Some questions just aren’t worth the oxygen you expend asking them. Especially in love. Here, match.com’s relationship expert Kate Taylor reveals the mistakes you don’t want to make out loud
“Did you get my message?”
Anyone who knows anything about love and life immediately recognises this question for what it is – the relationship equivalent of the pin being removed from a hand-grenade. You have approximately 10 seconds to get yourself to a place of safety, and you’re not going to make it if you simply reply, “Which one?” (with all its undertones of SMS complacency). What the asker of this question is really asking, of course, is: “Do you love me? Why don’t you reply to stuff I send you? You used to reply, you used to bombard me with texts all day. But these days, oh no, you’re too busy with your fancy friends and your new iPad to bother with the likes of me. Well, perhaps I’ll stop texting you then. I’ll use up my free text allowance exchanging filth with that ex who still emails me when they’re drunk. Would you like that? Would you? WOULD YOU?” The only way to bring this back is to put down whatever you’re doing – as long as it’s not your partner – and say, “Yes, shall we discuss it now?” You do risk that your partner will test you – saying deliberately oblique stuff like, “So are we on?” or throwing out a bluff like, “Yellow or blue?” – but you have to take the chance. Often all your partner really wants to hear is, “I love you.” And the sound of their text-alert a bit more often.
“Was it good for you?”
Really, come on – what are they going to say? Lying there, damply steaming in the afterglow, no partner is ever going to give you a truthful post-match analysis: “The first five minutes were a sheer joy, but you lost your way in the second half. I expected better from you, I admit, especially after your recent season in Brazil.” You’re only asking because you feel insecure and that’s never arousing. You might try to get feedback in a different way, by just flat-out complimenting them on their performance, but if they just say, “Thanks,” you’ll feel worse. The best thing to do is keep quiet and assume they thought it was incredible – and that they’re just not telling you because they’ve lost the strength to speak.
“Shall we go halves?”
This never ends well. Asked by a woman, this question means, “Do you still love me? Talk is cheap, I need you to say it with your Visa card.” Asked by a man, it just sounds like, “Wow, you’ve gained weight. I’m not subsidising those hips anymore, sister.” If you haven’t already worked-out a satisfactory bill-splitting arrangement, now isn’t the time to bring that up (even if the waitress has cleared away the sharp knives, those wineglasses can still be lethal), but try to address it in the future. Most people find that taking turns to pay for dates is less soul-destroying than going 5050 on each one. Or replace expensive dates with thoughtful, cheap ones – a picnic where you’ve prepared your partner’s favourite foods, for example, or rent their favourite film and throw in a box of microwave popcorn.
“Do you know that girl?”
…Because if you don’t, and you really have just spent the last five minutes gawping at her like I don’t exist, I’m going to take you down into a universe of pain. When I’ve finished with you, you’ll be begging me to remove your eyeballs just so you can never disrespect me this way again. Not that you’ll be able to speak.”
If you’re a woman and you find yourself asking this question, slap yourself. The only way to keep your sassy edge in a relationship is to maintain as much self-control as you can. Keep “dignity” as your mantra and you won’t go far wrong – you won’t booty-text at 3am, you won’t drink too much on dates, and you won’t let insecurity leak out in seemingly innocuous ways like asking this question. If you don’t like how you look and fear your partner might find someone else, then improve yourself. Not to keep him, but to make yourself feel better. Look after yourself, exercise, wear your best clothes. Feel like a catch!
If you’re a man on the receiving end of this question, there can be only one answer: “What, that ugly one?” Then check you still have all your limbs. If you do, you dodged a bullet so vow never to make the mistake again. Scientists say there are biological reasons men leer at girls, stuff to do with “movement in the peripheral vision” and “survival instinct”, but don’t quote me unless you want the rest of your sentences to be typed out by a pencil attached to your forehead. Just keep your eyes on your own prize – the girl you’re with.
“Where is this going?”
Ah, there it is. The death knell. The knock at the door from the Four Horsemen of the relationship aplocalypse… or from the removal men your partner booked in case your answer doesn’t involve dropping to one knee. It’s the big one. How much do I hate it? Let me count the ways. Firstly, it’s usually asked by women and puts them squarely in the position of no-power. Asking this says, “You’re in the driving seat, you get to choose my future.” Yeuch. My advice is always – set a personal timeline of when you’d like to be committed to your partner and when it’s passed, THAT is the time to speak. Not now, three weeks in, when you still barely know each other. Don’t worry that it’ll drag on for years and you’ll be wasting time – the timeline will stop that happening. Secondly, this question implies there’s no communication in the relationship – the future, as a topic, should come up naturally as you get closer, not have to be nailed-down artificially. And thirdly, it says that the goal of Marriage, Babies, Forever, is more important than the person you’re actually with. Tick-tock, come on, if you’re not going to propose then I can’t hang around! How can that be flattering? Instead, ask questions that tell you if this is even a person you’d LIKE to spend the rest of your life with. What are their political views? What are their retirement plans? Will they ever see a doctor about their snoring? Those are far more important.
(The above advice stands, unless of course, this question was just directed to a bus-driver. In that case, sorry – as you were.)