There is a lot that goes into the foundation and maintenance of a relationship. Whether young couples are connected after a fairytale meet-cute, a mutual swipe, or an email from the Marriage Pact, each individual brings into the relationship their opinions, values, dreams, and biases.
But how do you measure what’s important to someone when it comes to their values and typical behaviors while in a relationship? How do you evaluate the current romantic culture of the college-age generation?
As the simplest solution: you could start by asking.
The Marriage Pact questionnaire works to create genuine, meaningful relationships through the combination of applied relationship and social science with technology. By asking students about their deeply-held values and beliefs, not only are we able to pair them with a match compatible beyond your run-of-the-mill dating preferences, but we are also left with an honest and qualitative inside look into the zeitgeist that is dating in your early 20s.
After students have worked their way through the entire Marriage Pact questionnaire, deciding whether or not “I love you is a promise” or if they “would rather be left or leave someone at the altar” — we ask them to select the 3–5 questions most important to them — not only to ensure their match shares their views on critical, likely deal-breaking concepts, but to get a sense of the values held by a generation nationwide.
We took a look at the top five most important questions across the 27 schools where Marriage Pact launched in fall of 2021. The following were most frequently rated as important:
“It’s okay that my partner does harder drugs”
“I’m open to being in a non-monogamous relationship”
“I’m comfortable with my child being gay”
In fact, “It’s okay that my partner does harder drugs” was most frequently rated the #1 most important question, taking the top spot at seventeen schools.
Other questions like “abortion should always be legal” and “How long do you wait to have sex when you start seeing someone?” also appeared consistently throughout the top five across the nation.
It’s no surprise that the most important questions according to students are such heavy hitters. It’s more instinctive than anything else — While there isn’t one specific piece of social science literature to point to about why it tracks that students would rate hot-button questions as most important in their personal relationships, Joy Zheng, a researcher for the Marriage Pact questionnaire, believes that it’s the very nature of a deal-breaker question to be highly important.
“I don’t think that we found specific literature on ‘yes, hard drugs are a point of contention in relationships.’ It’s hard to say whether or not it tracks with the literature because as concepts they are just inherently intuitive.”
One question, “It is more important to protect someone’s feelings than to tell them the truth”, was not rated as important as frequently as other questions, but Joy pointed out its importance in how well-encompassing it is in the way we treat others:
“It’s one of the more relationship-y, but not solely relationship-y, questions we have. It measures how open communication works between you and your partner . . . I think there’s this greater, like, cultural impact that this question has, and it’s relatable not just within romantic relationships, but also communication-wise between people.”
For Joy, at least, there is a concept she expected to be a little more important to students: the question of whether or not “some things are simply black and white”.
“I don’t think I’d be very happy with someone that’s just like, ‘yeah, no, there’s like the simple truth,’ she says.
“This framework of whether or not you think that there is a simple answer, and that you can approach things like they’re black and white, versus whether or not you are more considering of ambiguity in the context of the situation is something that people should think about more . . . I think it should be more at the forefront because it’s something that has a greater overarching impact on how you move through your space as a person.”
“We categorize this question under moral objectivity,” Joy continues. “Questions that have to do with moral objectivity also have to do a lot with whether or not you have empathy. The people who say ‘I look for in the gray’ are more concerned with different factors in situations and are possibly more empathetic than those who are like, ‘no, my way is true.’”
That being said, it may feel as though not many kids these days are willing to agree to disagree, particularly on a college campus where differing opinions on everything from abortion to the ethics of height preferences can spark heated debate, at least.
Since what we believe is so tightly ingrained in who we are and how we relate to others, it’s no wonder that the topics college students seek the most common ground on are nuanced at best and polarizing at worst.
Which marriage Pact questions are the most important to you? What are your dealbreakers? DM us on insta or twitter @marriagepact.