These 3 abstract questions are higher predictors of relationship compatibility, says Harvard
In today’s fast-paced and digitally-interconnected culture, it’s no surprise that dating apps are so popular. All of us have either used one or know someone who’s used one, but how successful are they really? Are they doing more harm than good? Most importantly, when we finally meet someone we think might be The One, how can we really know for sure?
1. Hello, my name is…
Navigating the romantic world is tricky, confusing, exciting, and sometimes heartbreaking. It can be a daunting task for anyone, whether you’ve been out of the dating pool for a while or you’ve been trying to find someone for years. Many say that online dating makes everything simpler, but does it? It’s hard to say!
More and more people are turning to the accessibility of online dating sites and apps like Tinder to help them find potential partners. Success in those attempts varies from person to person, but experts and algorithms say that there are a few things you can do to find that special someone.
2. Some numbers
Of all the people out there finding their soulmates, surprisingly few claim to have met their partner through a dating app. According to a study, only eight percent of people currently in a relationship found one another online. Surprisingly, the number one way people seem to meet is still through friends.
That’s not to say that online dating is a total bust. It still provides plenty of opportunities for people to meet, especially if you’re not the type to hang out a clubs or bars, go to Meetups or community gatherings for your hobbies, or you’re no longer in school.
3. How will I know?
If you’re one of the millions of people who have at some point tried online dating, chances are you’ve had at least some success and landed a date or two. Maybe you even found your long-term partner or spouse through one of the countless apps or sites that are out there.
When you meet that person, maybe you get together for lunch, go for coffee, or sit down for a nice dinner. What do you talk about with them? According to experts, you can learn a lot about your potential companion by discussing three simple questions. It’s as easy as that — no need for aimless small talk.
4. Starting off right
According to experts, finding a solid match starts before you even say hello. People with profile photos showing them doing something interesting like playing an instrument or participating in a sport are more likely to find a compatible match from the get-go. Think of it as a form of visual storytelling.
Your picture is the first thing a potential partner will see of you. Instead of using a selfie, share something meaningful about yourself and what you like to do. A photo of you out hiking with your pet, reading a book, surfing, or planting a tree is more eye-catching than a duckface selfie or a pic from a night at the club.
5. Talk the talk
Once you get past the swiping process with your great photo, the next step is usually a conversation. When your prospective partner sends you a message (or you message them), if you’re looking for more than a hookup, keep the conversation meaningful. Watch out for a few dos and don’ts.
When you’re chatting, pay attention to the language both of you are using. Words like “awesome” and “fascinating” convey an interest in what they’re saying. According to experts, these interactive and intellectually-inclined words tend to be more successful than “sexy” and “beautiful,” which are far more physically-focused. Keep your eyes on the intellect, then.
6. Not so bad
When most people think about asking compatibility questions, heavy subjects such as politics and religion tend to come to mind. Although it is important to be in relative agreement about those things, it turns out that the real truth-tellers in a potential relationship come from much more mundane sources.
A group of Harvard mathematicians worked out an algorithm to determine “perfect” compatibility depending on how two people answer a set of questions. If their answers are different, the relationship could be rocky as a result of a fundamental disagreement. If their answers line up, it’s a match made in heaven.
7. Getting spooky
The first question the minds behind this “love formula” want you to ask your partner is whether or not they like scary movies. According to the study behind the questions, about 75 percent of successful couples answered the same way. Either way, the answer a person gives says a lot about them.
Liking similar movie genres certainly makes date nights easier, but horror movies seem to draw a pretty sharp line: Either you like them or you don’t. Someone who enjoys scary movies also probably processes fear and stress differently than someone who doesn’t like them, which could become important later on down the line.
8. Travel plans
The next question the experts say you should ask is whether or not your partner has traveled to a foreign country by themselves. From this question, you can learn a lot about a person. If their answer is no, maybe they don’t like to travel, or they’re afraid of being or alone or trying new things by themselves.
If they say yes, the person you’re talking to is probably fairly independent and adventurous. “Yes” also opens up the door to other interesting questions: What did you see? Do you speak another language? Even if they say no, it’s an excellent opportunity to learn more about why.
9. Leave it all behind
The final question in the prophetic trio is “Would you ditch it all and go live on a sailboat?” As silly as the question seems, it says a lot about what the person identifies as “home” and how attached they are to physical belongings. The question also speaks volumes about a person’s sense of stability.
The idea of leaving everything behind and living a nomadic life is intimidating for some and a dream come true for others. For certain people, the concept of abandoning society would seem like a breath of fresh air, and for others, it would be like taking a giant leap into a world of stress.
10. Adventure is out there
All three of the questions in the “Love Formula” boil down to one thing: How adventurous are you? If you’re a fan of horror movies, you probably enjoy a little thrill in your life. If you like to travel alone, you’re a trailblazer. Living on the boat is the pinnacle of adventure.
