Reference checks

Pardon me for the unromantic analogy, but in many ways the process of meeting a spouse is comparable to hiring a new employee. You put out feelers when you’re looking, whether through word of mouth or outright ‘advertisement’. You cull people along the way who just don’t match the selection criteria. When you have a candidate in mind, you may just do some reference-checking to ensure that they’re not wanted for suspect offshore holdings in the Cayman Islands.

Of course, if it’s done the ‘traditional’ way then the reference-checking part is easy. You meet their family from the get-go, a third party will give you the lowdown on the person in question and there’ll usually be some kind of tenuous link between your family and theirs, even if it’s just that your third cousin’s husband’s son knows their great-aunt’s nephew. (By ‘knows’, I mean were at the same wedding with 500 other people ten years ago.) But when you’ve met someone ‘organically’ or are trying to meet people, how do you go about making sure that they actually:

  1. Want to get married
  2. Are single
  3. Aren’t wanted for suspect offshore holdings in the Cayman Islands.

The ‘single’ part is usually the easiest one to find out. While people don’t tend to broadcast their relationships before they put a ring on it, it’s not that difficult to do a bit of digging to find that information. Someone usually knows something, even if it’s .0001% of the truth. At this stage, you can then bow out gracefully and turn your attention to the next candidate/cry into a pillow/wait around to see if they become single.

But suppose they are single. How then are you to determine whether they actually want to get married? It’s foolish to assume that merely being single equates to possessing an active desire to get married. This is the mistake many people make when they either consider X, or consider suggesting X to Y: all they know is that X is single, and they don’t bother to dig any deeper.

It sounds obvious, but I’ll say it again: just because someone isn’t in a relationship doesn’t mean they’re looking to be in one. They could just enjoy being single for the time being. They could be recovering from a broken heart. They could be trying to make a bit of money first…or shunt it all to the Cayman Islands. Or like many people, they could just be waiting to ‘feel it’. Therefore, before you go launching heart-first into something, it’s worth asking either the person in question or the person who has suggested them: does X solemnly, sincerely and truly have the means and desire to get married? (Apologies for the legal-speak, but you get the drift.)

If the answer is yes, then this is where the character checks can come in. Of course, it’s hard to know: how much weight do you give to people’s testimonials? If you like the person, chances are you’re not going to heed a ‘bad’ character check anyway. Besides, just because someone has a ‘past’ doesn’t mean they’re going to make a poor spouse. This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, flaw in the character-checking process: having a few relationships can render you a ‘player’, a silly Facebook post becomes an indication of your intelligence or lack thereof. The court of public opinion is often unkind and unforgiving.

The other problem with asking around about someone is that it’s really hard to be discreet about it. If you’re getting to know someone or considering getting to know them, you probably don’t want people to know about it. But it may be that the information you want or need can only come from someone you don’t know very well, so you may then have to get your friend to ask their friend to ask their friend, and of course, the information will either not come back to you at all or come back to you in some garbled form. (Obviously this could all be avoided if people were more open and honest and if that openness wasn’t treated as ‘desperation’, but that’s a post for another day.)

Of course, many people will tell you to just ‘trust your gut’. But again, this comes with all sorts of complications. Feelings can blind you to the obvious. If you want to be with someone, you may ignore serious warning signs. Sometimes it just feels right, and it is right. But sometimes it feels right when it’s oh-so-wrong, and all the Istikhara in the world isn’t going to cut it if your mind is already so fixated on the one goal.

As always, there are no hard and fast rules with the process. Much of it is determined by context. If you have lots of mutual friends with the person, you probably don’t need to do any kind of background checks. If you meet them and get to know them in a non-romantic context first, you probably know enough about them to just go with your gut. If they’re some person you’ve never met who adds you on Facebook, you probably want to hire a private investigator before you go there.

Do you ask around about someone you’re interested in? Do you ‘trust your gut’ when it comes to a potential partner?


4 responses to “Reference checks

  1. I do trust my gut, but not immediately. It takes me months to decide to open up to someone. Before then, I’m analyzing their personality.

    • That’s probably quite a safe approach 🙂

      • It’s only a one-sided feeling of security. In that span of time, the other person could lose interest and move on with their life because they end up assuming that you have no feelings for them. But of course, you can’t reveal anything too soon because that would mean making yourself dangerously vulnerable.

      • Of course, it’s that balance between giving enough so that it feels like there’s reciprocity, but then not giving so much that it leaves you feeling like there’s some kind of power balance. Not an easy one to strike!

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