The idea that communication is the glue holding any relationship together is not new but certainly important. Such is the conceit behind Paul Joseph’s Oh So Fine: Jumbleliar, subtitled The Top 300 Questions You Must Ask In A Relationship.
Joseph’s 300 fill-in-the blank questions for couples to ask each other is meant to reveal any unvanquished emotional demons. Writes the author: “[Y]ou must identify key relationship questions that are relevant to your interests and have some shared understanding between you and your partners’ values and belief [sic] so you both can live a wonderful life together through key compromises.”
This is a reasonable premise, and certainly some of his suggestions are good conversation starters and helpful in laying a foundation for the long term. Asking about the person’s desire for children, any accumulated debt, ambitions, childhood memories, political views, past broken hearts—or even something as fun as the last song they sang when no one was listening—can create a baseline to the other’s personality and value system.
A problem here, though, is the sheer volume of 300 questions, which Joseph insists “must” be asked and answered not once but many times as a relationship evolves. They range from the benign (do you prefer soup or salad?) to the provocative (Have you ever thought of killing someone?). In the real world of dating, such a barrage may be unnerving. This is especially true in his section on sex, which is a potential minefield in any new relationship. (One example: “Have you ever experimented with animals sexually?”)
Most people reveal themselves gradually through action or even in bursts of confession, rather than through questionnaires. Overall, readers will want to use their own judgment as to which questions to ask and proceed with a bit of caution. Those who mine this book selectively may find that it initiates some fruitful discussions.