The Functional Dating Screen

I kind of feel like I’m Carrie Bradshaw, standing at the Learning Annex in front of a bunch of single 30-somethings trying to dole out dating advice, despite being labeled as what her fictitious Vogue Boss calls her: The Last Single Girl. Because the truth is I’m a 28-year-old perpetually single girl. I have literally zero boyfriends to speak of. It is the ultimate mood-killing “never have I ever…” statement. In the words of our complicated, designer-obsessed heroine, I have asked “Don’t you want to stand still with me?” And they have replied (or more likely disappeared) with a negative every time. And it begs the question: what I could possibly have to share with anyone on the subject of relationships?


Oh, I’ve gotten close. I’ve been in love. But, as my friend Josh recently pointed out, I’m like the emotional rental car you couldn’t afford in the first place. But you’re on vacation, so you fall in love with the leather interior and complicated built-in navigation system right up until you wistfully hand over the keys and sign your name on the costly receipt. And now you’re regretting not owning it, or at least contemplating renting it again: you weren’t prepared to catch feelings and the responsibility that comes with those emotions. So, the guy reverts back to normal life, and I am Back to Black, Amy Winehouse on a loop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some variation on “Oh, I thought we’d just hook up and have fun, but I can’t do that with you.” Don’t feel bad for me. I used to think it was a problem with me. They never wanted to stick around and so there must be something wrong with me, right? I am VERY clear on the truth now; it was NEVER about me. And also, I in return called Josh an emotional fortress and we bantered back and forth on the subject for hours until I was in tears of laughter.


But these are problems. In the case of my serial style, I pick ones that lack the ability to love or to commit.. Josh was also choosing the wrong ones. The conversation was hysterical but left us with some real lessons. We came to realize these tendencies of ours.. That we were really just picking the wrong people. We weren’t being specific enough about our wants and needs.


Josh is now in a very wonderful relationship with a beautiful girl. And I have since met someone who taught me that I could expect someone to give me the affirmations I didn’t even know I was missing. Whatever he turns out to be in the future remains to be seen, but he has also left me with some valuable lessons about love(UPDATE: That fell apart and if I was as good at taking advice as I am giving it, I would  have seen that the screen predicted it's very demise.)


I’ve written some humorous posts on dating before. I have a hilarious list of non-negotiables that I post about from time to time. If you don’t deadlift, you frequent the tanning beds, or you wear Affliction, then you’ve got no shot. While brainstorming this post, I imagined it would fit in the same comedy category. But as I was jotting down notes and one-liners and reading through the FMS manual again, I realized that there was some real serious commentary in what I was constructing. 



So you could read this blog one of two ways. It could be a silly relationship-themed parody on our beloved Functional Movement Screen. For the the non-fitness professionals, you just need to know that the FMS is a qualitative battery of assessments to help determine a trainee’s optimal training program. Or you could read it as the lessons of a relatively young dating optimist who has learned by failing. However valuable you believe that is.


Either way doesn’t really matter to me. As Brett Jones would say, the screen is not the be-all/end-all anyway. You could just take it all with a grain of salt, knowing that it’s at least a way to begin to prioritize. You've got to have some kind of system for establishing a base-line if you’re ever going to be successful in love. Measure, don’t guess, right? If the relationship has major dysfunction (like an FMS score of less than 14), I wonder if we aren’t emotionally redlining, joy-riding up until the whole thing crashes and someone gets hurt because we were too afraid to look under the hood.



And so first, we need to establish a hierarchy of priorities for prospecting potential suitors. When establishing life goals, whether they are relationship-oriented or elsewhere, Danielle LaPorte tells us we need to ask the question: “How do you want to feel?” Now to build an algorithm around love sounds very sterile. And love should be anything but. How we want to feel is subjective. But I do believe as she does, there is an OBJECTIVE way to go about feeling the way you want to feel. To be surrounded by love. 






The first pillar is the foundation of your intended’s ability. It is mobility and stability. And these buckets are super important. It’s why they are the largest of the rectangles. Basic attraction and geographic location are most important. Much like a painful, tight shoulder, these two are difficult to move around. This person needs to live near you and also make you want to be near them. Givens, right? Can these factors be manipulated? I mean we’re talking about hardware here. I think you definitely can to an extent. But it’s like the Giants lineman we used to train at OHP. Do I need their shoulders to be perfectly symmetrical 3’s. Do I event want to change them? Not necessarily. Mobility can be a tricky one.


The other part of this pillar is the stability bucket. Emotional availability and psychological stability are key. The person has to be balanced enough to know who they are—static stability— and solid enough to express that and be there for you--dynamic stability).





The second pillar of the hierarchy is the complicated screens. The more strength-oriented screens. These involve more powerful subjects like intelligence, values, and personal happiness. But they are still foundational concepts because your intended needs to be strong in order for the third pillar qualities to matter. 


It’s important to note here, that much like the Deep Squat, a person’s overall happiness is the most complicated of the dating screens. My DS homework handouts gather dust, because if I clean up the other pattern, the squat gets better without direct work. If you clean up everything else in your life, happiness tends to just find you. 






