Several years ago, I signed up for the EHarmony on-line dating site. It took me about three weeks to realize what a terrible site it is and to quit. Although the site and their process are totally screwed up, they do ask an extensive list of questions, many of which are quite interesting. I’ve listed my responses, as well as the “Must Haves” and “Can’t Stands” I selected.
If you were taken by your date to a party where you knew no one, how would you respond?
- stay close to my date, letting him/her introduce me
- find a spot at the back bar and relax alone, letting him/her work the room
- strike out on my own, introducing myself and making friends
- I would ask my partner if I could skip this particular event
I regularly go to parties where I don’t know anyone and I have no problem with introducing myself and striking up a conversation with strangers. (I also give a lot of parties.) I would do whatever made her feel most comfortable.
How often do you lose your temper?
- practically never
- once in a while
- on occasion during a week
- probably once a day on average
When in a relationship, how much personal space do you generally find you need?
- I don’t have a great need for “personal space.” I like lots of together time.
- I find my time spent working is enough personal time, the rest I like to spend with my partner.
- As long as I can get one night a week to myself, my personal space needs are met.
- When I’m with my partner I’m completely there, but I do need considerable time for personal reflection.
If I’m serious with someone, I want to see her a lot and I want to spend the night with her (i.e., sleepovers) many or most nights of the week. On the other hand, it’s essential that she have friends separate from mine and that she and I spend time with our separate friends. (It’s particularly important to me that she have close male friends, as she is more likely to understand me if she has male friends to discuss things with.)
If you’re living with someone, it’s essential to have his and her bathrooms, dressing rooms and offices/studies.
How important is chemistry to you?
- I need to feel that instant “click”
- within the first couple of dates I need to sense a certain chemistry
- I think chemistry can be generated over the long-term with someone I really like
- I don’t believe chemistry is really important to a successful relationship
To me, chemistry and click are different. Chemistry is based on physical and sexual attraction. For most guys, including me, sexual attraction almost always happens immediately or it never happens. For me, it happens when :
- I’m attracted to her physically.
- I like her voice and the way she speaks.
- She’s feminine.
- She is high energy.
Clicking, for me, is more intellectual. That occurs when she :
- is exceptionally intelligent
- is very verbal
- has a wide range of intellectual interests
- has an insatiable intellectual curiosity
There are some factors in which chemistry and clicking overlap, such as if she is high energy and totally present (in the moment), completely in the moment.
When you have a first date where there is both mutual chemistry and you both click, that’s exciting.
Which of the following scenarios would make you more nervous?
- making a presentation to 500 people
- a long car ride with a person you just met
- talking about your deepest fears with your lover
- meeting with the president of the company you work for
Answer: (a) and (c) and don’t make me nervous at all. As for (c), I crave emotional intimacy and I have no problem opening up. As for (d), I am the President of my company and I believe the President is a great guy to spend time with. As for (b), I would want to know them well enough before I would take a long trip with someone; otherwise, I just wouldn’t do it. (What if they were boring and you were stuck with them for 8 hours? I’d rather watch grass grow.)
How many books did you read last year?
- more than 12
Is 12 books a year considered to be a lot? I read about 100 books a year; I’ve always been a fast and voracious reader.
When going somewhere :
- I am usually early
- I am usually on time
- I am usually late
- I am often very late or don’t show
What best describes your attitude toward work?
- it’s just how I earn money to enjoy the rest of my life
- I like my job but my focus is elsewhere
- it is where I am at my best and my main focus
- it is the culmination of my dream and where I invest almost all of my energy
I have an incredibly fantastic job — launching Web sites and buying companies is a lot of fun and since I’m the CEO, I rarely do anything I don’t want to do. (I delegate a lot.)
Where do you see yourself living in 15 years?
- a nice apartment in the city
- a house in the suburbs
- a house in a small town
- a house in the country
Answer: (c) is of no interest to me. I need the stimulation of being around exceptionally interesting and intelligent people, and major cities such as Boston offer that. (The weather in Boston totally sucks, but we’ve got more interesting people than Cincinnati.) A house in the country is fine if it is a second home, but I would rather purchase an interest in Exclusive Resorts. As for (a) and (b), I am torn. It would depend on the preferences of the woman I was seriously involved with.
