The past few times I found myself in an escalating relationship–one moving from just dating to exclusive, usually–we went through a psych assessment exchange. That meant sharing our persona findings for Myers-Briggs, Enneagrams and Love Language.

Our thinking was simple: this relationship has breakout potential, so here’s useful information about me that might help us not screw this up. I see this as a helpful precursor to the User Manual.

My results:

  • Myers-Briggs: ENTJ (extroverted, intuitive, thinking, judging)
  • Enneagram Type 8 (Aggressive/powerful)
  • Primary Love Language: Words of affirmation.

I’m not superduper proud of these assessments–who wants to be aggressive? Or judging?–but I thought it was important to be upfront my personality. Like a scalding hot bath, partners should know what they’re getting into. And I wasn’t screwing around: if I was going to plunge into a serious relationship, I wanted to give it the best chance to succeed–and more info meant less guessing and fewer screwups from the start.

It got me wondering: Is this common? Do other early stage couples swap personality assessments? Why the heck not?

Do these enhance or confuse any dating or matching algorithms that many of us may have battled through anyway?

What other info about ourselves should we package and swap once we believe theĀ person we’re dating has breakout potential?

Katia and I swapped personality info in the first week of our whirlwind romance. (I knew she had breakout potential then!) I treated this intelĀ as data points to mix into the big, scrumptious relationship stew, but over time I’ve found a clear hierarchy of usefulness.

Knowing her love language has proven to be vital. She needs Words of Affirmation, and I make an effort to quit my Facebook surfing for a few seconds to to give them to her every day. Even when she knows I’m doing it just because she needs it–busted!–I can see positive feedback building filling her love treasure chests, uncorking smiles, building up relationship bullion that makes our partnership ridiculously amazing–and help us push through when one of us inevitably sticks our foot in our mouth.

It’s nice to know her Myers-Briggs and Enneagram assessment–but not essential. When she acts in a way that I find surprising (suddenly going quiet, researching for hours) I know it’s just Katia being Katia. There’s no problem or weirdness going on here, I didn’t secretly annoy her by picking my nose while cooking or not replenishing the toilet paper. And that knowledge is reassuring.

But there’s not much I can do about it. And without action, it’s of limited value.

Even knowing her Love Language–by far the most useful intel–leaves me guessing on what to say and how to say it. Her direction on specific actions to take makes all the difference. (Case in point: as I was writing that last sentence, I realized it was time for a daily dose of love – I texted her an affirmation she told me she loves and she sent me back a heart. Swoon!)

I wouldn’t have explored the concept of the User Manual without punching through these personality assessment tools. They’ve blazed an essential path to promote self-knowledge, which has helped me be the best version of myself on many levels: relationships, natch, but also family interactions, in the workplace, with neighbors, and so on. For example, I’m trying to ratchet back the judginess and accept the world as it is. That’s not always easy, and I do think there’s a lot of beauty in caring hard about a huge purpose and hurling ourselves through brick walls Kool-Aid Man style to achieve it–but overall not caring about which way your knife is pointed at Sunday dinner saves a lot of pointless energy.

The User Manual takes it to the next level in relationships by adding specific direction that we can act on now. Forget the vague generalities or guesswork–it cuts to proven stuff that works. And with regular updates, the User Manual should be futureproof.

Make no mistake: I believe a User Manual exchange is essential to make relationships ridiculously amazing and would benefit us all as a standard part of relationship escalation.

Short of setting off fireworks and updating Facebook statuses, what’s the best way to make a User Manual swap an indispensable relationship tradition, like “getting pinned” in the 50s or a ring proposal for engagement? Ideas welcome! And if you’re interested in testing out the User Manual, please join my team of pioneers and drop me a line at matt@theusermanual.co.