couple building furniture

You think you know a person. Then you get a flat on the interstate and the two of you sit on the side of the road as useless as newborns waiting for AAA because neither of you knows your way around a spare tire to save your lives. Who knew? Turns out, how your partner handles life’s little crises and everyday situations can say as much about their personalities as getting into an argument with them, spending a weekend with their families, or even knowing them for years. And, don’t you want to know this stuff? Yeah, thought so.

So, before you embark on a life of marriage with someone, here are a few everyday situations you need to see them handle—it might be worth carrying a clipboard around for for note-taking during the next few months, just in case.

Building Furniture

There’s a trope about couples breaking up over IKEA furniture for a reason. It’s probably the most difficult thing to do with another person, besides maybe raising children? It calls upon only the most patient, communicative, skilled and collaborative people—and how many of us can say we are all four of those things, and so are our partners? Nope. So the next time you’ve got to build a bookcase, call your partner into the room and see how they handle the task. A collaborative approach is what you’re seeking—maybe they take charge, which can be fine if done in a way that isn’t bossy, but are they willing to hear out your solutions and let you contribute in your own way that will ultimately make the process easier for you both? Or are they steamrolling into the room, commandeering the tools and instructions, and then going to take it out on you when they realize they can’t do it alone? If you can work together—like really together—and find a way to laugh at the absurdity of the project rather than lash out at one another, congrats, you’re probably a great match!

Dealing with a Flat Tire or Breakdown

It’s imminent—if you spend your entire life with someone, you’ll probably end up in a broken down car on the side of a trafficky highway with them at some point in your life. How this person might handle that everyday situation when it arises should not be a surprise. Are they the type to freak out and cause you both to panic? Are they going to be prepared with roadside assistance on call? Or do they have the automotive skills to DIY a fix and get you back on the road themselves? Whatever their response to this low-key crisis, it says a lot about who they are in life (panickers, preparers, problem-solvers) and gives you a lot of information about compatibility. Car trouble is one of life’s most common emergencies, and working together to get the issue resolved (rather than losing your minds with anxiety and making the situation 10 times worse for you both) is the very best approach for a couple hoping for a successful marriage. 

Hosting a Dinner Party

Even if you’re not “the entertaining” type, you’ll probably host guests at least a few times a year once you’re married. Host a trial-run dinner party with your partner and see how the two of you work together to handle the mad dash of shopping, prep, cooking, socializing and guest management. Will the two of you work like a well-oiled machine and become the epicenter of your social circle, or will you muddle the division of labor, succumb to the stress and be at each other’s throats all night? Seeing how your partner handles everything that goes into a dinner party will give you a window into how they’ll handle planning other huge events in your future, like your wedding (possibly the biggest party you’ll ever throw!), family gatherings, holidays, or just social outings that aren’t the most comfortable and easy. It’s not that you should be looking for perfection (we’re not all social butterflies, and we’re certainly not all Martha Stewart), but anyone who is open to sharing the workload evenly, reducing stress as much as they can and, of course, having fun, is someone you ultimately want to stick with for life. 

Losing Your Internet Connection

Do not embark on a life with a partner if they don’t know how to reset a router. Furthermore, if you don’t know how they talk to customer service people on the phone, you should see that before you marry them. Because calling an Internet Service Provider can bring out the worst in any of us, but it’s never cool to be cruel to a phone rep. Also, in the event your internet is out for a while, what will your partner do? Chill and read with you, or freak out that they’ll be missing out on emails? If your partner is ultra-connected and can’t detach for a few moments without going into full-on panic mode, and can’t see life without WiFi, it might be hard to find that human connection with them somewhere down the line.

Getting Caught in the Rain without an Umbrella

Will they flee and leave you to soak alone? Will they say, “Screw it!” and turn it into a romantic scene right out of a movie? Will they run into a corner store and grab you an umbrella on the fly because they’re problem solvers like that? A sudden downpour is an everyday situation that can snap a person into action, and what action they choose will reveal a lot about their character— and a lot about what you want in a partner. Do you want someone to be your protector? Your free-spirit? Your weather-what-may right-hand throughout all the storms of life (who won’t go running during a little rain)? Your escape artist to get you out of anything? What the weather throws at you can be a great metaphor for what life throws at you—and how your partner responds can be a glimpse at a future of married life and problem solving with them.