Whether you're having sex with your partner or not, knowing a mate's sexual behavior is a critical component of building a relationship. "If you are having sex now, or plan to in the future, you need to know your partner's sexual habits," says Dr. Durant. "You need to know if your mate uses condoms, and if so, if he uses them with everyone, or just certain people. You need to know if he's gotten anyone pregnant, or if she's terminated any pregnancies. You want to know how many partners they've had. And you want to know if they've ever been HIV-tested, and whether they would be willing to be tested with you." Experts warn singles to beware of the people who are elusive, vague or hostile when discussing their sexual history, as this may be indicative of larger issues.
2. What is your fantasy? Although there is some debate about this question (many critics citing that it redirects efforts outside of the relationship instead of within), others maintain its value depending on the circumstance. "Exploring fantasy depends on how the relationship is moving," says Eric V. Copage, author of SoulMates, An Illustrated Guide to Black Love Sex and Romance. "If it's a relationship that is solely sexual, you can ask it right away. But, if there is more to your involvement than sex, you have to be mindful of the goal of the relationship, and whether or not your partner's fantasies violate those desires. Inquire about the wildest act someone has ever done sexually, and this may give you some insight into his or her willingness or desire to engage in fantasy."
3. Are you in debt? Although it is a sensitive topic, understanding your mate's financial habits, not necessarily how much he or she earns, is essential to the success of a long-term relationship. "Even in the short run, spending habits can be indicators of character, values and personality," says Dr. Paris Finner-Williams, lawyer, psychologist and co-author (along with husband, Robert Williams) of Marital Secrets: Dating, Lies, Communication and Sex. In their book, the Detroit-based couple lists 105 questions for couples to consider before getting engaged. "People often complain about the exact behaviors that they saw before they got married, or before they became seriously involved. But they failed to investigate or ask the pertinent questions in order to truly understand how that person's habits translated into character. We encourage people to go into a relationship with not only their hearts open, but their eyes as well."
4. Why did you break up with your ex? While you don't want to spend your entire date talking about ex-partners, there are advantages to knowing the reasons behind your new lover's break-up, or in many cases, divorce. "I wouldn't recommend it for the first date, but you want to know fairly quickly if you plan to be involved beyond the immediate," says Copage. "Your lover's answer can tell you a lot about them, their character, their tendencies, how they react or overreact to different situations, what their tolerance levels are as well as their quirks." More importantly, if you don't completely address why the past relationship failed, you are likely to duplicate those issues in your current relationship.
5. What is your idea of an ideal mate? Knowing what your potential mate finds attractive is fundamental. "You need to know if you come close to that person's idea of an ideal mate," says Dr. Williams, the Detroit lawyer and psychologist who has counseled singles and couples for over 30 years. "When there is discord, the person will have a tendency to gravitate toward what they are attracted to, and if that image is not consistent with who you are, your new partner may wander off in the direction of that attraction." So, if you are dating someone new, ask that person what his or her "type" is, and how you fit into their definition of desirable.
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?
2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?
3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?
4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?
5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?
6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?
7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?
8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?
9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?
10) Do we like and respect each other’s friends?
11) Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?
12) What does my family do that annoys you?
13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?
14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?
15) Does each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?