“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell
Dating can be an emotional roller coaster, but one that we’re willing to ride to get to the end result – a relationship. Most of us get excited and a little anxious when we date. We picture the process going a certain way with a few ups and downs and a happy, picture-perfect ending, but more often it takes us by surprise. Dating can play with our thoughts, beliefs, and fears, as I say in my book Date Expectations. It can make us terrified at one moment and happy beyond measure in another. It’s unpredictable.
This can be exhilarating and frightening. Understandably, we want to exercise some control over something that feels so out of our control. We would like the fun parts with none of the heartbreak. So we go to great lengths to put up some boundaries, and to do some soul-searching for what we truly want, especially after a bad break-up.
Deal-Breakers Play a Role in Dating.
They help us understand what we are and are not willing to tolerate. They guide us to making better choices, so that we aren’t in a position to be hurt or disappointed or unhappy. But if we have too many, or we are too focused on specifics, deal-breakers can end up hurting us.
For example, some of your deal-breakers focus on living a happy, healthy lifestyle with someone who shares your values.
They might include refusing to date someone who:
- Smokes or drinks
- Has been married
- Has cheated
- Is politically opposed to you
- Does not have a stable career
- Is not close with his family
Or deal-breakers can be somewhat superficial, such as someone who:
- Is shorter than 5’10”
- Isn’t vegetarian
- Isn’t physically active
- Doesn’t like your sports team or watch sports at all
I understand the need for deal-breakers. Without them, we would have no guidelines for weeding out potential candidates, especially with online dating. But the truth is, we often find love in the packages we didn’t expect. So it’s worth it to take a closer look at your deal-breakers, and to see what is really going on.
For Each One of Your Deal-Breakers, Consider the Following Questions:
- If you met someone with whom you had immediate chemistry, would any of these deal-breakers get overlooked?
- If someone met all of your must-haves but also had one of your deal-breakers, would you consider a first date anyway?
- Have you ever been rejected by a date because of some quality you didn’t possess? (For example, were you too old for your date, or too curvy, or not educated enough?) How did that make you feel?
The point with this exercise is to encourage you to think about how important your deal-breakers are. It’s also important to understand the underlying fears surrounding your deal-breakers. Some are more obvious than others. For example, you don’t want to date cheaters because you’re afraid he’ll cheat on you. But others are less obvious. For example, if a man you date has jumped around from job to job, but you earn a good living in a career you enjoy, then why is it important that he have your same stable job history? Are you looking to have kids and quit your career? Did you want someone who is equally ambitious because you work a lot?
Or if he is not as physically active as you, are you worried that you won’t be able to enjoy activities together? Are you worried about health concerns? The point is to ask yourself what’s really going on underneath your hesitation to date someone with a particular quality.
There Are Fears Underlying Most Deal-Breakers.
When you get to the root of the fear, it’s important to ask yourself how much you are letting that fear get in the way when you meet potentially great dates. If you give your fears too much consideration in the dating process, you won’t get very far.
For instance, if you’re worried about dating someone who’s not into regular exercise because you love running marathons, perhaps you can compromise and pick a low-stress physical activity that you enjoy doing together, whether it’s walking your dogs in the park or playing a little ping pong. This doesn’t require you to give up running, or change your life in some way. Or if he has different political views from you, why not sit down to dinner and see where the conversation leads? Maybe he’s passionate about some things that you agree with as well, or maybe you find his love of history to be really attractive, you never know.
I’m not advocating to let go of everything on your deal-breaker list – far from it. But it’s important to examine what you have included, and where you might be missing some opportunities because you are scared. If there are a few things you can knock off your deal-breaker list, do. It will not only increase your options, but you might find just what you’re looking for in someone you never expected.
Many couples are happy with someone they never pictured for themselves, which says a lot about moving past our hang-ups. It’s reassuring to know we can change our perspectives and find happiness, too.