Editor's Note: Although this article is about certain concerns while "dating" and may not seem appropriate to a polie website, I posted it for two reasons: first, many a police officer is young enough to be dating and this may be helpful; second, some of what's discussed here is applicable to getting to know a new patrol partner.
Dating. As a teenager, this word brought images of excitement and a sense of maturity. Even as a young adult, and especially when I was dating my husband, it brought a sense of adventure. It was the name of the time we spent together as we got to know each other. As an adult, I’m finding, the word is cringe-worthy. It seemed so easy as a young person. You just hung out with people, usually at school and at a certain point you just seemed to pair up with someone who shared similar interests. At least, that’s what it seemed like. As a grown up, first you have to find someone to “hang out” with. This can be complicated if you work in an occupation that makes it difficult to find appropriate dates (like law enforcement—after all, I doubt most of the people you come into contact with would make your “I want to see if this person is the one” list). Once you do find someone you’re interested in spending time with, you have to figure out how to learn about them. When we were young, we knew a lot about each other by virtue of our surroundings (what school you went to, how old you were by your grade level, what interests you had due to clubs or sports you were involved in, what kind of people you liked by who you hung out with, even what you like to eat because of cafeteria observations), but now as a grown-up that information is hidden. You might know a bit because of where you met (a gym, the grocery store, a glass blowing class or a Shakespeare festival), but finding out who the person you’re dating IS means you have to do a little work.
Mike Wasilewski and Althea Olson wrote a great article outlining what the three to six month timeframe of dating could look like. Much of this time is getting to know the other person. This is the information gathering stage. Granted both people are still on their best behavior at this point. The article defines it aptly as my representative is dating your representative. But if you’re looking at long term—if your goal is to determine if the person you’re seeing is someone you could spend the rest of your life with and not just someone you can tolerate over the holidays, you need to get to know them. The best way to get to know something better is to ask a lot of questions.
Asking questions can help you get beyond your partner’s likes and dislikes. A popular dating site states they matched people up by compatibility, so I looked into how they figure this out. I for one would love to know what to look for to determine compatibility and I wondered if compatibility is something you can become more of. If you’re dating, just married or have been married for 25 years, can you become more compatible with your mate? According to their rating, it appears you can. Their compatibility rating is split into two sections.
The first section is core traits which are defining aspects of who you are and remain largely unchanged throughout your adult life. These traits are split into four sections: Emotional Temperament (self concept, emotional status), Social Style (character, kindness, dominance, sociability, autonomy and adaptability), Cognitive Mode (intellect, curiosity, humor and artistic passion) and Physicality (passion, sexuality, appearance).
The second section is vital attributes which are based on learning experience and are likely to change due to life events and decisions you make as an adult. This section is broken up into three sections: Relationship Skills (communication style, emotion management and conflict resolution), Values and Beliefs (spirituality, family goals, traditionalism, ambition and altruism) and Key Experiences (family background, family status and education). Essentially, core traits are static but vital attributes can be adjusted. So as you get to know someone, you have to ask questions that determine who your date is in each of these sections. I would go a step further. I would ask yourself these questions, so you know who you are before you try to figure out who you’re dating and what you want from them. I found some resources and compiled some questions to get started:
Do you think that physical attributes are more important to maintaining a relationship or do you think that friendship maintains a relationship?
What is the first thing you notice when you look at a man/woman?
Are there any causes you strongly believe in?
Tell me how you describe me to other people.
Are you a member of any societies or associations?
How often do you believe it is normal to want sex?
Are you a people’s person or do you prefer your own company?
What were you thinking about right before you kissed me for the first time?
Describe your parents’ marriage. What was the best part and the worst part in your opinion?
Do you believe in life after death?
Who was the first person who died in your life and how did you feel?
Do you believe in marriage? Why or why not?
Do you consider yourself a neat or messy person?
What animals do you like or not like?
Have you ever been on the wrong side of the law?
Can you tell me what makes up your belief system?
If you had only one day to live, what would you do?
How long are you on the internet every day?
Do you believe in God?
What would you do if your best friend disapproved of me?
How important do you think monogamy is to a relationship?
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
If you gave money to charity, which ones would you choose and why?
What’s your earliest childhood memory?
When was the last time you really laughed?
What is the one thing that would be a relationship breaker for you?
Which has been your longest romantic relationship, so far?
Which personality traits do you want your partner to have? Which of these are an absolute must?
These questions are a good start to get to know your partner and also to help erase some of the awkward silence that can happen in the beginning of a relationship (thank goodness as you get comfortable with a good person these silences become nice). The best thing about these questions is they can establish a relationship built on communication. There should never be a topic you cannot discuss with your partner in a healthy relationship. Some might be uncomfortable but being able to trust each other enough to talk about anything is essential. And, all good long-term relationships began with dating.
About The Author:
Michelle Perin has been a freelance writer since 2000. Her credits include Law Enforcement Technology, Police, Law and Order, Police Times, Beyond the Badge, Michigan State Trooper, Michigan Snowmobiler Magazine and Chief of Police. She writes two columns a month for Officer.com. Michelle worked for the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department for almost eight years. In December 2010, she earned her Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Indiana State University. Currently, Michelle works as the Administrative Coordinator at Jasper Mountain a residential psychiatric facility for children. In her spare time, she enjoys being the fundraising coordinator for the Lane Area Ferret Shelter & Rescue, playing her bass, working on her young adult novel Desert Ice and raising her two sons in a small town in Oregon.