Testing Your Partners – Vetting Their Quality

I’m all for testing. When you have a need to for a highly qualified person to fill a particular role, you have an obligation to make sure you find a suitable candidate. The costs of not doing this can be dire if a critical skill is required and the chosen individual does not possess this skill. This applies to work, social, romantic and mentoring relationships. There’s a lot at stake, so you’d better be sure to find the right person.

But this only works if you have the ability to create a test that uncovers the critical skills you are seeking or require for the role. If you don’t possess these skills, your test is to validate something else, most likely your unconscious view of the world.

With professional endeavors, if you run a successful business you likely possess many of the skills needed to identify the ideal or a suitable candidate. If you are looking for your first employee, there’s a good chance that they will need to share some of your entrepreneurial or enterprising spirit. They will need to be hard working, committed to developing a successful business in spite of the slow return or no return on work effort and a strong ability to let go of that which no longer matters and move towards the new goal without taking anything personally. If you can find someone like that as your first hire in a start-up environment, you may just have found the second millionaire your company will create. And you likely have the skills to identify them because you already possess these skills.

But the vetting of suitable candidates is much tougher with romantic or life partners because, if you are looking for one of them, you HAVEN’T been successful at finding one of them and have no experience at creating a long lasting relationship. If you find yourself needing to create tests to vet your girl or boy friends, you may need to accept that they have already failed to prove themselves worthy of you. If you need to create a test, you already know there is something not fitting about them. Go with your gut and cast them away. They aren’t what you need if you are already setting up tests for them to pass or fail.

A friend recently admitted that they created these tests to find out how quickly their boy friends will cave to their demands. We didn’t get too deep into it, but at the time she seemed sad by the constant failure of almost every guy she tested. The test was simple, she would act in a way that was inappropriate and incompatible with a healthy relationship – tell them that they couldn’t hang out with their platonic female friends or she would connect with new male friends (in an equally platonic way). This created a double standard which forced the guy to do one of two things; tell her that he was going to keep hanging out with his friends or tell her that she needed to limit her contact with her new male friends. This twists how the guys would engage her as it creates a situation that doesn’t spontaneously come about.

3 outcomes are possible, the probable was that they would stop hanging out with female friends and let her hangout with her new male friends. These guys were weak but not controlling; not great choices for life partners but you can do a lot worse – she viewed them as losers though and she stopped respecting them but didn’t get out of the relationship. The second option is that the guy would keep hanging out with his female friends and this would make her angry, lose focus on what she was supposed to be dealing with and then shift her energies to making the boys life around his female friends as tough as possible. These guys passed her test as they remain strong in spite of her wishes, but she took their decision to not cave as an indication of them not loving her as opposed to them being strong and unwilling to have someone control their life. So these guys passed the test but in doing so, effectively killed the relationship. The third option was that he would stop hanging out with his friends and demand that she do the same, which she wouldn’t because “a life partner shouldn’t tell me how to behave, he should just accept me”. They failed the test too.

This pattern of behavior is self defeating because it sees one attempting to force their will onto another person. If they accept it, they fail her test and she is unhappy because she won’t leave them and if they reject her will she is unhappy because they don’t love her. We were too busy at the time to get into the unworkable nature of her vetting approach and  I have no reason to believe that she will change anything about it.

When it comes to long term partnerships, it is important to align yourself with the best candidates and it makes sense to use some form of testing to help identify the best people. But make sure your tests can actually reveal the best people and make sure you can end up with a win:win situation. Anything other than win:win, if it continues, is just fail:fail.