Your idea of adventure is:
- whitewater rafting
- karaoke singing
- trying a different route to work
- ordering a dish you’ve never tried before
Answer: (a) sounds interesting. I find it hard to believe that (b), (c) and (d) and constitute adventure.
On Saturday night, would you rather go to:
- a professional sporting event
- a popular new movie
- the latest dance club
Answer: (a) and (c) and sound good. As for (b), I like playing sports but I never watch them (save the Super Bowl once a year). Dancing is a lot of fun but the “latest” implies you’re going there simply because it’s trendy, and I never do anything simply because it’s trendy.
How often do you exercise?
- Once a week
- Two or three times a week
- Every Day
See answer below.
What kind of exercise do you prefer?
- extreme sports
Ideally I like to stretch every day and do cardio and resistance training 6 times a week. (That’s my ideal, but I don’t always do it.) For cardio, when the weather permits, I love to bike along the Charles River.
If you went out to eat with a friend, which of the following would you prefer?
- a nice 4-star restaurant
- a basic steakhouse
- an undiscovered hideaway
- a hole in the wall with great food
Answer: Holes in the wall do not appeal to me; ambience may not be as important as the food, but it is important. So I would choose (a) or (c).
If you could take a dream getaway, where would you most likely choose to spend a week?
- hiking in the mountains
- a cottage by the sea
All four sound fine. Why not have four vacations doing one of each? Who in their right mind would turn down Paris or Hawaii?
Your idea of a romantic time would be:
- a quiet candle-lit restaurant
- rollerblading on the beach
- cooking dinner together at home
- getting dressed up and going to a dance club together
How does one rollerblade on the beach? Is there cement nearby that one rollerblades on? I would choose (a), (c) or (d).
What style of dress do you prefer?
- I like to get dressed up
- I like to dress casual
- I dress for the occasion
- I wear whatever is clean
Which of the following quirks would bother you most about your partner?
- uses poor grammar
- tends to cling to you in social situations
- is not familiar with current events
Poor grammar is not a good sign, and often indicates that the person is not well educated. (I would make an exception might be for someone whose native language is not English.) As for (c), I have a preference for women who are up on current events, but it’s not a deal breaker. Different people I know have been knowledgeable about different things. (“I learn about life by reading novels rather than the newspaper.”)
(I regularly receive comments on this answer. “He says he wants a really bright girl but he doesn’t care if she know anything about current events.” So I’m adding this explanation. One of the brightest people I knew at Harvard was Marcella. She couldn’t care less about current events, particularly news stories that three months from now no one will care about. In addition to writing a book about every other year, she’s probably reads 400 books a year, but she was concerned with ideas that were fundamental than the latest Washington gossip.
So to repeat — I read three newspapers a day (NYT, WSJ and the Globe), because I’m addicted to this stuff. If you did, that would be a plus, but there are lots of other things I care more about. I DO know lots of really bright people — scientists, engineers, artists, writers, actors — who have zero interest in current events. Most of the women I have dated would not be able to name one justice on the U.S. Supreme Court but are also exceptionally intelligent.)
Would you rather date someone who is:
- very busy, with a sometimes chaotic schedule, who books time with you in advance
- busy, with a structured schedule, you know what days the person will be available for fun
- slightly busy, who works during the day and is available most nights
- not busy and has lots of free time
If I’m in a serious relationship with someone, she would be the top priority in my life, and I would expect that she would do the same for me. (a) in particular has no interest for me.
What is your opinion of committed long distance relationships?
- they are manageable
- they can work for a predetermined period of time
- they are only feasible for a short period of time
- they are impossible for any length of time
Answer: (d). I would never start one.
What do you think of “Soul Mates?”
- there is no such thing
- each person has one soul mate, whether they find them or not
- a person has several soul mates in a lifetime
- through work, any person you truly love can become your soul mate
I define a soul mate connection as one in which you have a physical connection, an intellectual connection, an emotional connection, and a spiritual/moral/values connection. If you’ve got all four, you’ve got something very special and you should work like hell to try to make it work. The idea that there is only one person on the planet with whom you could have such a connection with is, in my view, ridiculous — what are the odds that you would find him, out of 6 billion people on the planet? What if he lives in Nepal and you never make it to Nepal?? Or what if when you do visit Nepal, he’s visiting Disneyworld? Clearly there are several people with whom one could have such a connection, but finding those few is obviously very difficult.
