The Five-Factor Formula

Breaking down what you’re looking for and why your last relationship didn’t work out.

Davy Kesey
Mar 21 · 4 min read

Is your relationship a good idea, or are you in your feelings? Should you give her a chance? Should you break up with him? How can you simultaneously feel interested but have misgivings? How do you wade through the shifting tides of feelings?

Let me present to you the Five Factor Formula™*

Forged in the fires of my freshman year of college, this foolproof framework I concocted helps you step outside yourself and (kinda) objectively answer those questions.

As someone who has never been in a relationship, I have little personal experience with any of these sorts of matters. You could say I’m an armchair general, and, well, you’d be right. I’ve subjected the theory to little intellectual scrutiny and frankly it might not hold up in the real world.

On the other hand, you’re on your seventh relationship. Assuming it ends Happily Ever After, your success rate is 14% at best. Yeah yeah, you learned a lot about yourself from the first six relationships, but you also can learn a lot about yourself from going to jail, backpacking Europe, abstaining from social media or entering an aseuxal polyamorous relationship—the point is just ’cause you learned from it doesn’t make it a good (or bad) idea.

Anyways, I may not know what I’m talking about, but you may not either. Try this idea on and let me know how it feels.

The Five Factor Formula®

The formula evaluates five areas of compatibility to consider in any potential romantic relationship. If all five of these areas are good, put a ring on it. If not, see if you can work to improve them or just cut ties.

Any time you’ve been interested in someone, at least couple of the factors were pretty solid. Conversely, any relationship you’ve had that didn’t work out was lacking in at least one of these areas.

Each of the five factors is on a scale from 1–10. You don’t have to literally rate people on each factor, but the point is that it’s more of a gradient than a binary yes/no. Each of these traits are dynamic, so a 5/10 today could be an 8/10 tomorrow. (You could make a case for timing to be a sixth factor, but since it’s part of all five I chose to leave it out.)

Lastly, this is all evaluating the relationship on your end. You may find a 10/10 in all five areas, but that doesn’t mean he or she sees you the same way.

The five areas of compatibility:

  • Worldview
  • Practicality
  • Attractiveness
  • Personality
  • Communication

Worldview

How do you view the world? Do you believe the same things? This is a question of values, which tend to be most visible with politics and religion. If you’re Hindu and he’s Jewish, it’s probably a 2/10. If you’re both not very religious though, maybe it’s a 8/10. Similarly, if you’re extremely liberal and she’s extremely conservative, you’re unlikely to connect. If you’re both attend-mass-twice-a-week Catholics, you probably vibe in this arena. You get the idea.

Practicality

How practical is it? Do you live far apart? Does your family accept her? This is mostly just age and distance. A two-year age gap means a lot when you’re 14 and not so much when you’re 24. Living on the other side of the country probably hurts the practicality score; living ten minutes away helps.

Attractiveness

Are you attracted to her? This includes all the intangibles of attraction, not just the obvious stuff. It’s all the things you can’t quite put your finger on but are no less real. This is pretty easy self-explanatory.

Communication

How well do you understand each other? Do you miscommunicate easily? Do you communicate at all? Do you talk for hours into the night? Are you constantly getting in fights over misunderstandings? Bad or out-of-synch communication can single-handedly torpedo an otherwise solid relationship.

Personality

Who is he? Is he gregarious? Quiet? Aggressive? Boring? Artistic? Is that what you’re looking for? This includes lifestyle choices, since those ultimately stem from one’s personality. Someone who exercises frequently is likely disciplined and active; someone who frequents museums is likely somewhat artistic.


If you find someone who scores well in every category, the relationship is worth exploring. You’ll soon discover that checking all five factors is rare. Then again, relationships that go the distance are rare too. It’s important to emphasize that each area is dynamic, though. The person herself can change, but so can your initial impression.

I like the formula because it’s a don’t-lie-to-yourself safety mechanism. If you’re honest with each category, it just might save you from a five-year-rebound. On the other hand, it could give you the perseverance to stick out a temporarily long distance relationship that’s great in every area except practicality.

In conclusion, the formula isn’t to help you decide if you like someone; it’s to help you know if it’s a good idea. It’s a great tool for helping you externally process that hazy internal cocktail of mixed emotions, far superior to a pros-cons list.

Let me know your thoughts. It’s all theory, so I’m open to feedback, seriously. Otherwise, enjoy the Formula™* my fellow mathematicians.

*Definitely not a trademark. Not at all.