Trying To Decide Whether To Leave or Stay in a Relationship? Start With the 5-Second ‘Wardrobe Test’

Photo: Stocksy/Lupe Rodríguez
If you’ve ever reached the critical juncture in a relationship of deciding whether to commit or exit, you may be familiar with how this one choice can balloon into various questions. Are the things you dislike in a partner relationship red flags or dealbreakers, or are they merely reflective of preferences? Are your relationship doubts rooted in your partner’s actions or more so in your own insecurity or fears surrounding your ability to find the “right” partner? Does the relationship really need a spark, or is a loving partnership with a “Very Nice Person” good enough? Well, according to Hinge’s relationship scientist Logan Ury, author of How To Not Die Alone, there may be a simpler way to get a gut check on all of the above, and it’s called the “wardrobe test.”

Experts In This Article

Designed to identify how you actually feel about a partner (and cut through all the reasoning and rationalizing that can get in the way of that), the wardrobe test for a relationship asks: “If your partner were a piece of clothing that you own—something in your closet—what piece of clothing would they be?” says Ury. “The question is abstract and absurd enough that it allows people to reveal their true feelings, and can help reveal some underlying truths about our partnerships.”

That’s not to say that the above questions aren’t also valid ones to consider, or that it isn’t necessary to introspect and inspect a relationship in ways beyond the wardrobe test before making the call to stay or dip. But when you’re beginning to make this decision, it’s easy to get bogged down by the magnitude of it. And that’s where the wardrobe test can be handy at redirecting your attention to the core of the matter: how you really feel about your partner.

“The wardrobe test encourages your logical, rational brain to take a step back, and instead gives your true feelings a chance to speak.” —Logan Ury, director of relationship science at Hinge

“The wardrobe test is an effective way to gain perspective because it’s based on a gut reaction,” says Ury. “It encourages your logical, rational brain to take a step back, and instead gives your true feelings a chance to speak.”

Listening to those true feelings can help you avoid falling into the trap of either being what Ury calls a ditcher or a hitcher. Whereas ditchers tend to leave relationships too swiftly, before they’ve been given the chance to grow, hitchers stay in relationships too long, clinging to them long after they’ve hit their expiration date, she says. Either scenario can result from cognitive bias (aka the fallacies we tell ourselves when we're interpreting our own reality)—which is what the wardrobe test aims to circumvent. The idea is to answer on instinct, with the first thing that comes to mind.

What your answer to the wardrobe test may mean for your relationship

Considering your answer in the context of your own personal style can lend insight into how you view your partner and the relationship, and whether you’re thriving in said relationship or not so much. “For example, some of my clients have said their partner is a warm coat or a snuggly sweater, which suggests that they find them supportive,” says Ury.

In other cases, a positive answer might come in the form of something more specific. “One woman said her boyfriend was her little black dress—something she felt sexy and confident in,” says Ury, “and one man said his girlfriend was his favorite pair of loud pants that he wears to music festivals, which she’d given him as a gift. They’re an item he loves but never would have chosen for himself.”

Answering in a similar fashion to the above is an indicator that deep-down, you see your partner serving an important role in your life. And while this might not be a reason, in and of itself, to stay in a partnership, it’s a sign that you may want to pause and consider whether the relationship may be worth continuing (or salvaging) before ditching.

On the flip side, there are also responses to the wardrobe test that could hint at problems in the relationship. “One client said his boyfriend was a wool sweater, describing him as something that keeps you warm but then gets itchy when you wear it too long,” says Ury, “and another said that her boyfriend was like that scrubby old sweatshirt that you like but wouldn’t ever wear in public or to an important meeting.” In the latter case, in particular, the answer suggested to Ury that the client had “outgrown her relationship, that it was no longer something she was proud of or invested in, and that it was time to take that sweatshirt off and exit the relationship,” she says.

But even if your answer is similar to these not-so-great ones, it may not be a surefire sign to leave a relationship, Ury cautions. After all, interpreting your answer requires you to “analyze your own psyche and think about the emotions you associate with the piece of clothing you named,” she says. Generally, it bodes well for your relationship if your answer is a favorite item in your closet or anything that keeps you warm or protected. And it’s worrisome if your item involves something itchy, uncomfortable, or that you wouldn't be excited to be seen in, she says.

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