Carla found the romantic hero of her dreams.
He was dark and brooding. He would show up unexpectedly and sweep her away on a surprise date, not telling her where they were going until they got there.
Zachary had a quick temper, which Carla didn’t like, but he was also quick to defend her. One time, they were out dancing when a man bumped into Carla and said something rude. Zachary got in the man’s face and would have started something if Carla hadn’t pulled him away.
Carla knew she was good for Zachary. She kept him on an even keel. She looked after him.
Was their relationship made in heaven?
Long-Term vs. Short-Term Potential
The traits that appeal to us when dating don’t necessarily guarantee happily-ever-after.
We feel intensely attracted to dates who are exciting and spontaneous. That emotional intensity pushes us to fall fast.
But long-term relationships don’t run on emotional intensity. Passionate flames cool down into companionship and commitment.
It matters less that he can plan a date, and more that he can stay emotionally connected when times get tough.
That’s why we want to take a step back and try to look at the person we’re dating objectively. We don’t want to invest our time, energy, and hearts with someone who is fun in the short-term but unable to make a relationship work.
How do you know whether a man has what it takes to create a beautiful future with you?
One way is to apply a personality test.
The Ultimate Personality Test
There are many personality tests you can take to determine everything from the right career for you to the kind of dog you should own.
But psychologists tend to rely on one test in their research:
The Big 5 Personality Test.
The “Big 5” refers to five major personality traits:
People who take the test get a rating for each of these qualities on a 5-point scale.
Openness refers to the quality of being open to new experiences. If you enjoy meeting new people, trying new foods, traveling to new places, and experimenting with new things, then you’d score highly on this trait.
Conscientiousness refers to the quality of being thoughtful and careful with everything you do. If you show up on time, complete the tasks you’re assigned, look after your health, and remember to send birthday cards, then you’d score highly on this trait.
Extraversion refers to the quality of being outgoing. If you’re a people person who loves nothing more than going out to social events, being part of a group, and speaking up when all eyes are on you, then you’d score highly on this trait.
Agreeableness refers to the quality of being able to get along with people. If you’re kind, compassionate, cooperative, and empathetic, then you’d score highly on this trait.
Finally, neuroticism refers to how you deal with your emotions. If you’re highly reactive, you get anxious or rattled easily, you have a lot of emotional highs and lows, and you find it difficult to deal with stress, then you might score highly on this trait.
What the Big 5 Says about Him
When you’re in love with someone, you want to believe you’ll work it out. You’ll learn to live with his less appealing traits, or, better yet, he’ll change.
That’s why it helps to have a more objective assessment of the challenges you’ll face if you decide to make a go of it as a couple.
There are two qualities you want your future mate to have:
Conscientiousness and agreeableness.
Men who are conscientious are more likely to “follow the rules” in their relationships. They’re less likely to cheat and more likely to take out the garbage.
Men who are agreeable often get pegged as “nice guys,” but they’re the true gems when it comes to long-term relationships. They care about your feelings, are willing to compromise, and embrace intimacy.
So, did Carla’s boyfriend Zachary pass the test? Were they really a match made in heaven?
Red Flag Traits
Zachary scored high in openness and neuroticism, and low in agreeableness and conscientiousness.
At first, this didn’t bother Carla. She enjoyed the way Zachary exposed her to new experiences. But she wondered if his desire for novelty meant that he would tire of her quickly.
Zachary’s quick temper and moodiness meant that he fit the profile of Carla’s romantic hero, but it also made him difficult to live with. Sometimes, Carla just wanted someone she could relax with, someone comfortable rather than edgy.
What finally changed her mind about her boyfriend was not any of those things. It was the way he didn’t seem to care about her feelings.
He didn’t try to see how she felt. He wasn’t willing to adjust the way he did things for her.
Agreeableness mattered more to Carla than she’d realized.
Next time, Carla was going to pay more attention to her date’s long-term potential. Bad boys were fun, but she was going to save her heart for a man who could give her happily-ever-after.