.

A relationship is a full-time job.  It is a commitment not to be taken lightly.  So why don’t we require an entrance and exit exam for love?

I think the main reason is we don’t know what to ask.  We don’t know ourselves well enough.  Our cognitive blueprint is well established, so it is difficult to notice when patterns are actually red flags indicated dangerous roads ahead.

~~~~~~~~~~

My demons don’t play well with your demons

As I mentioned previously, I noticed a few years ago that I had been dating the same person repeatedly.  I really only dated this one guy multiple times over ten years, but you get my point.  Even if I dated different men over the years, they shared common demons that did not make them available, stable or respectful partners*.

I had demons of my own that did not mesh well with their demons.

Clearly, if we had just asked each other a few simple questions, we could have avoided the catastrophe that ensued while dating.  An example: If one person breaks up with another because he or she “not ready for a commitment,” it would have been nice to know that before launching into a seemingly monogamous, exclusive relationship.

It’s not you, it’s me

Often people part ways with the phrase: “It’s not you, it’s me.”  This may actually be true.  That is, one person may have made most of the mistakes in the relationship.  Unfortunately, the person who utters such a phrase most likely would never take responsibility for his or her end of the deal.  It takes two to tango just like it takes two to screw up something.  The problem is that we often do not look within ourselves to see how we are contributing to the disintegration of a relationship.  We rarely ask ourselves why we are unable to find the right partner.  We also often do not communicate honestly about the root of the problem when things are not working.  If things end, we rarely talk things through which means we cannot possibly learn from our mistakes.

You may even find yourself in a situation where one party breaks up with the other with an email, sticky note, text message or some other passive aggressive method.  Such a move completely isolates the dumped party because he or she cannot initiate a conversation about what happened.  This is wrong on so many levels.

My Entrance Exam

Here are some example questions I might ask in my Entrance Exam.  I would also answer his Entrance Exam.  This exam could take place on a first date in Interview format.

  1. Are you married?
  2. How old are you?
  3. Is your name Chris, Matt, Tom or Eric?**
  4. On average, how many alcoholic drinks do you consume daily?
  5. How do you feel about being in a relationship with a woman who is going to have a PhD?  Be honest.
  6. What do you do to make a living?  (How do you feed and clothe yourself?)
  7. What do you do when you are not making a living? (What do you love to do that is not related to work?)
  8. What are your dreams and goals for your future? Are you content doing what you’re doing right now?
  9. Please explain your relationship with your parents in the space below.  Here are some questions to start you off: Did your mommy spoil you so much that you can’t take care of yourself?  Do you hate your father?  Are your parents divorced?
  10. Are you currently serving or have you ever served in the military?
  11. Do you have children?  If yes, please explain in detail your relationship with the mother of your children.
  12. Are you interested in a long term, committed relationship or are you still enjoying the single life wherein you date multiple people at the same time?

My Exit Exam

Here are some example questions I might ask in my Exit Exam.  I would answer his Exit Exam.  I would answer my own exam before we shared our answers with one another.

  1. Did you cheat one me?  Please also define what you believe cheating to be in the space provided.
  2. Why do you think we are not successful as a couple?
  3. Please list ten things you think I could have done differently in our relationship.
  4. Please list ten things you think you could have done differently in our relationship.
  5. Would you prefer that we stay in touch or would you prefer that we no longer engage in any interaction together?
  6. What did you learn about yourself while we were together?

~~~~~~~~~~

We have to be honest enough with ourselves to know ourselves.  We need to know what we are doing wrong.  We have to be honest with the other person in the relationship.  We have to communicate.  And we have to stop repeating the same mistakes.  At some point, you will get tired to dating the same person.  Trust me.

