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What Do You Need In A Date?


Four gay men — two single and two in relationships — discuss whether casual hookups have gotten in the way of love and dating.

By Jennifer Derryberry Mann

ou have a date coming up with someone new and interesting… and you have so many things you want to find out. But grilling your date like you’re the head of HR is no way to woo the one who might be The One. So how do you get info on important topics like faith, kids, and career without sounding super-intense? We spoke to therapist Paulette Kouffman Sherman, author of the book Dating from the Inside Out, to get her best strategies for before, during and after your next date.


You say that “interviewing” your date is the way to make sure there’s a good match between who the person is and who you need him or her to be. Let’s start at the very beginning then—how do you figure out what you are looking for?

List the seven things that are important to you in a partner. A lot of times we think we know exactly what we want: height, earning power, hair color. The list of superficial things can get pretty
A lot of times we think we know exactly what we want.
long, so when you can only include seven things, you have to make some better decisions. Does she need to be thin, or is kindness more important? What are your real essentials? Say you want kindness in a partner. Of course, everyone tries to be as nice as possible in the beginning of a relationship. But if you define kindness as caring about other people’s feelings, then you know specifically what to look for.

When my husband and I were first dating, he checked his pockets for a quarter, didn’t find one and then asked me for one when we were standing on the street outside my office. I asked why, and he explained that a nearby parking meter was about to expire. He didn’t want the car’s owner to get a ticket. Seeing the care he had even for a stranger proved to me how much kindness was part of who he truly was.

Once you know your criteria, how do you interview your date? Some topics can be tough to talk about, like faith. What kind of spiritual interview questions might you ask?

Don’t assume that you’d like someone who’s Jewish, for example, for no other reason than being Jewish. I’d start to interview your date to get on his or her page, finding out what kind of Jew they that person is—because this person might be someone who’s kosher and extremely religious, or be someone who only goes to temple on high holy days and puts up a Christmas tree. So when the topic of faith comes up, you might ask, “What does your faith look
It’s important to be aware of your most important issues.
like now?” and “What would you like it to be 10 years from now?”

I’m Jewish, and my husband is Christian, but we’re both very spiritual. We found common ground in our values, and we’re exploring ways to express our faith to our children. We both value differences and learning from other people, so this works for us.

As you gather answers and insight from your date, how do you make sense of what you’ve learned? What kind of reflection or soul searching is most useful?

I suggest keeping a “conscious dating” journal, and writing about the good and the bad, what you observed during your “interview.” About 90 percent of communication is nonverbal, and you can learn a lot from someone’s reaction to your words. Do you get the vibe of, say, “Whoa! I don’t want to have kids for awhile!” Or does your date lean in, express an interest, and ask more questions about you?

Create a checklist of deal-breakers and preferences. A preference might be height. A deal-breaker is something that, if you give it up, you’ll be resentful because it’s so much a part of you, like whether or not you want kids. It’s important to be aware of your most important issues—and to be discussing them all along. You may not want to bring up kids on date #1 or #2, but if a person’s perspective on starting a family is important to you, that’s something you will want to learn about fairly early on. Knowing your agenda will make dating that much easier and more enjoyable.


Jennifer Derryberry Mann is a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis. She writes about the connection between spiritual and physical well-being for Spirituality & Health magazine, and she is the former editor of Science & Spirit magazine.
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