Agreeing on these points matches people with similar energy levels, but they also bring up other topics of conversation that could reveal a lot about a person. Maybe your date doesn’t like the idea of living on a boat because they can’t swim or because they get seasick.
For as many things as there are to agree on, there are things to disagree on. According to experts, one of the biggest turn-offs, especially in the online dating world, is poor grammar and spelling. Even if you aren’t a journalist, it can be easy to get distracted by butchered language.
To a potential partner, seeing a message that is riddled with errors means that you didn’t take the time to think about or look over what you wrote. It implies a lack of commitment, effort, and care, which doesn’t bode well for a future relationship. Pay attention to your words.
12. The heavy-hitters
Earlier, we mentioned that seeing eye-to-eye on the tough subjects like religion and politics took the backseat to agreeing on whether or not The Shining was a good movie. That’s not necessarily true, and they are subjects worth discussing if you’re looking at a long-term relationship.
The subject of religion might be a moot point for some, as atheism has been on the rise for some time now, but for others, it’s a vital part of their livelihood. Making sure you understand one another’s needs on that front is key to any successful relationship, especially given that sometimes different religious beliefs mean different lifestyles.
13. Ticking the boxes
In addition to religion, other relevant topics to discuss with a potential partner might include politics, sex life, future children, and finances. Arguably, the list goes on and on, including planning for major life events, visiting family, and countless other minutiae. The same list won’t necessarily apply to all couples.
If neither person holds a strong political opinion, it could be an opportunity to develop them side by side. Expectations surrounding sex are likely to change with the seasons as stress levels ebb and flow. Finances and family are crucial to discuss, but they’re subjects that likely won’t come up until much later on.
14. So simple
A lifelong commitment to another person is nothing to shake a stick at, so how can three silly questions about movies and travel be such accurate indicators of compatibility? It all boils down to the underlying meanings of the topics. They may seem trivial, but each one reveals more than you think.
Namely, the questions deal with how people handle stressful situations, their ability to and interest in planning ahead, and their sense of adventure. The idea is that people who deal with those stimuli in a similar way are more likely to have a harmonious relationship in the long run.
15. Adding it up
The statistics backing the claims of the study are the real wonder. 34,260 couples who met online were studied. Based on their answers to the three questions, the number of couples who agreed on all three points was well above coincidental levels. However, 32 percent is far from 100, which makes you wonder what else makes the “perfect couple.”
More importantly, these studies focus on just those couples who met online, specifically on OkCupid. There is a lot of disagreement from study to study about whether or not online dating is more successful than meeting someone in person. Some studies even say it could be doing more harm than good.
16. Love stinks
Several studies claim that the use of online dating apps and websites can be doing you a disservice, especially if you happen to have bad luck when it comes to love. While most of the issues highlighted in the study were attributed to online dating and apps specifically, there’s more to it.
Claims of heightened anxiety surrounding dating and depression linked to rejection are the most common afflictions linked to the world of instant options. However, bad luck in the dating pool, even if you meet your partners in person, can lead to feeling down and discouraged or worried about future success.
17. Commitment issues
In addition to worrying about failure and feeling down about not finding The One, people who are regularly rejected on dating apps report having a lower sense of self-esteem and a greater reluctance to give their full attention and effort to romantic relationships in the future.
Being jilted repeatedly would arguably have adverse effects on just about anyone, and the fact that dating apps and websites make the options so readily available and the dates happen so much more often means that the experiences get condensed. At one point, it might have taken someone a month to have ten unpleasant first dates. Now, it might only take two weeks.
18. Not all bad
However, demonizing dating apps for causing relationship woes isn’t the answer. Many experts say that the apps and websites designed to help people find partners are quite helpful when used correctly and may actually lead to more successful marriages down the line. All it takes is a little self-policing.
Instead of viewing the apps as hookup generators, be more selective in your vetting process when it comes to setting up the dates. Try asking the three questions discussed above before you go out on a date to see if the initial compatibility is there. Talking before you meet up is always highly encouraged.
19. Put it down
Another common complaint among online and app-based daters is the worry that they might be “settling” when they go out with someone. The feeling of inherent dissatisfaction drives them to keep looking even though they might currently be seeing someone. Needless to say, this isn’t a healthy habit.
Experts say that when you’re out on a date with someone, put the phone away and focus on being in the present with the person you’re seeing. Focus on them, and as long as you’re going on dates with that person exclusively, leave Tinder out of the picture completely. This is made easier if you just leave your phone in your pocket.
20. Let it be
A final note from the experts when it comes to dating is not to take rejection personally. It’s a task that’s much easier said than done, but accepting when someone says no thanks to a second date is an essential part of not getting burnt out on dating.
