Dating Deal-Breakers: How Many Is Too Many?

By Erika Ettin
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dating expert Erika Ettin suggests creating and living by a few key dating deal breakers. She says most singles have established certain rules when it comes to dating, but they don’t know that they may have too many unnecessary deal breakers that are preventing them from finding a great relationship.

Tribune News Service

How many deal breakers is it appropriate to have when searching online for a partner? One, five, fifteen?

There is no magic number, of course, and Patti Stanger of “The Millionaire Matchmaker” says that five is a good choice… I tend to agree.

If there’s one thing I know from both my own dating experience and from being a dating coach is, 125 is too many!

Where did I get that crazy number, you ask?

A few years ago, a woman posted on a section of a guy’s profile on OkCupid that I’ll just say was pretty restrictive in terms of what he was looking for in a partner. And when I say “pretty restrictive,” I mean ridiculously and obsessively rude and off-putting. Below is just a small sample of his “do not message me if…” section. (For the record, OkCupid has a section called “You should message me if…” This means that this guy “added” this new section to his profile to indicate what he “wasn’t” looking for.)

After reading the entire list, I counted, and I possess 20 of his 125 “don’t message me if” qualities. Most notable were:

-You consider yourself a happy person. (Umm… guilty as charged.)
-You wear uncomfortable clothing and/or shoes for the sake of feminine style. (We all know that women dress for other women!)
-You use the term “foodie.” (I’m a foodie, all right, and I’m not sorry about it. I’m just well fed.)
Even if I did fit everything (which I’m pretty sure no one possibly could), I would be so turned off by the negativity that I wouldn’t want to date him anyway! A question I would pose to him is, “Why do some of these things even matter?”

What might be a better way of looking at things? Try this: Create and live by a few key dating deal breakers. Most singles have established certain rules when it comes to dating, but they don’t know that they may have too many unnecessary deal breakers that are preventing them from finding a great relationship. To ensure the right person isn’t being overlooked, let’s look at these five dating deal breaker rules:

1. Deal breakers should be qualities, values, or beliefs that won’t change.
A lot of clients have said things to me like, “I can’t date him. He’s between jobs.” Does this mean he can’t get a job in the future? Of course not! Income can change; employment status can change; ambition probably can’t.

2. Create no more than five deal breakers/must haves.
Sit down and really think about what’s important to you. Maybe it’s religious beliefs or level of education. Stick to your guns on those things, but beyond that, explore. As an exercise, picture that perfect person with or without each “deal breaker” and see if it matters. If not, then it’s time to reevaluate your list.

3. Do not mention your deal breakers in the text of your online dating profile.
Most online dating sites have many check-box questions, such as age, religion, children, etc. This is where the deal breakers will come out. If you want kids, then check that box accurately. No need to then state, “Don’t write to me if you don’t want to have children.” That’s superfluous … and rudely worded.

4. Don’t use your previous relationship to create future deal breakers.
It’s easy after a relationship ends to want to find the exact opposite type of person, isn’t it? We go through all of the things we loathed about our ex and list those as our new deal breakers. I encourage everyone not to do this because 1) it comes off as fairly bitter and 2) there must have been some good quality in that person if you dated in the first place. Using what you learned from your last relationship, make your list, but don’t make it solely based on what didn’t work the last time.

Also, as a side note, everything that may be a trait that you don’t want in a partner can likely be turned into a trait that you do want. For example:
Negative: I’m not looking for players or serial daters.
Positive: I’m looking for someone who is ready for a committed relationship.

5. Be open-minded if someone meets all of your criteria. However, if he or she doesn’t, decide if it’s worth giving it a shot. If someone meets all of the criteria you’ve set for yourself, then it can’t hurt to give it a try. On the one hand, perfect on paper doesn’t equal perfect in real life, so you’ll still have to assess chemistry, but at least you’ll know that you’re off to a good start. On the other hand, if you know that someone has one of your deal breakers (let’s say religion), then perhaps it’s best not to “try that person on” if you know in the long run it’s not something you can live with.

Remember that in the end, what’s often the most important is how someone treats you. Is he or she kind, generous, and giving? How about trustworthy and honest? That’s what matters in life.

A final note to the guy on OkCupid: I wear yoga pants when I’m not engaging in yoga, and I have participated in a flash mob. We are obviously not meant to be.
(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.)

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