Anatomy of a Dating Document

Link post

I’ve noticed a trend of writing out dating documents (or web pages, blog posts, etc) as a means of having everything you’d normally put on a dating profile in one place. There’s a particular way many of these are written, such that they’re more straightforward and practical about dating than online dating profiles and apps tend to be. It honestly reminds me a little of how arranged marriage works nowadays in India. In an effort to better understand what it is people tend to expect of these documents (and throw in some of my own thoughts), I decided to read through every dating document I could find (mostly through reciprocity and Bountied Rationality) and compare/​contrast to find common themes, as well as good ideas of what to include that should be more common. Though written as a guideline on how to write your own dating doc, this is equally (if not moreso) a meta-analysis on what’s been put into those already out there.

TLDR: a dating document should tell the reader who you are, where you’re at, where you want to be, who you’re into, anything that can’t or won’t change, non-negotiables, and dealbreakers.

Start with basic information about you. Along with the standard “age, sex[/​gender], location”, people typically share details about their current life status, such as occupation or school, housing situation, and anything else static in your life, like pets and kids. This is also the place to put orientation, which includes sexual and romantic orientation as well as preferences for monogamy vs polyamory. Some people will choose this space as the place to elaborate on any current partners or kink alignments as well.

Next comes the bulk of it, focusing on who you are and your personality. It can be helpful to use typologies like Myers-Briggs, Big 5, Enneagram, etc, but I’d suggest putting this only if you identify with your typology. It’s important to note that anything you say about yourself also reveals which of your own qualities you find important, and similarly, mentioning typologies implies that you agree with the assumptions revealed by them (just as mentioning zodiac implies you believe in that). The traits highlighted in these typologies are also traits people tend to focus on when describing themselves, particularly introversion vs extroversion and thinking vs feeling from Myers-Briggs, and openness and conscientiousness from Big 5. Aside from these, people most often mention sense of humor, ambition/​leadership, organization, cuddliness, flexibility, and emotional sensitivity/​lability. Sometimes people describe a kind of “energy” they give off, which is nebulous and hard to pin down, but easier to ask for others to describe about you than for you to mention about yourself. Of course, there’s also the fun stuff: hobbies, media, skills/​talents, special interests, habits, subcultures, etc. All the stuff people normally put on their dating profiles. Just be more specific than “hiking and good food”, please.

Aside from personality, values are huge in determining long term compatibility. This can include cause areas, which may also link to career or lifestyle related things, like travel, volunteering, and earning to give. Money and family are two of the biggest sources of conflict in long term relationships, so discussing values on this here can be really important. People also like to discuss independence vs enmeshment, personal growth ideals, community engagement, social justice, and aesthetics. I think it could also be useful to add something about being narrative-oriented vs fact-oriented, since I often see this as a source of conflict within the community. These values are important because of how they tie in to what a long term relationship would look like, so this can also be a place to mention long term goals. For example, discussions around cryonics can be surprisingly polarizing, and you probably don’t want to be with someone who is against it if you’re already committed. Values can also influence things like career goals, renting vs owning, and lifestyle. I think most profiles I’ve seen mention at least basic thoughts on marriage and kids, but more detail here is better – are you attached to your genetics or open to adoption, open to dating someone who already has kids, what your timeline looks like, etc. Also, I notice people rarely mention thoughts on pets unless they have them, so this might be a good place to put that, if it’s something you want down the line.

As much as dating documents are a place to market yourself, one thing I really appreciate is the level of disclosure I’ve seen in some of them. While many people assume the potential points of difficulty are implied, it can help to be explicit right off the bat, so you aren’t wasting each others’ time. If there are traits you have that rub people the wrong way, things you’re working on improving about yourself, or points of contention with past partners, it can help to say them outright. This shows self-awareness, honesty, consideration, and can reveal what you are and aren’t willing to change, so you don’t end up with a partner who has mismatched expectations for your personal growth, or is surprised at how core to you a particular trait is. This is also a place to discuss things like physical and mental health, diet, STIs, financials, and personal history. People can spend years going back and forth with each other about things that cannot and will not change, and I think part of the point of the explicit nature of these documents is to avoid that.

I find documents particularly helpful when they list out what they’re looking for in a partner. On the most basic level, this involves what kind of relationship you’re looking for, age and gender preferences, and traits or values you want. Like with the personality section, people can often describe a type of “energy” they like, though it can work even better to supplement this with traits since, as mentioned, it can be hard to know how others see you. The goal here is to write what you’re looking for in a way others can see themselves reflected. Love languages (giving and receiving), communication or conversation style, things you find attractive, and a little on what dating you looks like can help a lot here. While it can feel awkward to discuss sex and sexuality so publicly, this is another big reason why relationships end. Non-negotiables in any area are important to bring up, particularly anything that’s more of a need than a want. Similarly, any pet peeves and deal breakers, particularly any you often encounter, should be mentioned here as well. It can be nice to mention things you want to do with a potential partner, especially since this can lead into a first date easily.

Some bonuses!

  • Pictures, particularly pictures of you doing interesting things, or anything that shows what your day-to-day is like

  • Links to things you’ve written, social media, contacts

  • Reviews from past and current partners

  • Why are you single?

  • General attitude towards dating, romance, relationships, etc

  • How you handle conflict, and any related triggers

  • Insecurities, biases, and other related self-insight

  • Have you been to therapy, what have you worked on in therapy, how are you currently working to better yourself (or maybe that’s just me)

  • I mentioned and linked this above, but here’s something I wrote on arranged marriage, and some things I learned about the practical view of relationships from various conversations with my parents.

  • There was a reddit thread asking people what they wish they’d discussed with their partners before they got married. One user compiled the answers into a list of questions, which they shared here. It’s very much based in common failure modes in relationships, and leans very heavily on things like raising kids, but can still be incredibly helpful.