5 People To Meet When Vetting Potential Significant Others

In the wake of a broken relationship, it is often said that if we knew then what we know now, we’d have done things differently. For example, after finding out the boyfriend I lived with was giving toothy blowjobs to NYU undergrads in David Barton steam rooms, it made me wish I’d demanded a security deposit before agreeing to monogamy.

While there’s no way of knowing exactly what will be thrown at us — both literally and figuratively — down the road, there is a way to obtain an impressionist portrait of what the person you’re casually dating will look like once relationship parameters set in.

It’s called vetting, and it’s usually only done when applying for a job or purchasing real estate. Here’s how it works when applied to dating — before things become exclusive between you and someone else, ask them for the names and phone numbers of the following five people: a parent, a sibling, a best friend, a co-worker and an ex. Should they object to the idea of you attaining transparency by interviewing their nearest and dearest about what they’re really like, remind them that even Presidential candidates must undergo the vetting process — so if they want to be chief of your proverbial staff, they best be giving you access to their contacts.

Some might say that in the information age we live in, applying an emotional condom like this is unnecessary — why not just Google or Facebook the current loves in our life? The reason that’s ineffective is because social networking sites only contain information others want us to see. We all have the power to control who we are on the internet. It’s why so many people who are enjoyable online are awful in real life.

My point is this: because we often speak of ourselves aspirationally, especially when romance is involved, we aren’t who we say we are so much as we are who others say we are. It’s words versus actions in the Olympic Games of love. While you and your mate might view each other through the excessive diffusion of a Barbra Walters special, the five people you meet through vetting have seen you both in the harsh light of a Morgan Spurlock documentary. Here are the five people you need to talk to before engaging in unprotected emotions and exclusive intercourse.

1. The Parent

Though quite possibly the most biased of all sources, it’s still important to touch base with at least one person who raised your significant other. Finding out what love model they grew up with is crucial because, even if they don’t want to admit it — somewhere deep down — they were affected by it, and most likely believe that’s how all relationships should be. For example, are both of his parents on their third marriage? Good luck getting him to commit to anything beyond dinner plans. Did her parents meet in high school and have been together ever since? Prepare to fall short trying to live up to the imaginary boyfriend she’s been fanaticizing about since freshman year. In short, knowing the state of their parent’s affairs directly affects yours.

2. The Best Friend

The best friend should know everything about the yin to your yang, so block out a few hours to speak to them — preferably at a bottomless mimosa brunch to lubricate the lock on their vault of secrets. When mining for pertinent information, pay close attention to the content your BF or GF’s BFF serves up. Do they only have disparaging things to say? If so, why is this person their alleged “best friend?” This could mean you’re dating a masochist who mistakes angry confrontations for a passionate connection. On the flip side, do they only have nice things to say? Do they light up when talking about the potential love of your life? If so, there’s a chance the best friend is subconsciously — or even consciously — in love with the guy or girl you’re seeing. This may seem harmless initially, but think about who your boyfriend or girlfriend is going to turn to whenever you two inevitably quarrel. Finally, do they not have a best friend? Ironically, this is the worst possible scenario, as it indicates you are with someone who is antisocial and co-dependent who will cling to you like saran wrap once you enter into a relationship due to the lack of friendships in their life.

3. The Sibling

The sibling — or sibling-like figure, should your love interest be an only child — is important for you to touch base with because they fall somewhere on the spectrum between parent and best friend. What makes the testimony of the sibling so valuable is its objectivity. They’ll tell you about the annoying things their brethren does, how they’ve changed — for better and for worse — over the years, and how significant others are really treated by their parents. Speaking of which, another important piece of information the sibling can tell you is just how many have come before you. Has your newly christened boyfriend or girlfriend never brought anyone home? Good luck being the first to sail those uncharted waters. Has Thanksgiving dinner at their parents’ house had more “special guest stars” than a sweeps episode of Glee? This should take the pressure off your eventual meeting, as it clearly means nothing. Finding this information out is important because it tells you how many people your ex actually took seriously versus how many he told you he took seriously.

4. The Co-Worker

The co-worker is important to interview because relationships, at their core, are a team sport. You’re basically dating one half of an Amazing Race team. You have to know if this person is motivated, if they set goals, if they ever achieve them, if they work well with others, and if they have a promising future. It’s also good to know if they have a job, or have ever had a job, for that matter. If you are going to be the one bearing the financial brunt of this relationship, you should at least get carte blanche when it comes to where you go out to eat on dates. It’s also good to find out if they were ever fired for something egregious, like looking at pornography at work.

5. The Ex

The ex is, quite possibly, the most telling person you will interview in this process. Sometimes the ex is their best friend. Sometimes, the ex is a sworn enemy. Sometimes, there isn’t even an ex to contend with. Sounds good, right? Wrong! This means the person you are about to enter into a monogamous relationship with is boldly going where he’s never gone before — and you’re the test subject. The best thing to discuss when talking to the person they used to date is why things ended. As much as I’d like to believe that people evolve and mature and sometimes change, I’m highly skeptical. In film school, they teach you that, on some level, every director makes the same movie. Well, I have a theory that every person — unless they’ve made an aggressive effort not to — gets into the same relationship. Domineering personalities remain domineering personalities. Optimists remain optimists. Cheaters remain cheaters. It’s best to figure out what your prospective mate’s “pattern” is before you make any commitments. It’s also important to talk to the ex to find out if they think they broke up for the same reason your ex is telling you they did. Ironically, least important is finding out if the ex still has feelings for your current man or woman. The fact that he or she wants to be with you in an official capacity during these casual, NSA/ FWB/ DTF times means something. And if they’re crazy enough about you to let you vet their ex in the first place, that may be all you need to know. TC mark

image – Jain Basil Aliyas

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  • Polly Ester

    i think this is a load of codswallop. if you’re this scared, maybe the issues lie more with you. 

    if this is completely ironic, which it doesn’t seem to be, then i’m super soz for slammin’.