How important is it to you that your partner be accepted by your family and friends?
- very important, I couldn’t date someone without their approval
- important, I trust my family and friends but sometimes they are wrong
- slightly important, if they had a strong objection I might consider it
- not important at all, their opinions would not influence me
My family would be quite accepting of anyone I brought home. I can’t imagine this would ever be an issue. If it was, my loyalty would be to the woman I am involved with.
Do you enjoy being alone?
- I like being by myself
- I like equal portions of alone time and social time
- I prefer to be with other people
- I don’t enjoy being alone
I would say somewhere between (b) and (c).
How many years have you lived alone?
- I have never lived alone
- 1-5 years
- 6-10 years
- more than 10 years
I had a long-term relationship that ended in 2001. Since then, a few times I have lived with certain girlfriends. I prefer living with someone than living alone. Waking up every morning to someone you’ve very much in love with is the nicest feeling in the world.
How romantic are you?
- I love lots of romance, it is a necessity for me to feel loved
- I am romantic, but do not require it
- I am occasionally romantic
- I don’t consider myself a romantic person
Answer: (a). It’s essential that someone I date be highly romantic, as I am. My experience has been that girls who are turned off by mild PDA are usually screwed up in a lot of ways.
How trusting are you?
- sometimes I’m too naïve
- I trust people and am able to forgive them when wronged
- I trust people until they prove me wrong, then it is hard to trust again
- people are dishonest by nature, you need to be careful
Answer: Probably between (b) and (c). If someone betrays my trust, it would take a while for them to regain my trust.
Which of the following things would you rather have lots of?
All of them sound good to me. Where do I sign up?
Which sort of date sounds like the most fun to you?
- attend a lecture on a topic that appeals to both of you
- go bargain hunting at a local flea market or antique shop
- go bowling
- visit a local comedy club
For a first or second date, none of these seem like a good way to get to know someone.
How organized are you?
- I plan everything in advance
- I usually don’t get caught by surprise
- I like to just let things happen
- I never know what I’m doing until it is done
Given the four answers listed by eHarmony, I think the question they are really asking is, “How spontaneous are you?” To that question, the answer is all of the above. I have no problems making plans in advance. If the BSO is playing 6 weeks from now and we decide to go to the concert, I’ll have my secretary purchase tickets and put it in my calendar and then it’s a date. On the other hand, I am also quite spontaneous.
As for the question they asked (about being organized, as opposed to being spontaneous), I follow a time management and personal productivity guru named David Allen. Allen’s philosophy is that the goal is not to be organized, it’s to have your mind be completely free, to be able to be totally present, completely in the moment. If you can do that without being organized, great! Who the heck wants to spend time getting organized? Unfortunately, he (and I) know of no way to have your mind completely free without being organized. The point is that being organized is not the goal, but a means to achieve a larger goal. I am extremely well organized most (but not all) of the time. (See my essay on David Allen.)
EHarmony’s question is based on the assumption that being organized is the opposite of being spontaneous. I would contend that most of the time, the opposite is true. If you have everything tracked, if all of your things to do, commitments and agreements are being tracked in a leak proof system, then it’s easier to be completely spontaneous, because nothing will be left hanging if you decide to take off for Colorado for 4 days of skiing.
With which sentence do you agree most?
- A sensible person avoids activities that are dangerous.
- I sometimes like to do things that are a little frightening.
It depends on what you mean by dangerous. Sky diving would be a blast, a total blast. I’ll never do it, however; the downside risk is simply too great. It’s bad form to die a premature death.
What is your opinion of traditional gender roles?
- I like traditional gender roles and want to be in a relationship that celebrates them.
- I would accept traditional gender roles if my partner were really interested in them.
- I’m not at all interested in traditional gender roles and want my mate and me to define our roles on our own.
I am definitely chivalrous — e.g., opening doors for a girl or helping her on with her coat. All of the women I have dated have wanted the guy to take initiative and to take the lead in the relationship, a role I am comfortable with. If a woman wanted a different kind of relationship, I’d be willing to discuss that with her, but I’m not certain if I’ve met such a woman.
Do you consider yourself an ambitious person?
- By any definition, I am very ambitious.
- I have clear goals and sometimes consider myself ambitious.