There are countless reasons someone might not want to keep going on dates. Maybe they just got accepted for a new job, and they have to move out of town. Maybe you remind them too much of an ex. In any case, it isn’t your fault. Internalizing the rejection, as tempting as it may be, will only hurt you more in the long run.
21. Talk it over
Online dating doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to be your only means of finding a partner. Dating experts say that broadening your search to include work, hobbies, and suggestions from friends increase your odds of landing a date. Asking the three questions isn’t limited to online dating either. So ask away!
Icebreakers are almost always a little awkward. Coming into a situation armed with at least three talking points, as well as any questions that stem from them, will get you started on the right path. However, even if looking for a partner in-person isn’t an option for you, there’s still good news.
22. The long run
According to a study published in Psychology Today, couples who meet online are statistically more likely to stay together longer and have happier marriages. There’s no single reason why this is the case, but relationship scientists have several ideas, and a lot of it comes down to more math.
Online dating sites and apps feature a much larger pool of willing participants than most people are apt to meet in any single location. Additionally, when people input their information into a dating app, the site’s algorithms suggest people with similar interests, bringing the most viable parts of that pool right to your fingertips.
23. A bright future
It’s always exciting to hear good news about dating prospects, especially for those of us who are “perpetually single.” While more and more studies point to the fact that online dating can mean a more successful relationship in the long run, how else can you know if you and your partner are right for each other?
Fortunately, the study of relationship compatibility is one that’s been ongoing for many years. With the introduction of modern science into the field, we now know more than ever about what makes two people “click” and what love really is, on a biological and psychological level.
As silly as it sounds, being twitterpated is a real thing. When two loving people think about their new romantic partner, their brains go nuts. Neurologists have been examining the electrical signals in the minds of newly-established couples, and they’ve found an interesting pattern among those whose relationships last.
Scientists at Stony Brook University have found that specific patterns of activity in the brains of people who were thinking about their partners revealed the strength of their relationship. They saw that even if the person believed they had fallen in love, neuron activity could be used to determine whether or not that love was strong enough to last over the next few years.
25. Open discourse
Once in a relationship, if you’ve been bouncing around the dating pool for a while, you might feel a bit lost about what to do next. Part of you might feel guilty about looking up relationship advice or how to keep a couple together. Just keep in mind that seeking answers is never a bad idea.
If it’s a question about your relationship specifically, you should talk about it with your partner. Experts agree that one of the fundamental elements of any healthy relationship is communication. Talk to your partner about leaving dirty dishes in the sink, sharing housework, or what goes on in the bedroom.
26. Growing and supporting
Alongside communication, another essential element of any healthy relationship is continuing to grow together. Healthy couples support one another’s dreams and endeavors while still maintaining their individuality. Pursue hobbies, hang out with friends, go on dates, and talk about silly questions (like living on boats or movie genres) regularly.
A common misconception about long-term relationships and especially about marriage is that, after a while, that initial spark goes away. It doesn’t have to. If things feel like they’re plateauing, talk about it, look at what’s changed since the beginning, and see what can be done to spice things up. You might want to hurry.
27. Keep it coming
Asking probing questions doesn’t just have to be an activity for early in the relationship. As you and your partner become closer, continuing to ask and learn about who they are and where they came from helps you grow together. Even if you’ve been together for decades, there’s always something new to learn.
Start with the softball questions like where in the world you’d most want to travel and why. Talk about family pets and emotional experiences growing up. Delve into one another’s lives and get to know more about each other and how you each handle similar situations. Keep doing this until you’re deeply in love.
28. Building up
As you get more comfortable with one another, cycle back to the topics that the three magic questions secretly revealed. Ask your partner about a time when they felt anxious or extremely worried about something or someone. Ask them about what they fear and what comforts them. Ask them about planning.
When you can discuss these subjects openly as a couple, you have the opportunity to learn about one another on a much more personal level. Getting to know what frightens and worries your partner is just as important as learning how to comfort them and how to help make a schedule together.
29. Choppy water
Even if that initial spark seemed like it would light the way forever, you might find through deeper conversation that the two of you don’t fit as well as you’d hoped. However, keep in mind that differences aren’t necessarily damning, and working it out should always be the first thing you try.
Communication is always key. If one person has an issue, it’s up to both parties to talk about it and find a solution that fits everyone’s needs. Relationships are meant to help us learn more about who we are as individuals, and the strongest bonds are formed between people who problem-solve together.
30. Oh, the places you’ll go!
Whether you met on Tinder, OkCupid, at an office party, or your friend’s wedding, the statistics aren’t the end-all be-all of your future. For instance, just because some numbers say that high school sweethearts are more likely to divorce doesn’t doom their love. What matters is the people.
Wherever you find that special someone you think could be The One, get to talking. Spend time with one another and put the phones away. Learn about each other, and ask all sorts of questions. Love is weird and wonderful, and the most important thing is to enjoy every moment of it.