  • Sophia

    This all sounds great, but don’t you think all these people (especially the ex) would be sort of weirded out talking to you about it?

  • samanthaphoebe

    “I’m highly skeptical”-lol no way, really? Well written article, but I think it’s a little overboard. I’d say maybe do a less extreme version of this if you’re engaged or planning to move in with one another. Anything less than that and I would feel like I was going all CIA on my other. But, then again, I have never been through as horrible betrayal as you have, so I see why you’ve still got the emotional condom on. 

  • samanthaphoebe

    “I’m highly skeptical”-lol no way, really? Well written article, but I think it’s a little overboard. I’d say maybe do a less extreme version of this if you’re engaged or planning to move in with one another. Anything less than that and I would feel like I was going all CIA on my other. But, then again, I have never been through as horrible betrayal as you have, so I see why you’ve still got the emotional condom on. 

  • Anonymous

    This is something you clearly should have gleaned on your own naturally interacting with your potential fiance’s friends, family, and coworkers. To spring on someone you just started dating is creepy. If you plan on marrying (or living committedly) with someone and haven’t met anyone in their lives then something is indeed wrong.

  • Hank

    i thought monogamy was out w/ the 20th century

  • http://twitter.com/whoisEG whoisEG

    i’m married now, but i’m actually wishing i had done this on several occasions in my past. i think this is actually good advice, if a little unorthodox.

  • Anonymous

    I honestly wish I’d talked to my last ex’s ex before dating him. I wrote her off, but she would have been a valuable resource.

  • Gossip Boy

    Yeah I’m totally going to ring my potential boyfriend’s parent even if they don’t know he’s gay… If you’re always this overbearing, I’m not surprised about you ex. Xoxo

  • Stefan

    this is really creeper.

  • Sam Spidell

    This “vetting” concept is very
    interesting – I get the point – however, it should have been phrased
    differently than conducting a set of “interviews.” If you feel you
    need to interview these people to really get the idea if they should become
    your next significant other, you have not spent enough time with that person
    yourself to decide. After all, it is YOUR decision.


    Every parent will boast of their child and love
    them, so will the BEST friend. The EX will probably not have the best feedback
    because they could be bitter as it obviously DID NOT work out between the two
    of them. They weren’t THE ONE, so obviously they didn’t have the perfect
    relationship and it ended somehow. The best way to find out if this person
    meets your qualifications to take your heart is to spend enough time with them
    and their friends to see them in different lights to form a decision. Don’t
    listen to other people other than yourself – and your own internal instincts.
    Do not be confused and think good chemistry and or good sex equals a good
    relationship partner.


    Find out what page they are on in life and see if
    it mirrors yours. You could research their past and observe their behavior to
    find they meet your qualifications, it all won’t matter if they are just not
    that into you to commit to being yours. Don’t scare this person away for asking
    for contacts in their cell phone of their most trusted group of people in their
    inner circle. You will know when you enter the inner circle when you are
    introduced to all of them on their own terms. THEN and only then – will they
    become yours, when they let you in to become theirs. 

  • Courtney

    this is really, really creepy and symptomatic of incredibly controlling behavior

  • http://twitter.com/xmickeyphoenix Mickey Phoenix

    This is a really good essay. I read it as ironic, based on my initial response to the title. I would like to think that I’m not in the minority of people who believe the mere idea of soliciting such private information from someone you are casually dating is ridiculous. However, by looking at the comments it appears that I am. Whatever, I guess.

    • Stefan

      regarding the earnestness of this article, on TC it can be especially difficult to parse out what is satire and what is genuine – someone might, say, come to TC by way of “If We Could Be Boring” and assume the whole website is meant as a joke.

      but my sneaking suspicion is that the writers don’t even care if they’re being serious or not. which, I think, would be the worst.

      • Xmickeyphoenix

        Being satire, the article is definitely not earnest. This doesn’t mean there aren’t elements of truth in it, (or in this case) commonly held generalizations and stereotypes. I won’t speak for thought catalog as a whole, but I did enjoy this particular article because it dared to confront these stereotypes in a hypothetical and, at least in my opinion, ridiculous scenario. “Satire is where irony is militant” is a common saying. It attacks commonly held beliefs, (ironically) by defending them. Half the fun for me in reading it was (while realizing they were stereotypes) entertaining the possibility of obtaining such information, and thinking about what my own 5 people would say about me. It’s social criticism, it’s high level satire prompting inward and outward reflection, and it’s damn fun. A lot of authors might not “care if they are being serious or not” but Marcos Luevanos is not one of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=807929 Stephanie Moise

    So funny and lovely! Great read. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/asmond Asmond Chew

    this is actually rather creepy. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FLSPLSRCTUUW3APCW7X7ZASL2Q Becka Ray

    0.o if I tried talking to my SO’S ex….she would probably kill me on the spot….she wants my gf back…she has tried for awhile…what would I get out of doing that?

  • Kait

    Haha I love this. Obviously it’s not conventional or even likely of happening, as some people said it would be a bit creepy— But if only it was a normal thing to do, wow wouldn’t we all save ourselves some heartbreak?! The best person to interview I think is the sibling, personally mine know everything about me, more so than anybody else. With the invasive nature of today’s social networking sites such as Facebook, I would not be surprised if by the year 2025 we have processes such as this to screen potential ass holes/wastes of time/ or perhaps lovely individuals. 
    Great piece of work and writing skills! 

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