Disclaimer: This is all in good fun, people. Mostly I am kidding about this whole exam thing. Mostly.

~~~~~~~~~~

*This one guy is excluded from this blog post because he is one of my BFFs and is married to another one of my BFFs and we only dated for a short time period and really he was supposed to be with her and it’s just silly to think of him as an ex-boyfriend when he’s a BFF.  And that one guy I dated multiple times for real is also excluded from this just because that was a clusterfuck on every level.  Just wanted to clear that up to any friends in real life who may be reading this.

** It’s a running joke that I’m not allowed to ever date another Chris, Matt, Tom or Eric because I’ve dated too many guys with those names.  Seriously.

If no, have you ever been married?
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21 thoughts on “The Dating Entrance Exam

  1. I LOVE this, Alex. Love it. And I’ve dated… three Andy’s. So, no more of those for me, ha.

    I’m also going to add just a little bit to Nico and Pham about the “probation period.” While I agree that after the end of any relationship, one needs healing time – if you’re in a position in your life where you’re self-aware enough and comfortable enough in your own skin, then this probation period IS for healing and not about self-discovery. If that doesn’t make sense, email me. :)

    1. I love how all these women have told me they’ve dated guys with the same name over and over. :) Too funny.

      I think what you’re saying is true on some level with regard to the dating probation. I think it depends on HOW the relationship ended, too.

      We all think we’re self aware enough to make the right decision, but I think we all need to know what it is like to truly be alone with ourselves for a certain amount of time to recognize what we did wrong. Everyone is different though.

      A lot of this gets into cognitive blueprints and neurological wiring. We have a particular pattern we follow, a particular schema for what a relationship is supposed to be like, and it truly takes rewiring our brain to make changes. The only way to fully re-establish neural networks is to end the behavior and establish new behaviors. Quitting bad relationships is really no different than quitting smoking.

      There is HUGE difference between awareness and action. I think taking that time away from dating is the action we need to take so the awareness aspect can actually work. We can be completely aware what we’ve done in the past was unhealthy, but it means nothing if we keep doing it. :)

      1. I LOVE this:

        “A lot of this gets into cognitive blueprints and neurological wiring. We have a particular pattern we follow, a particular schema for what a relationship is supposed to be like, and it truly takes rewiring our brain to make changes. ”

        And while that’s SO simple, I never really thought of it that way or considered that, but I think you’re right. Perhaps that’s why with the end of any relationship, we come away thinking, “well, I learned THIS,” etc.

  2. I’m with phampants on the idea of a dating probation period between relationship applications. In fact, I’m behind this whole screening process as it really speaks to both efficiency AND prudence.

    Wait, so what is stopping all of us from turning Alex’s post here into an actual screening program? I’m only half joking about this.

    1. Oh, I have already implemented this screening program in the three first dates I’ve had in the last two years. ;)

      I do agree with spending time alone before figuring out what we’re doing wrong.

      And I look forward to having drinks with you in Vegas, sir.

  3. This was hysterical! If only men were this cooperative during the entrance exam..it would ‘weed out the unlikeys’ as I say. As in…unlikely to give me a satisfying relationship, EVER.

    I am also on a dating time out…my last relationship ended on Valentine’s Day of ’09…pathetic, I know.

    I also have that name restriction: No one named John, Jon, Juan, Johnnie, or Johann ever again No more Jon’s. You’d think after numbers 1 and 2 I would have learned…

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has dated guys with the same name. ;) That first year of being single is the hardest I think because we’re adjusting to so many changes. I’m on year three this month. I’m ready to get back out there. Grad school definitely puts a damper on dating. But grad school is also a completely life changing experience. Who you are before grad school is not who you are after one or two years of grad school. So excited to hear about your journey! :D

  4. Seriously excellent post.

    I think using your head instead of your heart is the key.

    An exit interview would certainly be helpful.

    I think that both the dumper and the dumpee should fill out that one.

      1. [...] what’s with the sspirrue? It’s because you formed a set of expectations about what he was “supposed to” sound like from the get go. Now think of that happening [...]   

  5. This is a FANTASTIC post!

