Valentine's Day is just around the corner, so perhaps you've been thinking extra hard about whether or not your partner is "the one." But can you ever really be sure?
That was the question authors Jill Andres and Brook Silva-Braja asked themselves after being in a relationship for a few years. While considering marriage, they faced what Andres calls "marriage's cruel paradox" — the problem of not being able to know if your relationship can survive the obstacles of marriage until after you're already married.
To get around this paradox, the couple created The Marriage Test, a book outlining 40 dates simulating common marital challenges, such as sharing finances and child rearing. Over the course of a year, the couple documented their experiences as they tried each date.
" 'The Marriage Test' recounts the year we spent on an awkward, emotional, life-changing adventure," the couple writes on their website. "We agreed at the start: If the dates went well, we'd spend our lives together; if not, we were through."
Those two survived and ended up married, but can you and your partner complete the challenges? To find out, try seven of our favorite example dates from The Marriage Test.
1. Speed date.
"Speed dating was a test for us to see if there were other people out there that might spark our interest," Silva-Braja told A Plus in an email.
If you or your S.O. do find other potential mates, it's better to break up now and save yourselves some heartache down the road.
2. Trade credit cards.
To understand "what's mine is yours" really means, swap credit cards for a month. To practice trusting each other's spending habits, don't check your bank balance. At the end of the exercise, talk about what happened and the future of your shared finances.
3. Take care of a newborn (watermelon).
Say goodbye to your beauty sleep, and hello to parenthood. Before going to bed, set an alarm for every three hours. Take turns waking up and completing a chore like bouncing your "baby" for ten minutes or doing a load of laundry before going back to bed. Andres and Silva-Braja used a watermelon for this "date," but you can use whatever you have on hand. Perhaps an extra large bottle of wine?
4. Give and receive sexual feedback.
After a week of intimacy, write down what worked and what didn't. Have an open and honest conversation where you read your notes to each other, and ask for what you really want. Just make sure to pair criticisms with compliments so no one ends up sleeping on the couch.
5. Face your fears.
Helping your significant other face a personal fear (and vice versa) will help you prepare for all the scary moments in your relationship.
"In life, there are a lot of things that we're probably too scared to try," says Andres in the video above, showing their skydiving date. "... and that's what our partners are here for — to push us when we need to be pushed and to support us when we say, 'This is too scary.' "
6. Play back an argument.
When you have a fight or emotional conversation, take a moment to record it. A few days later, listen to it, reflect on your argument styles and discuss ways to disagree more constructively. Of all their dates, the authors recommend every couple should try this one if they're considering marriage.
"It's incredible how much you can learn about yourself and your communication style," Silva-Braja told A Plus.
7. Share handcuffs for 24 hours.
The final date designed by Andres and Silva-Braja is exactly what it sounds like. For a full 24 hours, you and your significant other will eat, sleep and, yes, even go to the bathroom handcuffed together. If you can get through an entire day of close contact, you can probably get through anything.
Silva-Braja hopes other couples use The Marriage Test to assess the realistic future of their relationships.
"Our marriage has been relatively easy so far," Andres told us. "Maybe because a lot of the stresses newlyweds face — what to do about a last name or a prenup — we already decided during our marriage test."
If 40 dates seems like too much for you right now, the authors created a quiz that gives couples a few dates to try.
How will you and your partner do?