It’s really easy to judge other people’s relationships. In fact, we may not even realise when we’re doing it. But when you spend time with a couple, their dynamic usually becomes apparent relatively quickly, to the point where you may think you can identify their specific problems.
But doing that in our own relationships? Not so much. It’s hard to gauge the state of a relationship when you’re part of it for many reasons, including the fact that you don’t have the distance necessary to notice both its good and bad aspects. So, building on existing research, psychologist Dr. Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. put together a set of 15 questions to help people evaluate and gain insight into their relationships. Here’s what to know.
The research behind the questions
In addition to his own findings on the science behind romantic relationships, Lewandowski based his set of 15 yes-or-no questions on the Keltner List, developed by baseball statistician Bill James as a way to assess which baseball players are the most viable Hall of Fame candidates.
That may not seem like the most likely source material for a tool to evaluate romantic relationships, but here’s how Lewandowski explains it in an article in Psychology Today:
While James is a statistician, his Keltner List is intentionally nonscientific. It’s a collection of 15 questions anyone can quickly answer to help guide an overall assessment of a player’s worthiness for the Hall. (Example: “Was he the best player on his team?”) The answers are not meant to provide a definitive conclusion, but rather to force a careful consideration of the most important information.
Similarly, Lewandowski’s list of 15 questions — each of which is grounded in existing research on romantic relationships — was designed to highlight what matters the most for serious, long-term, sustainable love.
The Keltner List for relationships
To take advantage of Lewandowski’s tool, he says it’s important to answer the following yes-or-no questions truthfully:
- Does your partner make you a better person, and do you do the same for them?
- Are you and your partner both comfortable with sharing feelings, relying on each other, being close, and able to avoid worrying about the other person leaving?
- Do you and your partner accept each other for who you are, without trying to change each other?
- When disagreements arise, do you and your partner communicate respectfully and without contempt or negativity?
- Do you and your partner share decision-making, power and influence in the relationship?
- Is your partner your best friend, and are you theirs?
- Do you and your partner think more in terms of “we” and “us,” rather than “you” and “I”?
- Would you and your partner trust each other with the passwords to social media and bank accounts?
- Do you and your partner have good opinions of each other – without having an overinflated positive view?
- Do your close friends, as well as your partner’s, think you have a relationship that will stand the test of time?
- Is your relationship free of red flags like cheating, jealousy, and controlling behaviour?
- Do you and your partner share the same values when it comes to politics, religion, the importance of marriage, the desire to have kids (or not) and how to parent?
- Are you and your partner willing to sacrifice your own needs, desires, and goals for each other (without being a doormat)?
- Do you and your partner both have agreeable and emotionally stable personalities?
- Are you and your partner sexually compatible?
Assessing the answers to the relationship questions
This isn’t a case where you’ll get definitive results by counting up the number of “yes” and “no” responses. Instead, Lewandowski says that the purpose of the exercise is to gain insight into not only what’s not working in your relationship, but what is working as well. He explains:
These questions are meant to be a self-guided tour through what relationship science knows is important in relationships — the relationship “green flags.” In other words, the best answer for every question is a quick, certain, and unqualified “yes.” If any question gave you pause or leads to a clear “no,” that’s an area that warrants attention and improvement.
Of course, it’s never possible to predict the future of a relationship — there are far too many other potential variables, some of which are unexpected. But the aim here is to come away with a better understanding of how and why your relationship works (or doesn’t work).