    I think before anyone should be allowed to date (or continue to date after failed relationships), each person needs to be single for a period of time. Be comfortable in her/his skin & life because it helps us all learn a lot about ourselves.

    Thank you for this post. =)

    1. :D Thanks! <3
      And you're SPOT ON about needing to be alone before we can really move forward and grow and date again. I've been completely single for 3 years, so I think I'm ready. :)

  6. Alex, could you have written this at a more opportune time for me?! This was an EXCELLENT post and so true. I’ve dated so many guys, all of them the same but sometimes with a different hair style or shirt color. When I started dating this last guy he was so different than those that it was like a breathe of fresh air. Of course he still ended up being unavailable in some fashion so we are no longer together. I seem to find unavailable men everywhere I turn.

    I say I’m going to take a break every single time I break up with a guy but then I jump right into something else. This time? It’s for real. I can’t continue in these same patterns. Like you, I need a change.

    I always joked with another friend of mine who was playing the dating game with me that we should just make videos in response to all the questions we were always asked on dates. That way we could send the video, get theirs, and sit at home, watch it in our pajamas and didn’t have to make the effort to get all nice and put on a smile for someone it probably wouldn’t work out with. (Yes, that’s how badly I hated dating at one point!)

    The entrance and exit exam would be awesome for relationships. It should be required! And i’m only half joking too ;) I wish my job had had an exit interview. What I would have given to give them all a piece of my mind…

  7. I love, love, LOVE this! Seriously, it makes so much sense. Why don’t we do this in real life?! Think of all the heartache, all the overanalyzing we could save ourselves.

    The last time my husband and I split up (pre-marriage, obviously) was the first time in my life I ever really looked at myself in the mirror and said “what did I do to screw this up?” Before that, it was all about what he did (or other guys I’d dated) to screw it up. And I think I did that because I loved him so much I didn’t want to lose him, so I finally figured out that I needed to know how I was contributing to the demise of our relationship. It was an honest go God lightbulb moment.

    Also? I wish my last job had done and exit interview. There’s so many things I wanted to say but didn’t get the chance!

    1. I’m so glad you were able to do that so you could be together! It’s very brave to look inside and figure out what we are doing wrong. :)
      And yes, exit interviews at jobs are a must. Can’t believe some places still don’t do it.

  8. I think it’s amazing that you’ve been able to step outside of the situation and discovered so much about your self in the process.

    And I love your little *note there at the end.

    1. Glad you like the * note. ;)
      Being single for three years has suuuuucked in so many ways, but was probably the best decision I have EVER made.
      All these decisions and changes I’ve made in my life would have gone to complete hell in a hand basket if I had not been independent this long.

  9. If only we could be so rational right? I’ve been single for quite awhile now so I think that next time, I will be better about my relationships. I’ve had a lot of time to think about where I failed and the qualities I don’t want. But I also have a sneaking suspicion, based on the past, that I will just fall irrationally in love and see all the problems but not do anything about it. :P

    1. Yeah, throw in hormones and it all goes to shit. ;) But I don’t think it HAS to. There is a guy I’ve been talking to and we had a handful of very frank conversations in which we asked each other similar questions to those I listed above. We agreed that if we were going to do this thing we had to be totally up front from the beginning. It’s nothing yet because he lives in another state, but I know I’d be way more irrational (and be a mess over it) if I hadn’t been single for three years before I met this guy.
      I think you and I will be fine from here on out because we’ve fallen hard, had our hearts broken and taken TIME to get our shit together. Sigh…

  10. ::slow clap::

    Seriously Alex, this is my favorite post so far! I wish there was an entrance exam to dating. I’m at the point in my life where I know what I want and that doesn’t involve games of any sort.

    One of the biggest mistakes I made was ignoring the relationship between an ex and his mother. Worst. Mistake. Ever. I think had I let myself see that, truly see it, I could have avoided four years of pain. How foolish of me.

    There are things on your list that I wouldn’t have even thought to ask, but are so important to know. I might run all prospects by you before I agree to become their girlfriend FYI :)

    You’re such a strong woman. I less than three you.

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