Defining the Relationship: A New Assessment Tool, Just for You!

BenchOne summer, between my junior and senior years of college, I worked on my Christian campus as a university liaison to the conferences which rented space on campus. This is essentially meant setting up tables, ushering old ladies to their dorm rooms, and developing a gigantic crush on Fred, one of my co-workers.

Okay, his name isn’t Fred. But his name was as white-bread as Fred, and so was he: a little bland, full of starch and high-fructose sweetness, and always available. Fred was also not very smart, something I’d already learned from taking a literature class with him, when his 10-minute presentation on G.K. Chesterton took a staggering 50 minutes because he wasn’t sure what he was saying.

So, Fred and I developed—something—over the course of the summer, folding campus linens and putting out signage. What we developed was unclear to us, or to me at least; in the era before DTR benches on our college campus, we had nowhere safe to hash out our relationship, which finally sputtered and died when the semester started up again when I realized how mis-matched we were, and Fred went off to study for missionary service.

If only we had been able to Define The Relationship! If only, really, we had a Define The Relationship assessment tool like the one offered by Focus on the Family! The tool is set up for “girls” and “guys” to decide “how your evidence of connection compares to your level of clarity about your relationship.” I’m not really sure what that means, but I think it means I can discover if the hots I’m feeling for some “guy” is real or not.

Or something like that.

I decided to take the assessment, to define the relationship I have with the love of my life, my husband of almost sixteen years. First up? Let the assessment tool know whether I am a “girl” or a “guy.” I haven’t been a “girl” for almost thirty years now, so URGH to imprecise language. Our university assessment guru would not be pleased.

After that, I had to clarify what I wanted from the assessment: whether they “guy” in my life is only a friend, or whether I think we are heading toward marriage. I answered the latter, because if we ain’t headed to marriage now, we probably never will be.

Next on the assessment tool are questions about communication, time together, what we do by ourselves, intimacy, and affection. Most of these were easy to answer: my family has seen us kiss; we spend more than a few hours a week together; he has done little errands for me, just because. The one I had trouble answering was whether we’ve fallen asleep together, because obviously the tool doesn’t account for a beloved’s snoring.

Finally, I had to answer questions about the clarity of our relationship. Does he seem the marrying type? Yes. Does he want to hang only with me? Yes. Has he introduced me to his family and his friends and included me in his friends’ activities? Yes. Yes. And No, Thank You: Stone-silent Settlers of Catan games aren’t that fun, after all.

Step Four provides the results of my DTR assessment. Can I admit to being a little nervous about pushing the button? What if Focus on the Family didn’t see my husband and me as a good love match? I’d provided my emaill; maybe they would come after me, offer some extended counseling,

So . . .

Apparently, I’m supposed to be married to this guy already, since we’ve had sex. (Sorry mom! It’s true!) In fact, results of my DTR assessment are all focused on sex, and how problematic that might be for our relationship. Right now, it seems, being intimate means I have no clarity in my relationship, and I need to stop—right now!—if I want to recognize whether my relationship is built on hot sex alone, or whether this is the right man to marry for other reasons entirely.

I also need to ask God for forgiveness about any pre-marital foreplay I’ve engaged in. God’s ready to forgive me for being so bad, but I have to ask first!

Several interesting side notes about my assessment: 1) Focus on the Family DTR assessment writers do not know how to use a semicolon. How can I trust their advice? And 2) It’s interesting that the assessment assumes I initiated sex with my partner, using language like “the sexual bonding you initiated.” I wonder, if I would have hit the “guy” button rather than the “girl” button, whether that same assumption would be included in the assessment. Or maybe it was something else I said?

Honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine guys and girls doing this assessment, then sharing their answers, though Focus on the Family advises that they do just that. It seems more likely that folks would try out these assessments behind closed doors, much like those quizzes in Cosmo that lets women know whether he’s in to you—or not.

But who knows? Perhaps next fall, people all over college campuses will be sitting on benches, sharing their assessment data and redefining their relationships based on what Focus tells them to do. Colleges are all about assessment these days, so why not meet measurable objectives in relationships, too?

Would a DTR assessment have helped Fred and me? Probably not. Clearly, we were not destined for each other, having neither clarity or connection in our relationship. That next fall, after we stopped working together, he started dating a cute Christian ministries major. They spent their time walking around campus, praying for revival on campus. One day, they saw a vision: demons and angels fighting over Minthorn, the English building on campus where I now work. I guess Fred got the clarity he needed. He might be praying for me, still.