And the third and final pillar contains both skill and style. To love someone is a skill. In the same way that decelerating and changing direction on the field is. There are actual, defined ways to qualify love. Which is way more important than the quantity, of course. If he loves a lot and it sucks, he's deemed a player. His ability to love you the way you want to be loved comes from practice as well as the foundation of everything in the bottom pillars. You can read more on the skill of love by reading Megghan Jane Watterson’s How to Love Yourself and Sometimes Other People. But I’ve listed a few of Lodro’s concepts from the book that were really significant to me.

And style is last. It is the smallest part of the hierarchy, but one of the biggest on the map of this person. It encompasses their dreams and interests. Even the physical aesthetics. I want a man with abs. I want to be able to go to my favorite concert with my best friend. I want someone who loves his job. These requirements may sound trivial, but they speak to the kind of life this person is living. It needs to line up with the kind of life you want to live. That’s no small matter at all. You can set up any number of performance tests in this category. This one is all up to you. What does your sport require?




So the optimal relationship pyramid looks like the pyramid above. It is built on mobility and stability. And the top two pillars hold significantly less importance. You will notice that most of assessments of the first two pillars are solely about the other person. They are independent of you. That is because a person’s ability to love you is in direct relation to their ability to love themselves. And this is why unbalanced pyramids are not always so great....


The OverPowered Man(Or Woman!)


This one is my personal problem. Their ability to fulfill the top tier requirements far exceeds their ability to move freely. Or as we say in common language, he is the unavailable guy. You'll notice the first pillar is much smaller than optimal.


As I explained earlier, this is my typical dysfunctional performance pyramid. He checks all the top boxes. He’s cool and charismatic. He probably listens to underground rap music. He’s intelligent, shares my opinions, and even appears happy. 


But he is not available. He’s not ready for a relationship. He’s carrying around baggage. He doesn’t know who he is yet. He’s in another time zone. He is the one Taylor wrote Style about.


This can be remedied while you're dating. That hope we hold on to that “maybe he’ll change.” Sometimes, if we add strength or we practice the right skills, we can get more stable or more mobile. If he can practice loving others or finding his own happiness, it can happen. 


But ultimately and in most situations, that stability bucket needs work before you come into the picture. Maybe the distance factor needs to close. Maybe he’ll take up meditation or work on issues in therapy. A person cannot have strength and power without stability, just as you cannot put a Maserati engine on wobbly wheels.


My advice? Get out immediately and utilize all “block” settings.

The UnderPowered Man


This is the guy who is just a lot of fun. He’s great. But you don’t see eye-to-eye on too many things. He says things you just don’t really understand sometimes. Most of the time, you guys totally flow. Everything is great, exciting even. But it’s very surface level.


It feels like it should be easy because he’s there for you and he tries. And you can even unanimously pick the same movie together on a Friday night in. 


But ultimately, his strengths are just not right for yours. And you might be leaning on the idea of each other to fulfill the happiness requirements. That fails the clearing test. I’ve seen this one with friends a lot. You love him and it works right now, but it won’t down the line. One of you will have to concede on an issue that’s too important (think: children, career, religions) and it’s doomed. In the FMS Manual, the underpowered athlete description states that a pitcher with great skill and good movement will exhaust himself on the mound much faster than a similar pitcher with better strength. And likewise, you’ll have to expend way too much energy to find short-lived peace in this ill-fated relationship.


My advice here? You’ve invested time giving it an honest try. These are the ones who, once the heartbreak settle down, have the possibility to be really good friends. Kinda like how they are the athletes who make really good coaches. 




Everything in the first two pillars is adequate. Which by today’s standards is miraculous I know. If you live in NYC particularly, you might just jump on this one without thinking. This is the good on paper guy. The one who checks all the boxes but doesn’t really excite you. That third pillar is just too small.


You can totally admire him for his strength and stability. But you don’t speak the same love language and he doesn’t turn you on as much as the last guy did. He’s appropriately conditioned, but not appropriately skilled for your purposes. And you’ll probably always have a wandering eye. Oh hey, what do you think that guy’s score is?


This guy will probably just fade out of your life naturally once you break it off. He’s just not your tribe.




I’m of the opinion that you should check all the boxes. But mobility and stability work together to really create the foundation for a healthy relationship of any sort, be it romantic or otherwise. Physical and emotional distances have the ability to over time, create micro-trauma to both of the people involved in the relationship. Think of what happens when you haven't seen your man in weeks or what it feels like when he closes himself off to you. It allows thoughts of insecurity. It invites defensive behavior. Both of which are damaging to you. Passive aggressive behavior will ensue and you will eventually start to feel like you need this person to validate your worth. That’s why my advice on inadequately stable or mobile guy is to run. Just get out. It’s very often not worth the risk.




The screen does not take into account your significant other’s past relationships. Injury history should be considered, but remember this is just a screen. You can only really score what you see in front of you. Everything affects everything. Physical pain makes us move differently going forward just as heartbreak changes our perspective drastically. Focus on the present- how this person is operating right now.




This screen is not meant to predict injury. I can’t tell you that just because one of these scores is low, or that you find yourself in a relationship that isn’t the Optimal Performance Pyramid that it will definitely fail. But, if you are single, it is meant to help you make dating decisions that result in less injury. And if you are in a relationship, your job is to work on it. So the screen helps you to constantly expose the weaknesses to improve the effectiveness of that work, affirm your strengths, and allow your relationship to function at its highest level. 


#measuredontguess #functionaldatingscreen #sophisticatedstrength