It’s Friday night and you decide to grab a drink with some friends after work. Unexpectedly, you make eye contact with someone from across the bar and, before you know it, they’re sitting on the chair next to you. Within minutes, you discover that you both have a passion for cycling and make plans to meet the next day.

One date leads to another and, soon enough, you’ve developed a relationship. But what is this relationship based on?

In typical dating scenarios like this one, people come together based on superficial conversations. It’s a chemical reaction resulting from shared interests and mutual attraction. Sure, it’s flirty, fun and makes you feel good, but you still don’t know who that person is.

Basing a relationship on shared interests is a formula for disaster. Learning about someone’s interests may tell you a lot about what that person does, but it tells you little about who that person is. The fact that they can tie a Windsor knot indicates nothing about the essence of who they are.

This is how mystery dating occurs. Mystery dating is based on superficiality and lacks a clear vision.

The fact of the matter is that while interests fade, personality doesn’t. Values don’t always translate into hobbies, but they are a true reflection of a person. You can always teach someone how to play tennis, but you can’t change the essence of a person.

When I met my husband, he had a passion for sailing (something I’d never done) and I loved attending personal development courses. Since meeting, he’s taught me how to sail and we take courses together. Our hobbies have brought us closer, but they were never the foundation of our relationship. Instead, our passion for one another as unique people—along with commitment, admiration and respect—drives our devotion to one another.

If you want to create a marriage to withstand the test of time, it’s crucial to look at who a person is—to get to know their values, beliefs and generosity of spirit.

Knowing these things about a person is the most essential component of marital compatibility. When you look at happily married couples, there is a consistent theme among them: common values, mutual respect, admiration, shared experiences and empathy.

A man I know who’s been married to his wife for 25 years put it this way: “I like spicy and my wife likes bland; I’m a morning person and she’s a night person. But when it comes to what matters most, we have been aligned from the beginning, always heading in the same direction.”

Dating for marriage requires sharing values and vision from the very first date.

Why should you waste time engaging in superficial conversation when you can get the answers you’re looking for from the very beginning?

Plan dates that encourage more time talking. Meaningful conversation not only eliminates mystery dating, but it also helps determine if your long-term visions align (and makes for much more rewarding conversation!).

Say goodbye to mystery dating and start discovering the values of a person by asking your date questions like these:

  • What is most special about you?
  • Why will you be a great spouse?
  • What do you always strive for?
  • What would you like to be remembered for?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What is your philosophy about life?
  • What makes you happy?

Dating for marriage means learning the answers to these big questions starting from day one. By asking questions about what makes someone tick and listening for answers that are inspiring, moving and that ring true, you can begin to unearth the true essence of a person.