- I am pursuing some life goals, but am not a very ambitious person.
- I consider myself quite content as is.
I certainly know what I want to accomplish professionally and I am accomplishing what I want to do. By traditional standards, I assume most people would find me to be accomplished professionally, in that I run my own firm and I don’t have a boss. I don’t know if that makes me ambitious.
When in a relationship, are you a jealous person?
- I’m not the least bit jealous.
- I don’t consider myself jealous, but on occasion I have felt threatened.
- I feel jealous every now and then.
- I’m not overbearing or abusive, but I can be quite jealous.
If I’m in a committed relationship, I am possessive in the sense that I expect her to be exclusive and monogamous, as I would be. (I flunked sharing in kindergarten.) Jealously implies a lack of trust and I would never be involved with someone if I could not trust her. To answer the question, I have never been jealous, nor have I ever been involved with anyone that ever did anything that would cause me not to trust her.
Do you consider yourself physically affectionate when involved in a relationship?
- Sure, I love to hold hands, hug and give casual kisses.
- I’m moderately affectionate. I like to hold hands and exchange hugs.
- I do like a small amount of physical affection.
- I don’t consider myself a very physically affectionate person.
Answer: (a). I am extremely affectionate, I love to cuddle and kiss for hours, and it’s essential that my partner feel the same. She also needs to be comfortable with reasonable PDA. If you’re not extremely affectionate, I’m the wrong guy for you — this issue is a deal breaker.
How do you feel about premarital sex?
- I am completely opposed to it
- as long as marriage is imminent, it is okay
- in the context of a loving relationship, it is okay
- I accept sex as a natural part of dating
Sex — and lots of it — is a very important part of a dating relationship and I assume sexual intimacy will occur in a reasonable time frame. The idea of waiting until one is engaged or married strikes me as juvenile and ridiculous. I’ve often wondered about couples that wait to sleep together until they are married. What if you do so and the person you marry is terrible in bed? Ask for an annulment?
How much ongoing stress do you have in your life?
- I have almost no stress in my life.
- I have a small amount of ongoing stress.
- I have a fairly high level of constant stress.
- I have a very stressful life.
I have a job that most people would find extremely stressful. I intellectualize issues that come up (as they do every day) so I rarely find my job to be stressful. Most of the time, it’s only money, it’s not as if my life is in danger.
How would you assess your verbal intimacy skills?
- I am extremely comfortable talking about my innermost needs and desires.
- With the exception of a couple areas, I’m comfortable being verbally intimate.
- I’m still learning to be verbally intimate, but my skills are improving.
- It’s hard work for me to discuss my intimate feelings.
Answer: (a). I crave emotional intimacy and I would not date someone who is not capable of a very high level of emotional intimacy and is capable of doing so. I want my lover to be my best friend, my confidant.
Realizing that labels are imperfect, do you consider yourself a dominant person in your personal life?
- Yes, I generally dominate most social settings and relationships.
- Although not always dominant, I am often taking the lead in relationships.
- I like to spend equal time being dominant and submissive.
- I usually like to follow someone else’s lead.
Most groups of people — whether business, social or whatever — need leadership. Since good leadership so rarely occurs, I often take the lead and provide leadership. On the other hand, I have been in some groups where there was good leadership and I was absolutely and totally delighted to let someone else take the lead; in those occasions, it was refreshing not to be the leader. This does not happen enough.
What I don’t like is to be involved in groups where someone else is in charge and they are doing a lousy job. I have better things to do with my time and it drives me nuts. I have been on a few committees that plan charity events, such as black tie charity balls. They take one simple task that would take one person 5 hours to accomplish and they divide it among 5 people. Those 5 people then spend several hours communicating and coordinating with each other, the task takes forever to get done, and the result is often terrible. I just won’t do this anymore.
I like to play on teams that win. As an entrepreneur, I am spoiled, since I am able to determine with whom I partner up with professionally. I seek and insist on great partners. Many of my friends work for large companies where they don’t have the power or autonomy to determine who they work with, and I’m very glad this is not the case with me.
Do you enjoy debating the issues of the day with your partner?
- I hate to debate about anything.
- Occasionally I don’t mind a friendly debate, but I don’t really enjoy it.
- As long as we don’t get too intense, I enjoy a good discussion about general issues.
- I find it stimulating to debate various “issues of the day” with my partner and love it.
