What you were afraid to ask, but always wanted to know

9 questions to ask your new lover: what you were afraid to ask, but always wanted to know

Nikkita A. Foston

YOU wanted to ask, but you were afraid of the answers. Is he or she the one for you? What is the wildest thing he’s ever done? How many sex partners has he had? Is he broke or head over heels in debt? Has he ever been arrested? And more importantly, how can you be sure?

Knowing the answers to these questions can protect your health, preserve your sanity and may even save your life. So, before you open your heart, open your eyes and your ears and learn the truth behind the new man in your life. But be prepared: The truth works both ways, and if you ask the question, be prepared to answer it as well.

“If a guy runs away from your questions, don’t get discouraged,” says Dr. Lauren Durant, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert in Durham, N.C. In her national seminar and workbook A Good Man is NOT Hard to Find, she compiles a list of 54 questions, arranged from most invasive to least invasive, that a woman should ask within the first three months of dating. “If you start asking questions and the guy runs away, that’s exactly what you want. It sets you up to meet someone who does want what you want.”

Paula Williams, a 30-something entertainment manager and business owner in Raleigh, N.C., recommends an upfront approach. Once afraid to tackle the tough questions, the single executive followed Durant’s principles and has been pleased with the results. “I’ve gotten such positive responses from men by being more upfront, asking some of the more difficult questions, and learning about myself in the process.”

So, next time, be informed before you get involved by tackling the questions that you’ve always wanted answers to, but were too afraid to ask.

1. Do you practice safe sex?

Whether you’re having sex with your partner or not, knowing a mate’s sexual behavior is a critical component of building a relationship. “If you are having sex now, or plan to in the future, you need to know your partner’s sexual habits,” says Dr. Durant. “You need to know if your mate uses condoms, and if so, if he uses them with everyone, or just certain people. You need to know if he’s gotten anyone pregnant, or if she’s terminated any pregnancies. You want to know how many partners they’ve had. And you want to know if they’ve ever been HIV-tested, and whether they would be willing to be tested with you.” Experts warn singles to beware of the people who are elusive, vague or hostile when discussing their sexual history, as this may be indicative of larger issues.

2. What is your fantasy? Although there is some debate about this question (many critics citing that it redirects efforts outside of the relationship instead of within), others maintain its value depending on the circumstance. “Exploring fantasy depends on how the relationship is moving,” says Eric V. Copage, author of SoulMates, An Illustrated Guide to Black Love Sex and Romance. “If it’s a relationship that is solely sexual, you can ask it right away. But, if there is more to your involvement than sex, you have to be mindful of the goal of the relationship, and whether or not your partner’s fantasies violate those desires. Inquire about the wildest act someone has ever done sexually, and this may give you some insight into his or her willingness or desire to engage in fantasy.”

3. Are you in debt? Although it is a sensitive topic, understanding your mate’s financial habits, not necessarily how much he or she earns, is essential to the success of a long-term relationship. “Even in the short run, spending habits can be indicators of character, values and personality,” says Dr. Paris Finner-Williams, lawyer, psychologist and co-author (along with husband, Robert Williams) of Marital Secrets: Dating, Lies, Communication and Sex. In their book, the Detroit-based couple lists 105 questions for couples to consider before getting engaged. “People often complain about the exact behaviors that they saw before they got married, or before they became seriously involved. But they failed to investigate or ask the pertinent questions in order to truly understand how that person’s habits translated into character. We encourage people to go into a relationship with not only their hearts open, but their eyes as well.”

4. Why did you break up with your ex? While you don’t want to spend your entire date talking about ex-partners, there are advantages to knowing the reasons behind your new lover’s break-up, or in many cases, divorce. “I wouldn’t recommend it for the first date, but you want to know fairly quickly if you plan to be involved beyond the immediate,” says Copage. “Your lover’s answer can tell you a lot about them, their character, their tendencies, how they react or overreact to different situations, what their tolerance levels are as well as their quirks.” More importantly, if you don’t completely address why the past relationship failed, you are likely to duplicate those issues in your current relationship.

5. What is your idea of an ideal mate? Knowing what your potential mate finds attractive is fundamental. “You need to know if you come close to that person’s idea of an ideal mate,” says Dr. Williams, the Detroit lawyer and psychologist who has counseled singles and couples for over 30 years. “When there is discord, the person will have a tendency to gravitate toward what they are attracted to, and if that image is not consistent with who you are, your new partner may wander off in the direction of that attraction.” So, if you are dating someone new, ask that person what his or her “type” is, and how you fit into their definition of desirable.

6. Are you interested in a commitment? If your partner is reluctant to answer this question or wants to refocus the conversation, this person is not ready to make a commitment. “You should understand when you’re dealing with someone who is not ready or able to respond to you on that level,” says Dr. Durant, who provides telephone-coaching sessions, leading women, step-by-step, through the process of finding the right guy. “If your new lover fails to establish eye-to-eye contact, is offended, evasive or reacts in a behavior that is not consistent with positive communication, this may not be the right time, or the right person for you. Don’t try to understand the rejection, just recognize it.”

7. Do you have any health issues? Learning the overall health history of your new mate, including his family’s medical history, is essential if you’re considering a long-term relationship, or if children are involved. Given the health issues in the Black community, genetic compatibility may help determine if this is the right person for you. Ask your new partner about his family’s history of cancer, heart disease, sickle cell stroke, or lupus and find out if your lover was born with any indicators of the illnesses. If they do have current health issues, you need to know what treatments they are taking, how the condition affects their diet and nutritional habits and how they plan to deal with their condition in the future.

8. What are your long-term goals? Before establishing a goal for the relationship, it is necessary to define the goals of the individuals, both personally and professionally. “It’s not as important to ask specific questions, but to be willing, and able, to communicate your needs and goals to your partner,” says Copage, author of Black Pearls: Daily Meditations, Affirmations and Inspiration for African-Americans. “Pay attention to not only what they say, but also what they do.” Whatever the goal is, make sure that your partner is taking steps in furtherance of that objective. If your lover is interested in achieving a professional goal, but never takes the initiative to carry it out, the same may ring true in your relationship. However, once you are able to successfully define your individual goals, Dr. Williams recommends a “mission statement” for the relationship; a written agreement between the couple, outlining their desires, their interests and mutual goals for the collective unit.

9. Are you interested in having children? Knowing a person’s position on having children, adopting children or accepting a relationship with/children is essential. You can’t assume that because you know someone, you can anticipate how he or she will react to issues surrounding parenthood. “You simply cannot guess when it comes to some thing as important as the rest of your life,” says Tarrianna Gray, a 30-something single parent in Chicago. “You’ve really got to get inside someone’s head and find out what they really value in life. If children are not a part of his future, and that is important to you, it’s better to know sooner than later, it doesn’t mean that person is a bad person, it simply means they are not the right one for you.”

But before exploring fantasy, fact or fiction, experts advise singles to be prepared for the answers they seek. “Despite the consequences, it is always better to know what you are dealing with, than to live in a world of illusions,” says Dr. Finner-Williams. “And when you ask a question, if you really want to be certain, you should test the person and ask the question again. Anything that is tested and still stands is worthwhile.”

COPYRIGHT 2004 Johnson Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group