Intellectual Foreplay

Alison Manheim

According to Eve Eschner Hogan, co-author of Intellectual Foreplay: Questions for Lovers and Lovers-to-Be (Hunter House, 2000), the following questions can help partners get to know each other better and judge their potential for lifelong relationship success:

  • "Define what romance means to you."
  • "What lessons have you learned from each relationship you've been in?"
  • "Which direction do you prefer the toilet paper roll to turn?"

Whoa. Does something as basic as toilet paper really factor into compatibility?

"It's not which way the toilet paper rolls. It's whether partners get into a control battle over it," says Hogan.

Hogan created the concept of intellectual foreplay more than eight years ago, while she was in a long-distance relationship with her co-author (and now) husband, Steve Hogan. "I wrote the book I needed," she explains. Divided into chapters such as "Sex," "Money" and "Home," the book offers lists of open-ended questions designed to facilitate getting to know your partner and yourself.

Of course, you don't need to buy the book to practice intellectual foreplay. You can do it by simply thinking about what you want out of life, what you value, and what are your "nonnegotiables" (for example, you don't plan to have children, or you'd like to have six kids). "The process isn't someone else's assessment of you, it's your own assessment," explains Hogan.

Next, create a series of questions about these values ("How important is it to you to have children?") and take turns answering them with a partner or potential partner. Sharing your responses will reveal areas in which you are or aren't compatible.

Hogan is quick to point out that Intellectual Foreplay isn't a tool to help you end up with someone who shares all of your tastes and preferences (like the direction in which your Charmin rolls). Partners who learn to negotiate their differences over things such as household chores early on will be better prepared to weather the bigger conflicts they encounter later on. The idea isn't to get your partner to embrace your views, but for both partners to accept and appreciate each other for whom they are. "If we go in trying to change someone, we're going to get some gnarly results," warns Hogan.

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