At Harvard, I was at two research centers (in international relations) where we vigorously debated the major foreign and defense policy issues of the day. It was intellectual combat at the highest level, and it developed my mind and taught me how to think and defend my ideas. I received training that few have ever enjoyed. I have several friends — such as Jack McMullen (the fellow who moved to Vermont to run in the Republican primary against Senator Patrick Leahy) and Thomas Hout (the partner at the Boston Consulting Group who co-invented time-based management as a competitive strategy) — who are brilliant, deep thinkers, people with whom I have amazing discussions and debates. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoy these discussions.
These debates and discussion follow a very male pattern — no holds barred, you don’t pull punches, you look for the slightest flaw in logic, even if you have to go 17 levels deep to find it, and then you pounce. After attacking each other for hours on end, you go get a drink and you’re still best friends. None of it is personal.
I have been involved with some extraordinarily intelligent women and I have learned the hard way that most women — but not all — don’t enjoy these kind of bare-knuckle, fight-to-the-death debates. If you critique their ideas mercilessly, they take it personally. The closer you are with them emotionally, the less interested they are in brass-knuckles intellectual debate. I have learned that a much different form of intellectual interaction is appropriate. This is not true of all women, of course, but it has been true of most of the women I have been involved with.
For example, I know a woman who is a very famous literary critic at a major university. She is very broadly educated, has a high degree of intellectual curiosity in areas outside her field, and is quite analytical. Even with her (someone in the top one-hundred of one percent of the Bell curve in terms of IQ), this kind of debate would turn her off.
As for debating the “issues of the day,” most of the women I’ve been involved with were not very interested in those issues. It would be nice to be involved with someone that read the newspaper carefully, but I could certainly fall for someone who prefers to read Henry James to “The New York Times.” If a woman was up on current events, that would be great.
Outside of a romantic relationship, are you competitive?
- I’m extremely competitive.
- Most of the time I’m pretty competitive.
- On rare occasions I’ll become competitive.
- I’m never competitive.
I have very high standards for myself and measure myself by those standards, rather than comparing myself with others, so I don’t consider myself to be competitive. (In some but not all cases, these standards are far beyond what I see in others.) I do look at what other people do in order to see what I can learn from them.
To the extent that I compare myself with others, it’s often a person who is the best in the world or close to it in that field. Thus, I go in knowing that I’ll never be as good as they are and it doesn’t bother me. There is no way I am ever going to good at computers as Paul Graham or at corporate strategy as Thomas Hout or management as David Steadman or corporate law as Donald Glazer. Interacting with them makes me a more knowledgeable person, and I don’t need the ego satisfaction of winning against them, assuming I could.
Chemistry — I must feel deeply in love with and attracted to my partner.
Communicator — I must have someone who is good at talking and listening.
Sense of Humor — I must have someone who is sharp and can enjoy the humorous side of life.
Verbal Intimacy — I must know that my partner is sharing their deepest emotional thoughts and desires.
Emotionally Healthy — I must have a partner who is emotionally healthy, and able to share a stable life with someone else.
Artistry — I must have a partner who has a passion for music, literature, drama, art, and the finer things in life either as a spectator or participant.
Kindness — I must have a partner who is gentle and kind.
Affectionate — I must have someone who is comfortable giving and receiving affection.
Intellect — I must have a partner who is bright and can share my understanding of the world as well as enjoy discussing important issues.
Curiosity — I must have a partner who is hungry for new information and knowledge and who strives to learn as much as possible.
Depressed — I can’t stand someone who is constantly unhappy about their life.
Cynicism — I can’t stand someone who generally sees the world from a cynical perspective.
Rude — I can’t stand someone who is belittling, impatient or hateful to people in any situation.
Childishness — I can’t stand someone who is not emotionally mature.
Racist — I can’t stand someone who believes that any particular ethnic group to which they belong is superior to the rest of humanity.
Hypocrites — I can’t stand someone who holds a double standard for their actions and those of other people.
Judgmental — I can’t stand someone who finds fault with everyone and everything.
Pessimism — I can’t stand someone who always sees the glass as half empty.
Political Correctness — I can’t stand someone who censors their thoughts and opinions with a politically correct agenda.
Uninterested — I can’t stand someone who does not enjoy having sex on a regular basis.