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dna-values and convictionsAt Future Marriage University, we believe dating should be intentional time invested in one other person for the purpose of growing in intimacy that might lead to a life-giving, life-long marriage. We call that purpose-driven dating.

If that sounds too scary, this isn’t your post. Consider watching this one quick video instead. However, if you find our definition intriguing at all, read on, because this week we’re going to offer more direction in asking the right questions to help you grow in intimacy, one date at a time.

In a previous post, we offered suggested questions for learning about your date’s interests and, more importantly, their identity. This week, we want to help you learn about your date’s values and, more importantly, their convictions.

Understanding someone’s values and convictions can tell you a lot about them, but most don’t bother, because at best it’s simply not sexy. At worse it can turn a date into a job interview. But I think you will find, with the right approach, it can make your date more engaging and memorable.

Furthermore, most people like to talk about themselves, and everyone enjoys being with someone who shows a sincere and selfless interest in them. Plus, the most popular motive for dating is “getting to know someone better,” so let’s get started, shall we?

First, here are some questions NOT to ask:

  • YES-NO Questions: Yes-no questions will make your date feel like an intake interview at the doctor’s office: “Do you like rom coms? Are you a Democrat? Are you a Christian? Have you ever been convicted of a felony? Have you ever suffered from abdominal pain? Nausea? Amnesia? Hot sweats? Cold Sweats? Numb lips? Fingernail sensitivity?”
  • Leading Questions: Leading questions don’t encourage transparency, since, by revealing your own views on the subject you are telling your date how you want them to answer. “So can you believe what [person in the media] did? What an idiot, huh? You’re not one of those health nuts, are you? I’m sure you’re not a [sports team] fan? You don’t mind if I smoke? I don’t inhale.” Of course, most leading questions aren’t that obvious, which means you may be a “leading-question asker” without knowing it. Ask your friends who know you and love you well to shoot straight with you. (But don’t use a leading question to ask them: You don’t think I ask leading questions, do you?)
  • Direct Questions: Direct questions have their place, but they can be off-putting, especially early in a relationship. ”How many kids do you want? What role has alcoholism played in your family? When is the last time you viewed porn? When was the time before that? What is your view on homosexuality? Does this make me look fat?”

In truth, if you wind up in a serious relationship with this person, you do want to learn the answers to most of the above questions, but if both of you are intentional about dating, this information will come up more naturally over time.

So on the one hand, you can err by keeping things shallow, date after date, and never learn much about your date’s values and convictions, but on the other hand you can err by not allowing your relationship to develop at a natural, even pace. Though you might want the answers right away, the direct approach is less likely to get honest answers. And the right answer later is better than the wrong answer sooner.

Toward that end, here are some better questions for better dates.

Open Ended Questions:

Whereas direct and yes-no questions are about the information, open-ended questions are more about the person. That’s obviously a better focus for your conversation. Plus, just hearing how a person talks about themselves and their life is a window into what they value.

  • What was the best part of your week?
  • What’s a typical day look like for you?
  • Is there anything you’re looking forward to this [weekend/week/holiday/month]?
  • What do you like to do to relax?
  • What’s a major pet peeve?

In addition to being open-ended, the following questions will help you understand how your date makes decisions, and decision-making is all about a person’s values and convictions.

Q: What’s one of your favorite movies/books? Why do you like it?
Note: Do they love movies that make them laugh, in spite of objectionable material? Will they not watch any rated-R movie? Do they care more about character development, a feel good ending, suspense, thoughtful dialogue, action, deep meaning or plot integrity. Or do they not know what plot integrity is?

Q: How did you pick your major or get into your line of work?
Note: Do they seem motivated by social status, power, money, a sense of calling, a need for meaning, or other? How have they progressed from year to year or from job to job? Do they tend to make these decisions independently or do they rely heavily on family or others?

Q: What attracted you to the church you’ve been attending?
Note: Did they follow a friend? Were they looking for a place that met their needs or a place where they could use their gifts and talents? Do they like the teaching because it’s encouraging, challenging, deep, entertaining, relevant, or did they just like the worship music?

Q: What led you to get into [hobby/personal interest/club]?
Note: Do they stick to certain things or jump from one thing to another? Are they motivated by social status, family ties, relationships, thrills, or something else?

Q: If you were given a million dollars, what’s one of the first things you’d do?
Note: Do they buy something for themselves or someone they love? Would they rather travel? Do they pay off debt? Do they immediately mention having to pay 50% in taxes? And if they do, is it with a sense of humor or bitter resignation?

Further, open-ended questions are about engendering honesty and vulnerability.

  • In what ways has your major/job/career been different than you expected?
  • What was growing up in your home like? How do you think it was typical? How do you think it was unique?
  • What’s a favorite vacation memory? Why has it stuck with you?
  • What was one of the biggest compliments anyone ever paid you? How did you respond at the time? Would you have responded differently today?

A-B Questions:

Sometimes, open-ended questions can be intimidating for some, not because they’re too invasive, but because they’re too vague. In that event, rephrase your open-ended question as an A-B question and then follow it up with another open-ended question. Consider this conversation:

Q: Which was the bigger holiday for your family: Christmas or Thanksgiving?
A: Christmas
Q: What were some of your favorite Christmas traditions?
A: Ahhhhhhhhhhh… I don’t know.
Q: Well, was your big celebration typically on Christmas day or Christmas eve?
A: That usually depended on what day we visited my Grandma.
Q: Cool. What was special about Christmas at Grandma’s?

BONUS: Incidentally, and this has little to do with discerning the values and convictions of your date, but A-B questions are also a great way to make your dating plans together. Like so:

Q: Where do you want to go eat?
A: Oh. I don’t know.
Q: Would you prefer some place dressy or casual?
A: Casual.
Q: Are you more of a Mexican or Italian person?
A: Well I am part Italian, but I love Mexican food.
Q: Would you want to get Mexican food then or would you prefer American?
A: Oh definitely Mexican.
Q: Great! Me too! Are you in the mood for Chuy’s or Chipotle?
A: I don’t care you pick.

And at that point, you can feel pretty good about picking either and pleasing your date.

Hope this was helpful to you, but let us know either way, or suggest other questions you’ve used to discern your date’s values and convictions. Next week we’ll talk about discerning compatibility and what’s far more important than that.

This post is one in a series on Purpose-Driven Dating which we define as follows: Intentional time invested in one other person for the purpose of growing in intimacy that might lead to a life-giving, life-long marriage. Our current focus: …for the purpose of growing in intimacy… The series begins with this post.

DNA: It’s What’s For Dating

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The LoveEd study guide series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE YOU FALL IN LOVE! It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. Check out the first two 8-lesson study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better?  And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!