When you prepare for the first date, you are never quite sure what awaits you. As a result, you want to do everything in your power to improve your odds of finding someone who is compatible with you while avoiding potential landmines. For many individuals, their efforts to weed out the less desirable candidates begin with a wish list.
The wish list might go something like this: “I want him/her to be physically attractive, wealthy, college educated and compassionate with a strong family upbringing.” For many, the wish list is even longer. It is easy to create the ideal picture of your future mate; the problem appears when you try to meet that person, who most likely exists only in your fantasy (thus, the “wish” list).
And yet, considering what you desire in a partner is important, particularly if you are willing to devote time to thinking about your values while being realistic. No one is perfect; however, with a well-thought-out list, you will increase your potential to meet someone who is a good match for you.
Instead of fixating on all the characteristics you want in a mate, it may be helpful to consider your dealbreakers. What are the qualities your life partner must possess, and what are the things you absolutely cannot tolerate? These are your dealbreakers. Your list of dealbreakers will be very personal and may not be similar to your friends’ lists. If the list is very long (more than a dozen or so characteristics), then spend some additional time considering your highest values and vision for your future. It is important not to settle for less than you desire; however, you may be surprised with the “must-have qualities” you can live without when you meet someone who satisfies your most significant needs.
To help you get started, the following are some potential dealbreakers. Consider if these fit your values and then add or substitute your own dealbreakers to create a list that works for you.
Children: This is an issue most people have considered, though their expectations may change as life circumstances change. Do you want to have children, or have additional children? How do you feel about helping to raise kids who are not your biological children? If your partner has children from a previous relationship and is required to pay child support, is this an issue for you? Will you consider adoption? These are questions that may seem to have easy answers, but think about it in this context: “If almost everything else about my partner is a good fit with me, is this a non-negotiable?” If it is, then make sure it is on your list of dealbreakers.
Physical Intimacy: Regardless of when you begin to explore this part of your relationship, it is important to know what you need and expect from your partner. How will you prioritize sex and sensuality? Is it important that your partner be affectionate toward you, or do you prefer more distance or to initiate physical contact? How will you handle challenges such as young children or work commitments, which can add strain to a couple’s sex life?
Finances: For many people, how they handle personal finances is tied to their upbringing. Are you a saver or a spender, and does your partner need to handle money in the same way? If you marry or cohabitate, will you separate your finances completely, share some household expenses or combine your incomes and pay all the bills together? If your potential mate has significant debt, are you willing to cut costs to help pay off the debt? Will you consider marrying someone who has debt or who does not have a steady income? Many relationships suffer not because people lack money, but because they cannot agree on what to do with the money they possess.
Lifestyle: Are you a social butterfly, or do you prefer quiet weekends at home? If you are close to your family, do you expect your partner to spend time with them on a regular basis? How will your friendships fit in the picture with your new relationship? Many people expect their significant other to respect their relationships with friends and family, and even to be an active participant in these relationships. If Sunday dinners at your mom’s house are essential and you are unwilling to compromise about this, make sure your potential mate is willing to meet your expectations.
Communication and Resolving Conflicts: This area usually is easy to navigate at the beginning of a relationship, but it can become difficult as a couple experiences challenges. If problems occur in the relationship – whether the issues are major or less significant – are you able to communicate and seek a resolution? If your partner suggests couples therapy to help solve a problem, will you consider this option? What about marriage enrichment workshops or retreats? Long-term relationships require work to get through the difficult times, and it is important to consider your expectations for how you will communicate and handle conflicts.
So you have created your list of dealbreakers: Now what? The list is only as valuable as you make it. When you are dating someone and begin to talk about the future, ask questions that will help you to understand the other person’s perspective on some of your “dealbreaker” issues. Also, be clear about your values and communicate your bottom line to a potential partner. It is OK to be subtle at first, particularly when the relationship is new. But remember these are your dealbreakers for a reason, and do not be afraid to express what is most important to you. It will save your time and your significant other’s time if you can be up front about what you will and will not accept in a long-term relationship.