If online dating sites asked useful questions

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

I always hated the common dating site question: ‘what are your favourite books/films/bands etc?’ It struck me as a bizarre way to help encourage compatibility. Sure, if you’re going to be with someone for a long time you don’t want them to be constantly swapping out your punk rock tunes for dance anthems, but it’s more than possible for people with differing tastes to want to jump each other’s bones. Is there anything more useful I’d have asked?

OKCupid lets you create your own questions. Some, like ‘do you think it’s important for a woman to shave her leg hair?’ are exceptionally useful as a way to filter out complete bellends. Others, like ‘which number comes next?’ where the answer is some sort of logic puzzle, are useful if you’re a GCSE examiner who loves taking their work home with them.

But as someone who’s in a relationship that started with an online dating site, I recently realised that there were some seriously important questions I’d never thought to ask – until it was far too late. Questions which, if asked on the first date, could have prevented a lot of fights.

Useful online dating site questions

Coke, or supermarket own-brand cola? 

He will not countenance anything other than Coke, whereas I think he’s wrong and profligate and a terrible human being.

How do you feel about Ikea furniture? 

He thinks it’s neat and modern, I want to hurl it all into a wood chipper and then set that chipper on fire.

Are there any foods which I cannot – under any circumstances – eat next to you on the sofa?

It’s been years since I could eat chorizo or tuna in comfort. Weep for me.

It’s cold in the house. To what temperature do you set the thermostat? 

This is a vital question, but a trick one: you leave the thermostat alone and put a fucking jumper on.

When you visit your parents, does your other half have to come a) always b) rarely c) never?

It’s less about the frequency of visits and more about whether you’ll be obliged to show up next to your partner at every single second-cousin’s Christening or auntie-Susan’s wedding every weekend from the day you get together until either death or breakup occurs.

This is one of those questions he wishes he’d asked me.

What should we ask on online dating sites?

Of course you can never really know someone from their tickbox/trying-very-hard-to-be-funny answers to questions on dating sites. What’s more, people change. You might think you’ve bagged yourself a frugal, supermarket-cola-drinking person, then overnight they suddenly decide to get ideas above their station and stick a crate of brand name Coke in the trolley.

What’s more, in those early stages of dating you’re always more willing to compromise on certain things, because you’re excited about this new romance. I didn’t heed the telltale signs of Ikea obsession when I first met this dude: I assumed his shitty Lack coffee table was chosen out of necessity rather than desire, because who the fuck buys that shit deliberately?!

And you can never tell, of course. That’s half the fun. One of the reasons I disliked the ‘favourite music/TV shows/flavour of crisps’ question on OKCupid was because so many people answered it with something approaching an exhaustive discography of everyone they’d ever seen play in the backroom of a pub. A hint is nice, and of course you want someone’s profile to be fuller than just ‘has dick: will travel’ but maybe too much information can be a negative too. My horror at his flaws and foibles would be catastrophic if I hadn’t already had a chance to fall for him on the basis of the good stuff.

The questions on dating sites are great, but I think they’re mainly useful as filters. You use them to get rid of the bad people – incompatible partners or douchebags or people who are somewhere in between. But we’re often encouraged to see them more like custom options on a new car – tick enough boxes and specify in enough detail what you like and – hey presto! – your ideal partner will come out at the end.

If I’d input my tickbox list, the guy who came out would look nothing like what I’ve got now – someone far warmer and funnier than I could ever have specified. Someone kind and weird and nothing like the guys whose profiles I’d have clicked on. I’d have missed out on his quirks and flaws, and the way he mocks my own, and just thinking about that makes me really, really sad.

On the up side, I’d save a packet on the heating bill.


  • M says:

    Not *all* Ikea is shitty

  • Mrs Fever says:

    I’ve not dealt with online dating or related profiles, at least not as a first-person participant, but thinking about what drives me batshit about my spouse, I wish I would have vetted him with a few questions at the beginning and saved myself some *head-desk* moments (years).

    My invent-your-own questions would have been:

    1. Describe your relationship with your mother in three sentences.

    2. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being akin to “religious fervor”, rate how important politics are to you. Why?

    3. Do you know how to cook? Anything at all? Toast? No?

    For the record, the answers – as I learned them, the hard way – would not change my choice of life partner. But some of our more bothersome mismatches could have been mitigated in advance, saving us both some frustration. Not to mention preventing expenditures on useless kitchen equipment. (Yes, that retro red blender looks fabulous sitting there on the kitchen counter, but it has a purpose. Allowing it to sit there in all its gleaming beauty without performing any relevant *function* seems like it falls under the Appliance Negligence Act or something. Isn’t there a penalty for that? Besides, it cost more than I care to spend on a proper pair of Fuck Me boots, and at least THOSE get used once or twice in a lifetime. Yeesh.)

    • Girl on the net says:

      Haha oh God I love your question 3 in particular =D I can’t think of anything else to add – just wanted to say thanks for the ace comment!

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    I’ve read that these types of questions and ‘compatibility’ ratings are generally pretty bad at predicting how well a relationship will work, for the obvious reason that people are individuals and not robots. People tend to assume that they’ll get on best with people with similar interests to them (and say things like “How could I ever love someone who liked/didn’t like metal?”), but it’s clearly not the case in reality. Most of us probably know a successful couple with wildly different views and interests.

    That said, apparently (and I’m recalling an OKC press release here) the one question that *was* highly predictive of relationship success was “Have you ever been on a holiday by yourself?”. So, pay attention to that one and ignore the rest?

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ooh, that’s an interesting question. I don’t think I ever got that when I was answering mine. I’m definitely with you on the compatibility with music/films etc – I suspect it depends how much time you spend on them and how strong your feelings are. I’d possibly struggle to be with someone who wanted to go to 3 gigs each week of a band/type of music I really didn’t like, because that’d cut down the time we could see each other. I also have *big* objections to people who go ‘oh I like this so you HAVE TO like it or I’ll be sad.’ Nah, it’s cool mate – I can like my own stuff and we can have our own stuff and that’s fine.

      On OKCupid I was always surprised at how well the %age matching worked though – generally I’d get on very well with anyone who matched over 90%, and even if the chemistry wasn’t there I could pretty much guarantee we’d make good mates if nothing else. But that was based on the more social/interesting detail questions like ‘are you a feminist’ or ‘how religious are you’ etc rather than the written profile answer of ‘I like X music and blah.’

      Ooh, and you’ve just reminded me of another question I’d ask: “You’ve found an album you really love and you play your partner a song. They say it’s not really their thing. Do you a) leave them be, they probably don’t want to hear it or b) make them listen to the entire album while you stare at them expectantly until they say it’s good?” =D

  • Azkyroth says:

    My single favorite thing about OKCupid is the fairly detailed questions about sexual interests and preferences. It allows for establishing at-least-potential bedroom compatibility early in a relationship, without making first dates…awkward.

  • Lacrymology says:

    I can understand why you’d take someone otherwise completely horrific but who’s a good shag, but… Ikea? Seriously? That’s a deal breaker ;)

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